Young faces in Cinemalaya
Apart from seasoned thespians like Nora Aunor, Nova Villa, Ai-Ai de las Alas, Robert Arevalo, Freddie Webb, Rosanna Roces and Aiko Melendez, youthful actors are featured in various entries in the 10th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, ongoing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and selected Ayala cinemas until Aug. 10.
Most of these young stars had eagerly auditioned for their chosen projects—lining up with newcomers and veterans alike.
Enzo Pineda (Janice and Denise O’Hara’s “Sundalong Kanin”) recalls his tryout: “It was a humbling experience. I realized there were so many good actors away from the mainstream world.”
Ken Chan (Real S. Florido’s “1st Ko Si 3rd”) auditioned for his role as the young Freddie Webb. To prepare for his part, he watched Freddie’s old movies and TV shows on YouTube.
Coleen Borgonia, who plays the young Nova Villa in “1st Ko Si 3rd,” also watched videos of “Home Along da Riles” (which top-billed Nova with Dolphy) on the Net. “I studied Tita Nova’s mannerisms.”
Coleen and Ken have long watched Cinemalaya movies. Coleen recounts, “Our professors (in La Salle Taft) encouraged us. I recently graduated with a degree in Philippine Studies; I had to write reports on Erick Salud’s ‘Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me’ and Alvin Yapan’s ‘Debosyon.’”
Several actors are making their movie debut in Cinemalaya this year, including Sophie Albert (Gino M. Santos’ “#Y”), Ritz Azul (GB Sampedro’s “s6parados”), Jeric Gonzales (Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya”), K-La Rivera (“s6parados”) and Rafa Siguion-Reyna (Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s “Hari ng Tondo”).
Rafa, who plays a musician in his father’s film, volunteers: “My character is an artist who wants to improve. I have the same goal in real life—as an actor, singer and dancer.”
Jeric says he has come to “love acting more” after making “Hustisya.” “Watching my costars at work made me realize how blessed I am for being an actor.”
Sophie nervously accepted “#Y,” though she has a daring love scene with Elmo Magalona. “I read the script, so when it was time to shoot it, I was prepared,” Sophie says.
Newcomer Jak Roberto (Louie Ignacio’s “Asintado”) says being part of Cinemalaya is “a dream come true.” “I’ve been aiming to be part of this fest since I joined the business in 2012. In making ‘Asintado,’ I learned that you have to be dedicated to your craft.”
Jak’s costar Rita de Guzman says her experience in Cinemalaya inspired her to direct her own film. “I’m taking up Film (De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde). I want to join the fest as a director someday.”
Rita had to learn a Nueva Ecija accent for “Asintado.” “We had a dialect coach on the set. It was difficult, but I love challenges. And Cinemalaya taught me the importance of originality.”
Mara Lopez, who stars in Ida Anita del Mundo’s “K’na the Dreamweaver,” relates, “Last year, I had to learn Rinconada Bikol for ‘Debosyon.’ This year, I learned T’boli for ‘K’na.’ We stayed in Lake Sebu (South Cotabato) for two weeks. I bonded with the team and the community.”
Other young stars are likewise breaking out of studio-crafted personas.
Elmo points out that “#Y” marks a series of firsts for him. “It’s my first indie, my first Cinemalaya film, my first time to have a shower scene … and a bed scene. I’m moving away from my ‘wholesome’ image. Doing this film helped me develop as an actor … I’ll be ready and equipped for more complex roles.”
Enzo echoes the sentiment: “Being surrounded by talented actors made me push myself. Now I know that emotion is just an acting tool. And an actor should understand his character’s objective and motivations, to be able to give justice to the role.”
Barbie Forteza, who plays the young Mylene Dizon in Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina,” tells the Inquirer that she felt fulfilled with her first Cinemalaya film. “I asked Direk Milo if I needed to imitate Ms Mylene, but he said it wasn’t necessary.”
Chynna Ortaleza considers herself fortunate for having two Cinemalaya entries this year: “Hustisya” in Directors’ Showcase and “#Y” in New Breed.
“I’ve always been a fan of the unconventional,” Chynna says. “If we could produce more socially relevant films like these ones in Cinemalaya, the industry would surely regain its lost glory.”
Some young stars are Cinemalaya returnees.
Julian Trono, 16, was featured in last year’s “Purok 7,” and plays Ai-Ai de las Alas’ repressed son in Nick Olanka’s “Ronda” this year. Julian relates, “On TV, we always see stereotypes. In Cinemalaya, movies showcase reality and allow actors to take risks. I wanted my performance to be more controlled, subtle.”
Another returnee is 9-year-old Miggs Cuaderno, who has two films this year: “Asintado” and Derick Cabrido’s “Children’s Show.” Last year, Miggs also had two entries: Carlo Obispo’s “Purok 7” and Eduardo Roy Jr.’s “Quick Change.”
Miggs confesses that his roles this year are more draining than last year’s. In “Asintado,” he plays a mentally-challenged slingshot expert; in “Children’s Show,” an under-aged boxer.
For “Children’s Show,” he trained in boxing; for “Asintado,” he watched movies like “Bullet” (with Cesar Montano) and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” (starring Leonardo DiCaprio). “My directors helped me a lot, too,” he says.
Rocco Nacino is no stranger to Cinemalaya, having won Best New Actor (from Enpress Golden Screen and Star Awards) for Yapan’s “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” in 2011.
This year, Rocco shares the screen with La Aunor in “Hustisya.”
Rocco notes, “Working in this film, I became more vulnerable, sensitive and open with my emotions.”
LJ Reyes, who won Cinemalaya Best Supporting Actress for Ian Loreños’ “The Leaving” in 2010, says acting in indies enriches her mainstream work.
Adds LJ, who stars in Mike Tuviera’s “The Janitor”: “We get to portray unique characters. When we return to TV, we’ll have the skills to mold roles into distinct characters.”
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