After pulling out the historical biopic Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli starring Aljur Abrenica from last year's Metro Manila Film Festival, director Gil Portes plans to rejoin the annual yuletide affair via the period drama Moonlight Over Baler.
This time, Direk Gil tapped Aljur's younger brother Vin Abrenica as the lead actor for the movie.
Vin will be co-starring with award-winning actress Elizabeth Oropesa, fellow ABS-CBN star Ellen Adarna, and his former onscreen partner Sophie Albert.
Other cast members include Daria Ramirez, Menggi Cobarrubias, Kate Alejandrino, Abel Estanislao, Benj Bolivar, Aaron Yanga, Angie Ferro, Alvin Fortuna, Dennies Coronel, Benjie Felipe, Jess Evardone, Jun Nayra, and Blaine Medina.
Produced by businessman Rex Tiri, the movie had its story conference recently at his restaurant Limbaga 77 in Quezon City.
Set in the 1980s, Moonlight Over Baler tells the story of Fidela (Elizabeth Oropesa), a 65-year-old retired teacher. She develops a special bond with a young Japanese photojournalist Kenji (Vin Abrenica), who happens to have an uncanny resemblance to her lost love named Nestor (also played by Vin Abrenica). Fidela was about to marry Nestor in the 1940s but he went off to fight in the war and never returned.
Decades later, she met Kenji who went to Baler after covering the EDSA revolution in 1986. Fidela reminisced about her past as Kenji woos a local beauty named Rory (played by Ellen Adarna). Fidela helped Kenji surpass the challenges given to him by Rory to prove the sincerity of his feelings towards her.
The screenplay, written by Enrique Ramos, won 3rd place at The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 2009.
During the story conference of the film, Direk Gil revealed that this story is inspired by true events. He told select members of the press, "Yung pangalawang nanay ko ay engaged to be married before the war. Hindi natuloy ang kasal nila kasi pumunta sa giyera yung kanyang boyfriend. Hindi na bumalik, hindi alam kung anong nangyari, so pine-resume na nilang patay na. My aunt waited for the return of Nestor, of course, he never showed up.
"So decades after, nagtuturo ang auntie ko… nag-retire na siya sa pagtuturo. They opened a small karinderya in Pagbilao, Quezon where I was born, where I grew up. And then, one day may kumain doong retail man na kamukhang-kamukha nung boyfriend na hindi na bumalik. So yun ang naging inspiration namin ni Eric."
Direk Gil also recounted how Rex approached him to produce the film in the hopes of joining the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival. He narrated, "Akala naming wala nang kasunod, then one day sabi niya, ‘Bago na pala ang Metro Manila Film Festival ngayon. Hindi na katulad noong araw. Sabi ko, ‘Oo nga kasi nag-revise sila at finished film ang tinitignan nila. Hindi yung script.’
"[Sabi ni Rex], ‘Would you love to join the festival?’ [Dagot ko], ‘My god, hindi mo ako tinatanong ng ganyan! Maski masakit ang tuhod ko, o-oo ako.’ Anyway, to make the long story short, we agreed to do the film."
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the organizers of the festival, has officially announced that only finished films will be able to join the upcoming film festival.
Direk Gil said, "We were assured by the new executive committee of the Metro Manila Film Festival na that example will be followed this year. Na talagang it’s a film [festival] of substance, hindi commercial viability…
"Of course, puwedeng malalaking artista. Vice Ganda can make a film basta maganda, yun lang naman, e. Walang mga commercial viability, walang mga ganun basta it’s a good film. Period. Ang daming pelikulang tapos na walang play date. I’m not referring to the big studios but yung mag indie, marami."
He continued, "And dito, ang playing field is equal, finished films [ang ipapasa], e. Hindi na katulad ’pag script [ang ipapasa] na mababago ang script, mababago ang casting, ganyan-ganyan. Ngayon wala na.
"And they’re all planning to make sali, hindi lang nila ipinag-iingay baka ma-reject. Maybe we’re so bold and daring na we announce to the world that we want to join the festival and there’s nothing wrong."