Press Release: “Above the Clouds”

(All photos, text, and trailer belong and credited to Pepe Diokno, Bianca Balbuena, Epicmedia and Unlimited, Doc & Film International, and co-producers)

After losing his parents in a flood, 15-year-old andy is forced to live in the Mountain Province with his estranged grandfather. Feeling they’ve lost everything, the two embark on a journey up a mountain and start to come to terms with their grief.

Above the Clouds Still 2

This is the story of Above the Clouds, a film by internationally-awarded writer-director Pepe Diokno, starring teenage newcomer Ruru Madrid and Pinoy rock legend Pepe Smith in his first lead role. The film premiered at Cinemalaya on Aug. 8, after being received warmly by audiences in Tokyo, South Korea, Singapore, Germany, and France.

Above the Clouds Still 6

On its international tour, Above the Clouds has received critical acclaim. The Hollywood Reporter praised Diokno’s “surprising artistic restraint and his canny eye for natural beauty”, and hailed Madrid and Smith for their “excellent two lead performances”., “To those who know and love his work, Smith’s haggard, grandfatherly turn in Above the Clouds is sure to come as a compelling surprise,” the entertainment magazine says in a review.

Above the Clouds Still 7

Coming home is the pinnacle of a three-year odyssey for the filmmakers, who embarked on a challenging shoot in Mount Pulag, Sagada, and Baguio in 2012. To film at stunning locations — in mountain peaks, rocky cliffs, caves, rivers, and grasslands — the cast and crew often had to travel on foot for days while carrying their equipment.

Crew in Mount Pulag 1

Diokno has described the process as a personal calvary. He wrote Above the Clouds while grieving for his late grandmother, and while grappling with expectations coming from the success of his first film, Engkwentro. (It won two awards at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, including the Lion of the Future – Luigi de Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Film, and the Orizzonti Prize). “With Above the Clouds, I re-learned filmmaking and fell in love with movies again,” he says.

Pepe Diokno directing

Diokno was not alone, however. Joining him was an all-star team of filmmakers. Producer Bianca Balbuena moved figurative mountains to make the film. Urian-winning cinematographer Carlo Mendoza lit entire landscapes at night. Production designers Benjamin Padero and Carlo Tabije constructed a village from scratch.

Production designers Benjamin Padero and Carlo Tabije

Above the Clouds was also supported by France, having won an “Aide aux Cinemas du monde” grant from the Centre National du Cinema et de L’image Animée and the Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères – Institut Français. This allowed Diokno to do post-production in Paris for three months, and with French editor Gisele Rapp-Meichler, sound editors Claire-Anne Largeron Rosalie Revoyre, colorist Yov Moor and sound designer Roman Dymny, craft a film that looks and sounds unlike any other Filipino movie.

 Tokyo - Ruru Madrid, Pepe Smith, producer Bianca Balbuena, and Pepe Diokno at the Tokyo International Film Festival

Tokyo – Ruru Madrid, Pepe Smith, producer Bianca Balbuena, and Pepe Diokno at the Tokyo International Film Festival

The result is a film that the Singapore International Film Festival describes as “breathtaking”, and The Hollywood Reporter calls “subtle… ethereal… a ravishing beauty”. At its Philippine premiere, the film has the same effect on Filipino audiences, with people leaving the cinema in tears. Above the Clouds has finally found a home.

Poster - 20 x 26 inches

Now, the filmmakers are going to tour the film around the country, but instead of showing in cinemas, which are overrun by Hollywood and the big studios, they will screen in schools and other special venues, relying on the positive word of mouth of the audience. On Sept. 5, the first pop-up screening will take place at the UP Diliman Film Center, presented by UP CAST. Advocacy group Yabang Pinoy will also take the film to different schools around Metro Manila.

Anyone who wishes to buy tickets or even organize a screening of the film may visit or email

Technical info:

  • Running time: 90 minutes
  • Color

Main credits:

  • Cast: Ruru Madrid, and Pepe Smith
  • Written, Produced and Directed by Pepe Diokno
  • Produced by Bianca Balbuena, Philippe Avril
  • Cinematography by Carlo Mendoza, F.C.S.
  • Sound on set by Mark Locsin, Jedd Dumaguina, Bryan Dumaguina
  • Production design by Benjamin Padero, Carlo Tabije
  • Picture editing by Gisèle Rapp-Meichler, Lawrence S. Ang
  • Sound editing by Claire-Anne Largeron, Rosalie Revoyre
  • Color grading by Yov Moor
  • Sound design and Mix by Roman Dymny
  • Original score Johann Mendoza

Production credits:

  • Presented by Epicmedia and Unlimited
  • Associate produced by Boy Abunda Angelo Santos
  • Made in association with Harlene Bautista, Jose Mari Abacan, Les Films De L’étranger, Polyson Post Production, Mcmurphy Post Production
  • A film developed during the training program Produire Au Sud (3 Continents Film Festival, Nantes), awarded at the Berlinale Talent Project Market by Arte (International Relations Prize) and granted by the Asian Cinema Fund
  • A Filipino-French Co-Production Supported by Aide Aux Cinémas Du Monde (Centre National Du Cinema Et De L’image Animée and Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères – Institut Français), Région Alsace and Communauté Urbaine De Strasbourg, In Partnership with CNC, Visions Sud Est Swiss Agency For Development and Cooperation (DSC), and Globe Telecom
  • International sales agent: Doc & Film International

Contact info: