Barbie Forteza, superstar student
In the Bucari mountains of Iloilo, GMA 7 teen star Barbie Forteza suddenly found herself enrolled in a master class in acting, with the Superstar herself, Nora Aunor, as her mentor.
In Derick Cabrido’s “Tuos,” an entry in this year’s Cinemalaya, La Aunor plays a binukot, epic chanter and keeper of the tribe’s traditions, who must grapple with the decision of her rebellious granddaughter, portrayed by Barbie, not to follow in her footsteps.
In their scenes together, Barbie said the internationally acclaimed actress was a consistently generous coworker.
“Although the theme was heavy, work was made easier because Ms. Nora was very supportive,” Barbie recalled. “She helped me out. In one scene, she whispered to me: ‘Deliver your dialogue slowly, so you can feel it.’”
The Superstar wasn’t the type who would dish out acting tips indiscriminately, so Barbie had to listen closely and observe just as assiduously. “She made me realize that less is more. The simpler, the better—the more effective your performance would be. In the movies, big movements are not necessary… which is different from television.”
On TV, she admitted, she often had to resort to loud and unrestrained acting. That was why indie films offer a refreshing change of pace for her, she explained.
Her latest indie film gave her the chance to learn from seasoned veterans like La Aunor, who likewise shared practical advice on longevity and surviving the business of show.
“She told me that I shouldn’t let success change who I am. That I should always be professional. That I shouldn’t be the cause of delay at work,” Barbie related. “That I should do my homework.”
To prepare for “Tuos,” she watched the 2004 “I-Witness” documentary, “Ang Huling Prinsesa.” The docu was a big help because it gave us a peek into the life of a binukot,” she clarified.
She also had to learn the Kinaray-a language. “There were Tagalog translations on the margins of the script, and a dialogue coach was on the set to make sure our pronunciation was correct. Since we shot in live sound, we couldn’t afford to make a mistake.”
Her director was a perfectionist, as well, she noted. “Even though he wanted everything to be flawless, the shoot went smoothly.”
Cabrido’s “enthusiasm” for his craft was “contagious,” she remarked. “He won’t settle for ‘OK lang.’ He pushed us to give our best.”
She is grateful that her home studio, GMA 7, permits her to act in independently produced films.
“GMA Artist Center isn’t really that strict,” she pointed out. “I am happy that my handlers allow me to do what I want—especially since we all know that indie films offer edgy roles.”
Her foray into the indie world has yielded twin honors—making her the first internationally awarded actress among her peers.
For Louie Ignacio’s indie drama, “Laut,” she won best actress in the Directors’ Week section of the Fantasporto or the 36th Oporto International Film Festival, held in Portugal last March. (She earlier won best supporting actress at the Cinemalaya for the 2014 entry, Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina.”)
At first, she was incredulous when she heard about the Fantasporto win. “I knew that ‘Laut’ was shown in Portugal, but I didn’t know we were competing for awards,” she recounted. “I only learned about it on Twitter.”
Now, the Fantasporto trophy stands beside her Cinemalaya Balanghai at home. “It’s a great feeling,” she said of her two awards. “It motivates me to keep doing indie films.”
The Cinemalaya fest is currently ongoing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ayala Cinemas.
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