Indie film "Nars" captures the realities of Filipino nurses

by Jocelyn Dimaculangan
Sep 27, 2007
(From left) Coco Martin, Jodi Sta. Maria, Jennylyn Mercado, and Jon Avila are nursing students who represent the aspirations of many Filipinos for a better life. They interact with a community in dire need of care in the movie Nars, directed by Adolf Alix, Jr.

Should I stay or should I go? This is the question facing most Filipino nurses nowadays. This will also be the question that the upcoming movie Nars will attempt to answer.

Jennylyn Mercado, Jodi Sta. Maria, Agot Isidro, Coco Martin, and Jon Avila portray five graduating nursing students who are at a crossroads in their lives and their careers. Their different stories are a cross-section of society's nurses. Each character reflects the Pinoy's aspirations, motives, realities, ambivalence, and fears in becoming a nurse.

During the story conference for Nars held last September 20 at the Thompson Square on Tomas Morato Ave, Q.C., the actors and producers of the movie talked about the country's perennial brain drain.

The film's executive producer Carl Balita explained, "Ito pong film na ito ang magbibigay ng mukha sa iba't ibang tao na nangangarap na maging nurse. Sila ang magbibigay sagot sa maraming tanong kung bakit tila lahat ng pamilyang Pilipino gustong magkaroon ng isang nurse.

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"We'd like to create a more positive image of nurses. I'd like to tell you that Filipino nurses are the best nurses in the world. They also constitute the biggest nursing force in the world. ‘Yan po ang yaman ng Pilipinas.

"Gusto ring ipakita ng film ang realities and socio-economic situation of the Philippines. Maraming issues ang tutugunan ng film, including domestic violence, gender discrimination in the Philippines, at iba pa."

How did they choose the cast members of Nars?

Director Adolf Alix, Jr. narrated, "Noong na-develop po yung material at nag-uusap-usap kung sino ang gaganap, si Jennylyn po talaga ang naisip namin to play the role of Ela kasi nakita po namin sa present actors, [she] would best fit the material. Lahat naman po sila first choice para sa pelikula."

How did the characters prepare for the roles as nursing students?

"Binigyan kami ng reviewer ni Kuya Carl," reveals Jennylyn Mercado. "Siyempre, yung kilos, saka nagtatanong kami kung ano ang dapat gawin. May mga things na ginagamit ang nurse. Ano ba ang dapat isuot? Ano yung hindi dapat, simple things na makakatulong rin sa movie para ma-portray namin nang maayos yung role."

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As for Jodi Sta. Maria, she says that being around real nurses helped prepare her for this role. "Bukod sa reviewer na dapat basahin, nakatulong rin sa akin na ang best friend ko ay isang nurse. Nakita ko siyang nag-aral, nakita ko siyang nagtatrabaho. Bumibista ako sa hospital kung saan siya nag-duty. Nagkaroon na ako ng idea even before pa ma-offer sa akin itong role na ito."

The other female lead character is played by Agot Isidro. She admits that she also drew upon her own personal experiences for this role. "Exposed ako sa nurses because when my dad was in the hospital, ang tagal niya sa hospital kaya alam ko na iba ang ICU nurse from the emergency nurse. Meron akong overview sa different nurses."

The movie Nars will show the crucial decisions to be made by the lead characters. "For all of them, it's a coming-of-age for all of them kasi yung pag-immerse nila sa mundong hindi sila familiar, dun nila matututunan kung ano yung route na gusto nilang tahakin later on sa pagiging isang nurse," summarizes Adolf.

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NARS (2007)

With a majority of nurses opting to work abroad rather than stay in the Philippines, Nars aims to present the advantages and disadvantages of working for one's homeland.

The five lead characters belong to one study group who immerse themselves in a community before they can graduate. As they work on their last year as nursing students, they meet people who make them realize not only their roles as ordinary nurses but as Filipino nurses.

Director: Adolf Alix, Jr.

Screenplay: Agnes de Guzman

Production Company: Carl & Carl Productions

Executive Producer: Carl Balita

Line Producer: Carlo Maceda

Cast: Jennylyn Mercado, Jodi Sta. Maria, Coco Martin, Jon Avila, Jaclyn Jose, Allan Paule, Jeffrey Hidalgo, and Joseph Bitangcol

Ela (Jennylyn Mercado) comes from an impoverished but happy family (composed of Jaclyn Jose, Allan Paule, Jeffrey Hidalgo, and Joseph Bitangcol). Each member makes sacrifices to support her education. In return, Ela sets aside her dreams and takes the course her family chose for her.

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Adrinne's (Jodi Sta. Maria) parents are both working abroad. Her mother is a caregiver in Canada while her father is an engineer in Dubai. Thus, they provide her with all the money and material things but fail to give her what she truly longs for—their love and their presence. She, too, wants to work abroad but aims to work in Australia to spite her parents.

Marissa (Agot Isidro) is single and a doctor by profession. Her whole family migrated to the U.S. many years back. She was left behind because she was already over-age when their petition arrived. Now, Marissa wants to join them through legal means. With a heavy heart, she gives up her medical profession and takes up nursing. Marissa is involved in a wrong relationship. Leaving the country will also spell a new start for her. She represents the story of doctors who take up nursing in pursuit of the American dream.

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Liam (Jon Avila) dreams of becoming a nurse. His parents are Filipinos who are U.S. citizens. They send him to the Philippines because education is much cheaper here. Liam learns more than the course he pursues. He discovers his roots and meets Ela, the love of his life.

Noel (Coco Martin) is gay and proud of it. He enrolled in nursing because it is the "in" thing to do. He soon comes to love the profession, especially since it will become his key to becoming a "blushing bride" someday. He intends to apply in Europe where gay marriages are allowed.

Nars is a major film independently produced by Carl & Carl Productions. It is expected to premiere on October 24, in time for the Philippine Nurses' Convention in Cagayan de Oro, which will be attended by around 2,000 nurses.

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(From left) Coco Martin, Jodi Sta. Maria, Jennylyn Mercado, and Jon Avila are nursing students who represent the aspirations of many Filipinos for a better life. They interact with a community in dire need of care in the movie Nars, directed by Adolf Alix, Jr.
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