It's been over 17 years since ABS-CBN's former President Charo Santos-Concio starred in a movie.
This 2016, the Kapamilya Network's Chief Content Office made a comeback on the big screen via Lav Diaz's opus Ang Babaeng Humayo (English title: The Woman Who Left).
In this film, Charo brought to life the character of Horacia Somotros, a teacher who sought revenge after her ex-boyfriend (played by Michael de Mesa) wrongfully sent her to prison for 30 years.
Horacia crosses paths with an epileptic transwoman named Hollanda (played by John Lloyd Cruz).
Ang Babaeng Humayo won the highly-coveted Golden Lion trophy at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival in Italy last September 10.
Charo's performance in the film generally received positive reviews from local and foreign film critics.
At the press conference held at ABS-CBN's Dolphy Theater, members of the press asked the lady executive what made her accept the project.
The Maalaala Mo Kaya host wanted to understand the director's craft which is why she accepted the challenge.
Direk Lav is known for his use of "slow cinema," which makes use of long, lingering takes.
In this case, the black-and-white film Ang Babaeng Humayo runs for three hours and 46 minutes.
Charo explained, "My only motivation was I wanted to work with Lav Diaz, I wanted to understand his cinema—why he makes long running films, why he wants his films na halos hindi gumagalaw yung camera?
"Masyado kong na-appreciate yung freedom na binigay niya sa mga performers niya. He's not bound by any rules; his cinema is not bound by any rules. I mean, he gives you the freedom to interpret your character, the way you see it and the way you understand it from the context of the narrative and ibang iba ang experience."
She added, "When he offered me the role, I was drawn to the character. I was immediately drawn to the character of Horacia."
The main reason why Charo retired from making film and TV projects has always been clear to her but the Kapamila executive still couldn't resist an offer from Lav Diaz himself.
When Direk Lav helmed Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, starring John Lloyd Cruz and Piolo Pascual, this paved the way for the director and TV executive to come up with a collaboration.
She recalled, "Klaro naman sa akin yung naging desisyon ko in the past and klaro sa akin yung priority ko at panunungkulan ko sa ABS-CBN. It was only after I retired that I really entertained the idea of going back to acting and it was really because of the question that Lav asked me during the dinner for [Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis], nung pagbalik nila from Berlin."
"Nung tinanong niya ako kung, 'Gusto mo pa ba bumalik umarte o aarte ka pa ba?' At nasabi ko lang na, 'Direk, depende sa material, depende sa character na, you know, if I find the character engaging enough.'
"Then three days after, he e-mailed me a 20-page script. It was really just a conversation over the Hele dinner."
To prepare for her role, Charo did a workshop with actress/acting coach Malou de Guzman. She said, "I went through a workshop with Malou de Guzman. I had a half-day workshop with her. Siyempre naman I had to brush up kasi 17 years ka nang hindi umaarte."
Aside from the acting workshop, Charo also did an immersion with detainees of Bureau of Correctional for Women to fully understand what her character is going through.
Charo recounted, "I went to the Bureau of Correctional for Women para makapag-interview ng mga inmates doon, para malaman kung anong pakiramdam na parang tumitigil ang buhay para sa kanila. I also spent half day there and I went around the premises para lang ano rin, to get to know the essence of what it's like to live in a prison for years."
When asked how she felt about receiving rave reviews from film critics, Charo said, "Siyempre iba yung pakiramdam na nabigyan mo ng hustisya yung character na binigay sa 'yo para gampanan mo."
The TV executive continued, "I guess, it feels good na it was shown first in the Venice Film Festival na hindi kami kilala kung sino kami. There are no biases, they just saw the film for its own merits, they just saw our performances for their own merits.
"Walang judgement, wala ring expectations 'di ba? Hindi naman sila nanood ng pelikula na, 'Ay iyan si Charo Santos 'yan, e, dating president ng ABS-CBN' or 'Si John Lloyd yan, award-winning actor yan sa ano…'
"They just saw the film for its own merits so nakakatuwa na it was very much appreciated by the international audience and yeah, we're very fortunate to have very good reviews."
Ultimately, Charo expressed her satisfaction for the film, especially for the recognition it received from Venezia 73.
She said, "Ako kasi masaya. Masayang masaya ako for Lav. Masayang masaya po para sa aming lahat. Masayang masaya ako para sa pelikulang Pilipino. I think you know, the win of the movie in the Venice Film Festival for the Golden Lion is a celebration of Philippine cinema.
"I'm so very happy and proud of Lav Diaz. I think he deserves this after 9 years of working so hard and not giving up.
"I saw his evolution in his works. Sabi ko sa kanya, of the four Lav movies that I have seen, I told him after watching the movie that the storytelling of this one is solid. The narrative is quite solid and small film siya pero solid ang story-telling niya. Masayang masaya that we were representing also our country in the Venice Film Fest."
She then quipped, "Pero siyempre, bilang babae na nagsusuot ng terno at ng gown at ng high heels, yun lang, that's the most uncomfortable part."
(To view their photos in Venice, click: John Lloyd, Charo Santos-Concio represent Ang Babaeng Humayo at Venice Film Fest red carpet)