"At first I was surprised because he was Japanese," Alix said of Woo. "I know it is a very delicate subject matter especially for them, because the world has stereotypes of how the Japanese were during that time."
But he said he was happy that Woo loved the script, which last year won first prize for screenplay at the Palanca Memorial Awards, the Philippine literary version of the Pulitzer Prize.
"He said he is not afraid to produce it because at the end, all these three countries are victims of the war," Alix added.
Shooting lasted 18 days over about four months. At least 15 local artists had to hand-paint the backdrops for two months before shooting began. The movie went over the budget at around 10 million pesos ($244,000) because of the decision to shoot in a studio.
Alix said that while shooting indoors was confining and more expensive, it was worth it.
"The audience might feel a certain discomfort because it's not as real as it is, but at a certain point you also feel like you are in a journey with the characters" he said.
The 34-year-old director, named in 2010 by The Hollywood Reporter as among Asia's best and brightest entertainment personalities below 35, said he was thrilled that his movie will be competing in Cannes.
"For me it's just an honor to be in the same lineup of these directors because I love their work," said Alix, whose co-directed movie "Manila" also had a special screening in Cannes in 2009.
He said being in the festival gives small films like his the buzz and exposure that can boost sales.
Two French distributors have signed up to market the movie in France and elsewhere, he said.
"What is important now for us is to show that there is a movement that is coming from the Philippines, because in the past six years there have been a lot of Filipino films that have been screened in festivals and we get a lot of reviews," he said.
Follow Teresa Cerojano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtmanila