Tommy explains why PH viewers prefer foreign over local films

By: - Reporter
/ 12:40 AM April 18, 2019

Tommy Abuel in “Dagsin”

The heroine died on Black Saturday, and the story ended on Easter Sunday,” said producer Anne Prado-Magadia on why she thought it was serendipitous that her husband Atom Magadia’s film, “Dagsin,” will be shown in cinemas on Black Saturday, April 20.

“When we learned of the playdate assigned to us, I said nakakapangilabot. This is really a film for the Holy Week,” she told reporters over lunch recently. “We thought we were lucky to have gotten it, although ‘Avengers: Endgame’ will be screening after four days.”


Atom added: “We are the only local film to screen on that day. It’s a good thing because most big studios put something on Black Saturday. We figured, this is a calculated move since we don’t expect to earn much. We simply wanted to get back what we’ve invested on the film.”

The recent media gathering for “Dagsin” was also to formally hand over the three acting trophies to lead actor Tommy Abuel—and one for Marita Zobel—that they won in recent film derbies here and abroad.

“It used to be that when we make films, it’s always for local consumption,” Tommy observed. “But because of these indie movies, we are now able to get out of the confines of our archipelago. Here, we’re always battling for audience attention with Hollywood movies that are made for global audiences.”

Tommy said this was why producers cannot blame moviegoers who preferred foreign movies over local productions. “To discuss this, we will have to go back to our concept of colonial mentality,” he said. “For most Filipinos, anything foreign is good. That’s what our colonizers taught us. They suppressed our sense of national pride and inculcated in us that foreign products are better. We grew up being in awe of foreigners.”

He said this explained why “we always want to prove to foreigners that we are good or are better than they are—in singing, theater and, now, at filmmaking. It’s like we’re always seeking for that pat on the back from foreigners.”

Working on “Dagsin,” which was a finalist in the 2016 Cinemalaya fest, had been challenging because “we had difficulty with the festival’s budget cap,” Atom said.

“We decided not to shoot several scenes because we were certain we’d go beyond the budget if we did. Also, there were scenes that were edited out to make the film run for only two hours—a Cinemalaya requirement,” he explained.

Asked for his inspiration in making the story, Atom recalled: “I wrote the story back when I was still in film school. It was originally a five-minute short film. A lot has happened to me from 2007 to 2010—I got married, my daughter got gravely ill and almost died, both my parents suffered from cancer and I had a stroke. I included all these experiences in ‘Dagsin,’ and turned it into a full-length feature.”

For Tommy, working on the film had been pleasant, except for minor kinks. “Although the film’s title means ‘heavy,’ making the film had been very light. We all had fun.”


Atom, however, let in on an incident that happened when they were about to shoot their last sequence. “We had to reschedule because Tito Tommy got sick. We thought he might go to the hospital and have surgery.” “It was actually gallstones that caused the stomachache,” Tommy shared with the Inquirer.

“Dagsin,” which also stars Benjamin Alves and Janine Gutierrez, won a total of 18 awards since it toured international film derbies in 2016.

For Tommy, winning awards “is a validation of the work you’ve done. There weren’t a lot of award-giving bodies when I was just starting.”

Aside from his best actor triumph at Cinemalaya, he also bagged the best actor trophies from the Los Angeles Philippine International Film Festival in 2017, and from the European Philippine International Film Festival in 2018 in Italy.

For Marita, winning an acting trophy (best actress in a cameo role from the Urduja Film Festival in 2017) was likewise a career-first. “It was surprising. A lot of my scenes didn’t make the final cut at Cinemalaya. My role was short, but I guess it was noticeable enough for me to win an award.”

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TAGS: Dagsin, Foreign Films, Movies, Tommy Abuel
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