Don’t be surprised if you see a familiar face in one of the Spanish films featured in this year’s Pelicula: Spanish Film Festival in Manila.
Filipino actor Raymond Bagatsing plays a pivotal part in Salvador Calvo’s “1898, los ultimos de Filipinas,” which served as the opening film of the Spanish film fest, ongoing at the Greenbelt Cinemas in Makati until Oct. 15.
Carlos Madrid, director of the fest’s organizer Instituto Cervantes, told the Inquirer that Bagatsing and Madrid-based Filipino actress Alexandra Masangkay joined the Spanish cast and crew during the acclaimed film’s shoot in the Canary Islands and Equatorial Guinea, which substituted as turn-of-the-century Baler, Philippines.
“I really enjoyed working with Salvador,” Bagatsing told the Inquirer. “He was very detailed when it came to my portrayal of Comandante Luna. On my first day of filming, we shot many takes, in order to perfect my Spanish accent, pronunciation and other nuances.”
By the second day, things became “easier” for the duo. “I guess, we got the feel of each other as collaborators. He was very specific as a director, which I appreciated. But, he was gentle in communicating his instructions.”
Bagatsing hopes to catch the film during its run at the fest.
“I read the whole script, though. I’ve also seen the good reviews. If I am not mistaken, ‘1898’ was considered as Spain’s entry in the best foreign language film category of the Oscars.”
Calvo’s film was nominated in nine categories at the Goya Awards (Spain’s Oscars) and won for best costume design. According to Madrid, Calvo’s film, which was a huge hit, almost made it, but Carla Simon’s Berlin winner “Summer 1993” will represent Spain at the Oscars.
Bagatsing feels it’s vital for Filipinos to see the movie, which revisits a turning point in our country’s history—specifically, the Philippine revolution for independence from Spain.
Both sides of the story
“The film depicts the siege of Baler from the vantage point of the Spanish soldiers,” Bagatsing explained. “It shows the Spaniards’ hardships and internal conflicts. It is always good to hear both sides of every story.”
The movie chronicles the siege of Baler, when a “forgotten” Spanish detachment took over a small town’s church and was surrounded by Filipino insurgents for 337 nerve-wracking days.
In the script, the movie’s lead character, Teniente Martin Cerezo (played by award-winning Spanish actor Luis Tosar), surrenders to Bagatsing’s Comandante Luna.
“I play a somewhat mystical rebel leader, like Che Guevara. That was how Salvador wanted me to portray Comandante Luna,” Bagatsing recalled. “I am happy that the film has garnered accolades in Spain.”