Indie star feels challenged by coming television work

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Mercedes Cabral in “Thy Womb”

Actress Mercedes Cabral, who attended the recently concluded 2012 Venice International Film Festival as a cast member of the Brillante Mendoza film “Thy Womb,” reported that a member of the audience had walked out of the movie’s special screening.

The viewer reportedly couldn’t stand watching a very graphic scene of a ritualistic slaughter of cattle.

“The Italian audience is very vocal and blunt. If they don’t like your work, they will really make it known. The killing of cattle is really one of the rituals of the Badjao tribe (in Mindanao). I understood that viewer’s reaction. I myself couldn’t stand looking at the scene,” Mercedes told the Inquirer.

Like the French

“Thy Womb” is the story of a Badjao midwife (Nora Aunor) who cannot conceive a child. Eager to please her husband (Bembol Roco), she arranges for a young woman (Lovi Poe) to be a surrogate mother. Mercedes portrays a young Badjao bride.

“The Italians are very similar to the French. ’Pag ayaw nila, babastusin nila ang pelikula mo (If they don’t like your film, they will become rude). During the press conference we attended, most of the questions were for the director and about the film. They didn’t care about the actors, but [they did care] about the actors’ work and how they prepared for their characters,” she noted.

Mercedes first joined Mendoza at the 2008 Cannes IFF in France for the film “Serbis.” She returned to Cannes the following year for Mendoza’s “Kinatay,” which won for the latter the best director honor; and for Korean Park Chan-wook’s romantic film “Thirst” (also as part of its cast). In 2009, Mercedes was invited to attend the Asia Pacific Actors Network at the Pusan IFF in South Korea.

Venice highlights

Asked for more highlights of the Venice IFF, Mercedes recalled the long standing ovation that “Thy Womb” received after its gala screening on September 6. “The people stayed until the end credits. When the theater lights were finally turned on, they all stood up and applauded for the four of us for five whole minutes,” she said. (Mercedes attended the festival with Brillante, Nora and Lovi.)

She continued: “It was overwhelming! While it went on, I thought about how sad it was that most Filipinos didn’t support their own films. Projects like this first have to win awards abroad to be appreciated locally.”

Extreme reactions

Mercedes added: “I was told that, as in Direk Dante’s (Brillante’s nickname) earlier movies, reactions to ‘They Womb’ were extreme—people either really liked the film or hated it. I personally think Ms. Nora portrayed her character very effectively. Most people in the audience were amazed to learn about the culture of the Badjaos.”

Mercedes said the five-day trip to Italy was mostly work. “We walked the red carpet and attended press conferences. We didn’t have time to watch other films. We had free time only on the fourth day. On the fifth [day], it was time to head to the airport,” she recalled.

The actress recounted that she learned a lot about Nora after working with her on the set on Sitangkay Island in Tawi-Tawi. “Tita Guy (Nora’s nickname) is very down-to-earth. She never made us feel that she’s the country’s superstar. In Tawi-Tawi, we lived in houses on stilts. There were no toilets. We used only rain water for washing. We never heard her complain.”

Mercedes added: “There were six or seven of us in one house. We all slept on woven mats. One time, I was packing in a hurry because we were scheduled to leave for another set location. She invited me to have merienda with her. I said I’d just follow her after I’m done packing my stuff. After a few minutes, she came back with a bowl of noodles for me. I was very embarrassed, so I dropped everything and joined her.”

Mercedes is in the cast of the Christian Libanan indie film “Aberya,” an entry to the 2012 Cinema One Originals Film Festival in November. On television, she will join the cast of Gina Alajar’s afternoon drama series “Magdalena,” which premieres on October 8.

Escort girl

 

“I have yet to start taping for the show. All I know about my character, Kim, is that she’s an escort girl. She was instructed by the pimp Baron (Ryan Eigenmann), with whom she’s in love, to train Magdalena (Bela Padilla). Kim is jealous now that the spotlight is turned on her (Bela), but the two will eventually become allies.”

Mercedes said she found acting on television very challenging. “I admit to having a hard time doing TV acting because I got so used to working in the movies. In film, you already get a full grasp of your character just by reading the script. On TV, your character evolves faster. You get new scripts every week.”

She pointed out: “I’m excited to be working with Direk Gina. She’s an actor-director. She is very detailed. She would explain to you what emotion she needs from your character for a particular scene. That’s important for an actor.”

“Magdalena” also features Dion Ignacio, Pancho Magno, Pauleen Luna, Maria Isabel Lopez, Irma Adlawan, Alan Paule and Deborah Sun, among others.

E-mail mcruz@inquirer.com.ph

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