Former StarStruck Kids contestant Sandy Talag and other Filipino celebrities are part of the award-winning Dutch-Filipino movie Lilet Never Happened.
The film, which tackles child prostitution in the Philippines, was chosen as Best Youth Film at the 2013 Copenhagen International Film Festival. The said film fest was held in Denmark from September 5 to 15.
In addition, the film also won the Audience Award at the 16th Auburn Film Festival for Children and Young Adults. The said film fest was held in Sydney, Australia from September 16-20.
Lilet Never Happened is about a young girl who dreams of becoming rich and famous so she can bring her brother out of poverty.
John Arcilla (who was part of the Hollywood movie Bourne Identity) is also part of the cast as well as Marife Necesito (who previously starred with Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams in Mammoth). Dutch actress Johanna Ter Steege (The Vanishing) played the role of Gloria, a foreign social worker who was trying to help Lilet out of prostitution.
Dutch director Jacco Groen shot this film entirely in Manila. He reveals that he has been visited the Philippines many times in the past.
He says about his film: "With this movie we really hope to raise awareness about the sad reality of child prostitutes not only in The Philippines, but all over the world.”
In an interview with Filmz TV, director Jacco revealed that he was inspired to create this film after meeting a young girl who tried to take her own life.
"I started to make a documentary many years ago then I met a girl, the real Lilet in a mental hospital one day after she tried to commit suicide.
"It was such a strong story...This story never left my mind. When I came back five months later, I couldn't find her anymore. Then I said I would do this story in a drama film...
"It's not a depressing type of film because the girl I met is a tough kind of girl."
Sandy Talag plays the titular character Lilet who is a young maladjusted Filipino-American streetgirl.
Aside from being seen previously in GMA-7's reality talent search, Sandy was also part of the TV5 teleserye Kidlat and the movie Bahay Kubo: A Pinoy Mano Po!
The Dutch director then praised the 15-year-old actress for her performance as Lilet.
"Sandy immediately portrayed the girl the way I had in mind. That's how she was and she's really the type who is energetic."
The filmmaker had a psychologist on set to help the children cope with their roles.
Sandy described how she brought life to a young prostitute: "I used my power of imagination. I asked my friends, what would you realize if your mom told you that you need to sell your body just to get out of poverty. So they answered me wisely and every single day of the taping, I am not reading the script.
"I would imagine, 'Okay imagine this, Sandy, this is not a taping, this is real. You're on the streets and you're selling your body just to have money, just to eat something.' I just imagine things and, voilà."
Director Jacco gave his observations about Sandy's transition from being a kid on the set to being her character Lilet. "I was amazed by the transition...Usually when she is on the set as Sandy, she is pretty modest and almost shy."
Based on a true story, Lilet Never Happened is slated to open in Philippine cinemas this December.
Lilet never happened has already been selected for more than 22 international film festivals in the past year. Among them Warsaw International Film Festival (Poland), International Film Festival India, Moscow International Film Festival, Zlin Film Festival for Children and Youth (Czech Republic), Zanzibar International Film Festival (Tanzania) and the Kristiansand International Youth Film Festival (Norway), where it also won the prize for Best Youth film 2013.
The film is slated to be shown in Switzerland, Australia, Armenia, Dubai and India in the coming months.
Lilet Never Happened will be shown at The International Film Festival in Manhattan next month.