‘Walang KaParis’ a ‘do-or-die’ endeavor for director Sigrid Bernardo
Empoy Marquez’s character in “Walang KaParis” is patterned after the personality of indie filmmaker-actor Lav Diaz.
Writer-director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo thought of the film’s title after spending time looking for the best “pares” in the metro, failing to find it, and ending up cooking one for herself.
The acclaimed filmmaker revealed these and a lot more during a recent virtual chat with Inquirer Entertainment to promote the romantic drama movie, which started streaming on Prime Video on March 23.
“Empoy is really a charming person, but it took us several takes before he finally got it. I gave Lav, whom I have already directed in my second movie, ‘Lorna,’ as his character ‘peg.’ Lav isn’t the typical guy with a six-pack or who is fair-skinned, but he oozes sex appeal,” Sigrid explained.
“This isn’t about the standards of beauty, but of how well he carries himself. Lav doesn’t need to make an effort to look cute. He already feels confident. Empoy had the tendency to act like the comedian that he is. You will understand what I’m saying when you see the film,” she added.
When asked why Sigrid chose to name the film “Walang KaParis,” the director said: “It was because my partner and I went on a trip to look for the best pares (braised beef stew served with garlic rice) in the metro. We couldn’t find any that we liked until I decided to just cook one for us. It’s nothing really romantic. Although I did go to Paris thrice—it’s actually one of my favorite cities. It’s a very romantic place for me.”
She continued: “However, when we shot all the Paris scenes, I made sure that they don’t come out very touristy. I did my research and met a lot of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) there. I considered their suggestions. If you say Paris, it’s like Disneyland to many people. It’s a happy place. I wanted to see a different side of it, so that I could say I was also able to find beauty in places in Paris that are away from the tourist spots.”
The film is the second team- up of Empoy and Alessandra de Rossi, collectively known as AlEmpoy. The duo was first seen in 2017 in Sigrid’s romantic drama “Kita Kita,” which currently holds the record for highest-grossing local indie movie.
Sigrid explained why it took her five long years to make a follow-up. “When ‘Kita Kita’ was released in 2017, I was already asked to do another AlEmpoy film right away, but I said I wasn’t ready yet. Then, I made movies for other companies,” she recalled.
“I wrote the script in 2019. It was a difficult process for me. What could be the next film for AlEmpoy? I really felt the pressure until I finally decided to accept the fact that ‘Kita Kita’ was indeed a success. I had to embrace that. Now, looking back, I cannot deny that there is some homage to ‘Kita Kita’ in this film, even though it is not its sequel. ‘Kita Kita’ has become a brand,” she pointed out.
Finally, in 2021, Sigrid took the risk and began shooting, “even though we were still in the thick of pandemic battle,” she said.
“We all know that ‘Kita Kita’ caused a big change in our lives. The changes were both positive and negative. People expected so much from us, especially from me. I felt as if people looked at me as the goose that laid the golden eggs. They thought the movies I’d do after ‘Kita Kita’ would all earn P500 million. The pressure was so extreme that it was debilitating,” she admitted.
Also a major consideration during filming was the fact that Alessandra and Empoy’s friendship has strengthened and deepened through the years. “The two became so at ease together that it proved to be a challenge for me during shooting. They were already OK when they did ‘Kita Kita,’ but the awkwardness was still there. This disappeared through the years, so I needed to work on the romantic chemistry more than the friendship,” she said.
Sigrid kept reminding her lead actors, “I know you love each other as friends, but you are both portraying a character here,” she added. “Their roles are really difficult. If you watch it, you’ll see that they had to work in different timelines and characterizations. They really needed to concentrate.”
In “Walang KaParis,” Empoy plays Jojo, a Filipino artist based in Paris. He has many lovers, but constantly finds himself painting a woman with no name and history. One day, Alessandra, who plays Mary, walks up to him and claims to be the subject of his paintings.
Another challenge for Sigrid working on the film in 2021 was that most of the country was still in pandemic lockdown. She said the global health crisis has taught her a lot, including the fact that life is short. “I said that if I die today, at least the last film I was working on was AlEmpoy’s. For this project, I felt like I risked it all,” she began. “I’m allergic to antiallergy meds, so I was afraid I’d die from the side effects of getting vaccinated. I was forced to get the shot in order to fly to France. This was a do-or-die thing for me.”
“Walang KaParis” is a new Amazon Original movie and is a coproduction of Spring Films and Viva Entertainment.