Mae Paner, popularly known as the political activist “Juana Change,” says she wants to change the landscape of the local movie industry.
Paner, who has appeared in several hugely popular short satirical videos on YouTube, hopes to accomplish this through her sexy comedy film “Juana C. the Movie.”
She tells the Inquirer, “Most local movies were made to help us escape, forget our problems. Few have anything new to say. My film has what usual movies have, plus add-ons.”
Paner says the film, written by Rody Vera (“Niño”) and directed by Jade Castro (“Zombadings”), tells of love for country and the fight against corruption and apathy. “You can’t expect most production studios to make something like this. It goes against established institutions and is against mining firms that only destroy the environment. This is what our team (Juana Change Movement) offers. We hope viewers will find it refreshing.”
In the film, Juana is a member of an indigenous group in the mountains of Northern Luzon. Their ancestral land threatened by an expanding nickel mining venture, the community hopes Juana will finish her law studies and return to save their home. Juana is a scholar at the elite “Arrneowww de Manila University.”
In Manila, Juana reinvents herself as a bar-hopping, salon-pampered colegiala to be accepted in her new world. To support her lavish lifestyle, she becomes a high-class, plus-sized prostitute. “Then,” Paner says, “she experiences a transformation.”
Paner is a theater actress, television ad director and video producer. She is the face and force behind the Juana Change Movement, “an advocacy that champions critical thinking and social action, and wages war on corruption and apathy.”
After a series of hit videos on YouTube, a number of media people now seek her opinion on burning issues of the day.
“The best gift of my advocacy is what I’ve become,” Paner volunteers. “From 275 lbs, I now weigh 188 lbs. I was the first to be changed by the advocacy. I walk my talk.”
Paner admits she is still a long way from achieving her ideal weight, but she’s not quitting. “While I’ve lost a lot of weight, I’m still obese and my sugar level is still high. I’m still on the road to health and wellness,” she adds.
Consistency is key
The challenge in trying to lose weight is being consistent, she says. “Change is easy to achieve when you need to lose, let’s say, only 10 lbs. However, to choose constantly healthy food over junk food is tough. It is difficult, too, to exercise regularly so you will keep losing weight and not go back to old habits.”
Paner counsels: “You have to internalize, tell yourself, ‘This is the new me.’ You have to be dedicated to forgetting your old lifestyle… I’m always mindful that I’m on a wellness journey. If I forget this, I backslide.”
Being a political activist, Paner gets her share of criticisms, too. “People call me names. They say I’m as big as a pig or an elephant. I just laugh it off. Now, to get involved is the ‘in’ thing. More and more people are talking, demanding change. Awareness of what’s happening around you is the key.”
“Juana C. the Movie,” the first venture of Laganap Productions, will be shown in local theaters starting June 5. With this project, the Juana Change Movement hopes to widen its reach to include moviegoers, “particularly those who don’t necessarily like to watch the news—unless it’s show biz gossip—or make a stand on social and political issues,” says Paner.
The film also features Cosmo Bachelor hunk John James Uy, thespians Angelina Kanapi, Jelson Bay, Joel Torre, Niño Muchlach, Ronnie Lazaro, Madeleine Nicholas, Soliman Cruz, Malou de Guzman, Angeli Bayani and Annicka Dolonious.