Dancing Cebu inmates now movie ‘actors’


AFTER generating 52 million hits on YouTube, the Cebu Dancing Inmates are featured in a film described by its makers as “inspired by real-life struggles.”

From viral video stars, the world-famous Cebu Dancing Inmates are crossing over to the big screen.

After more than three years of production work, Marnie Manicad and Cesar Apolinario are ready to unveil “Dance of the Steel Bars,” which stars Irish actor Patrick Bergin (who costarred with Julia Roberts in “Sleeping with the Enemy”), along with Filipino actors Dingdong Dantes, Joey Paras, Ricky Davao, Kathleen Hermosa and Mon Confiado.

Manicad, a documentarian, told the Inquirer that she and Apolinario, a GMA 7 news reporter, thought of making a feature film on the Cebu Dancing Inmates in 2007, after working on “Banal.” Apolinario won best director for “Banal” at the Metro Manila Film Festival that year.

“At that time, the inmates’ ‘Thriller’ dance video was the most viewed on YouTube,” recounted Manicad.

At press time, the original video posted in 2007 has generated 52,380,348 hits.

The Cebu inmates were also featured in the short documentary, “Dancing for Discipline,” directed by Pepe Diokno.

Manicad and Apolinario chose to take the cinematic route. “Our film is fictional, but inspired by the real stories of

inmates at  Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center,”  Manicad said.

PATRICK Bergin and Dingdong Dantes are said to have immersed themselves in their roles.

It was important to tell this YouTube story as a feature film, she explained. “It’s amazing that the inmates are famous worldwide, yet very little is known about them [as individuals]. Their struggles have to be told … stories that reflect the Filipino culture and character. We find the best things in the worst situations. The whole world should witness that.”

Apolinario and Manicad collaborated with an international production company, Portfolio Films, in making “Steel Bars,” which was filmed on location in the penitentiary where the viral video was shot.

“It’s a live prison movie,” Manicad noted. “We shot most scenes inside a detention center among criminals who may or may not be guilty, but all charged with heinous crimes.”

She has nothing but praise for them, though. “They helped us overcome the challenges of filming. They were disciplined. It felt like working in an ordinary location. The next hurdle was leaving them afterwards. I cannot do much more than to tell their story through this.”

They only had seven days to shoot. Confronted by this and other limitations, her TV and documentary experience—“budgeting time, focusing on essentials”—came in handy. (Manicad’s most popular work is the National Geographic docu “Inside Malacañang,” aired last year.)

Working with professionals like Bergin, Dantes and Paras made the process easier, too, she said. “Patrick was awesome. He always came to the set prepared. He kept his character, a charity worker, close to his heart.” In spite of the language barrier, she added, the actor “blended in very well.”

Dantes, whom she worked with in the GMA 7 series “Atlantika” in 2006, had so much faith in the material that “he managed to squeeze it into his busy schedule.” Manicad added, “Dong is a sensitive actor. He gave so much of himself to the role.”

Playing the film’s gay choreographer, Paras was a standout, she said. “Joey was very enthusiastic and delivered every line straight from the heart.”

“Steel Bars” opens nationwide in SM Cinemas on June 12. “We plan to enter it in film festivals around the world,” Manicad said. “We are also working on screenings in major cities like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Singapore, Hong Kong, Doha, Dubai and New York.”

Meanwhile, Manicad is working on a new National Geographic documentary, “Asian Innovation Knoxout,” to be aired this month. She produces and directs two shows on GMA News TV, “Home Base” and “Turbo Zone.”  Also on her drawing board are another NatGeo docu and a full-length film with a well-known international production company.

Photos Courtesy of Portfolio Films

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  • DakuAkongUtin

    Stop making these innates as glorified souls. They must do their time in jail and must not be used for money making. Let them serve their time in obscurity and remorse . Forget about glorifying their state by generating AWA to those who get s to watch them. Do not generate AWA on these people by showing how good they are at dancing. These are murderers, rapists, robbers and vice versa, and they need to rot in jail .

    They committed crimes to society and must not be glorified . Again, do not generate AWA for awa is not part of serving time. Their dues to society must be paid first and foremost. Giving them centerstage publicity is a subtle way of showing AWA.

    Dios ko mga tagaleglegs, mukhang wala ng matino na sa inyo.

    • mon key

      you don’t get the point of the whole story. maayo unta kung imohang utok og panghuna-huna ang daku. . . sa tanan O-10 pa jud!

      • Amalayar Amalayar

        Please translate in English to share. Only Daku can understand you.

      • mon key

        how sad of you Amalayer . . . any way, i stated that it would have been good if he had a daku brain and understanding . . . sadly, . . of all things . . . his pen*s was the only big thing.

      • DakuAkongUtin

        Monkoy, disciplined sila pero mga kriminals mga ito. You should not give attention to these scoundrels of society. The only bottomline here is the Film Indistry is making money out of this. Yep, its all about making money .

    • Amalayar Amalayar

      Di ko talaga makuha ang sintimyento mo. Where in the world can you see inmates like this? There are even some people who would commit minor crimes like stealing just to be jailed (hopefully) in this place. You see how disciplined they are. 101% of them are there because of poverty. At least sa loob safe sila at kumakain kahit papaano. Di ba kabalen mo sila?

    • Nat Bacalzo

      lick your own arse bro.

      • DakuAkongUtin

        Use your left hand to clean your dirty hiney azz.

  • bok

    dancing robots ! this is ridiculous ! Its like sending a message to potential murderers, child molesters, rapists and all hell may care that its ok to be criminals because you can dance your way serving time and become famous.

    • Bulagas

      you’re a moron

    • DakuAkongUtin

      bokoy, thanks for telling the way it should be. The Film industry is making money out of these innates. AWA ang labas mga ito. This is a big joke. Prison is not for dancing shzt and make a movie out of it. It is for people to do time for their crimes .

  • Nat Bacalzo

    Wow. I will watch this movie when it opens and it will be my first in years in a movie house.

  • Cutting Edge

    The movie does not intend na ipakitang dapat kaawaan ang mga prisoners. Just watch the movie and enjoy it. Kaya nga movie eh. hahaha.

  • Cutting Edge

    DakuAkongUtin, username mo palang bastos ka halatang wala kang pinag aralan.. Watch the movie first before making judgement…

  • Guest

    What the heck if the film industry is making money. For sure may bayad din yang mga prisoners as part of the movie… The fact na nakakulong pa rin naman sila so wag sila bigyan ng source of income sa loob?

  • boybakal

    Dancing Cebu inmates now movie ‘actors’….

    What ? these prisoners should be serving time the hard way….not dancing but doing community service.
    Murderers, rapists, homeciders….there is life after murder.

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