Advocacy film tackles Down syndrome
“EQUAL opportunities and rights for everyone.”
This was the message that Ronaldo Bertubin hoped to impart in his latest film, “Ku’Te,” which is one of the finalists in the Filipino New Cinema category of the 2016 World Premieres Film Festival (WPFF).
“Ku’Te” tells the story of a teenage girl named Lenlen (played by Marielle Therese) and the emotional struggles she faces as a person with Down syndrome.
“It showcases the challenges of having a loved one with this condition,” said Bertubin. “This movie also highlights Lenlen’s brother Emong (Johan Santos), who raises her.
Despite the many trials they face, the love they share as family provides them with the strength and courage, not only to survive but to live.”
Bertubin described “Ku’Te” as an advocacy film. “The idea started when a member of my production staff told me he has a sibling with Down syndrome and would leave his sister in the care of a neighbor if he’s at work.
“I asked him, ‘What would you do if you came home one day and realized that she is pregnant, because someone abused her?’ He cried at the thought of it.”
The director pointed out: “There are many unreported cases of women with Down syndrome getting raped. Often, their attackers are people they know. This happens because no one complains. Some parents just keep quiet.”
While writing “Ku’Te,” Bertubin consulted his brother, who’s a doctor. His sister, who is currently writing a thesis on Down syndrome, is his coproducer.
He “discovered” his lead actress Marielle through social media. “She is 18, but her mental capacity is that of a 6-year-old. I went to Batangas to see if she’s capable of following directions. I was pleased with her,” he shared with the Inquirer during the press conference hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), organizer of the WPFF.
Bertubin added, “Some of those we approached for financial aid suggested that we look for a popular actor to portray the lead character, so we could ‘sell’ the movie. But I also want to prove that people with Down syndrome are capable of working for their own keep.”
Another challenge for Bertubin was how to direct someone like Marielle. “I brought her to Manila, to an environment that was very different from what she’s used to. To understand each other, Marielle and I created codes. She’d raise her pinky finger to say she was ready to shoot. I would touch her to say that it was a good take,” he said.
Bertubin said he hoped for “Ku’Te,” which received an R-13 rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), to be seen by as many people as possible.
“What I want is for people to realize that more than love, people like Lenlen need acceptance.”
The 2016 WPFF will be held from June 29 to July 10. “Ku’Te” also features Maya Samson, Adrian Ramirez and Nico Gomez, and will have its gala on July 1 at SM North Edsa in Quezon City.