Frencheska Farr feels blessed to be given the chance to topbill the Filipino movie musical Emir. The winner of the GMA-7 reality singing competition Are You the Next Big Star? is cast as Amelia, a native of Ilocos who goes to a fictional Middle Eastern kingdom to work as the yaya of the son of a Sheik.
"Natutuwa ako dahil bago pa lang po ako sa industry and nabigyan po ako ng ganitong project. Nakakatuwa po talaga na nabigyan po ako ng opportunity na makilala po ng maraming tao, and makilala po sa buong Pilipinas dahil po dito sa project na ito," Frencheska told the media during the May 5 press conference held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
SHOOTING IN MOROCCO. Around 70 percent of the film Emir was shot in Morocco, particularly the cities of Marrakech, Fint, Essaouira, and Ourzazate—the latter two having been the iconic sites for movies like Othello, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. There were also some sequences shot on-location in Ilocos Norte and Ifugao.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked Frencheska about her trip and she gushed about the beauty of Morocco. According to her, the 36-hour trip to this country was well worth the wait. She stayed there for about three weeks, allowing her some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Morocco.
Her co-star Sid Lucero, who is cast as her love interest in the movie, was able to stay in Morocco for about a week.
Frencheska narrates: "Nakita ko yung kasbah [fortress] kunsaan nag-shoot ang Prince of Persia pati Star Wars pati ibang Hollywood films. May building dun na gawa sa mud at pag hinawakan mo, may alikabok siya—ang galing! Yun yung favorite ko. May pinuntahan din kami na disyerto na ang ganda kahit na ang lungkot kasi ikaw lang ang nandun.
"Nagpunta rin kami sa Essaouira, yun yung city nila na may beach. May mga seagulls dun at first time kong makakita ng mga ganun."
(CLICK HERE to watch Frencheska narrating her Moroccan adventures.)
She also described how scared she was when they shot the war scene for the movie. In the story, a war ensues in the kingdom and the royal family must evacuate the palace. In the ensuing turmoil, Amelia saves her ward Ahmed and they escape to the desert.
"Nakakatakot yung eksena kasi parang tunay yung baril," recalls the Party Pilipinas mainstay. "May tumatalsik pa parang holen mula sa baril at masakit pag tinatamaan ka. Totoo talaga ang sigaw ko at totoo yung takbo ko! May pinasabog rin na bomba dun sa eksena."
Aside from Frencheska, Emir stars Julia Clarete, Jhong Hilario, Dulce, Bayang Barrios, Bodjie Pascua, Gigi Escalante, Beverly Salviejo, Liesl Batucan, Melanie Dujunco, and Kalila Aguilos.
According to Emir director Chito Roño, they are hoping to release Emir by June 2010.
CHITO ROÑO HELMS LANDMARK PROJECT. This original Filipino musical originally written for the screen is produced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in association with the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
During the presscon, FDCP chairman Rolando "Jackie" Atienza said that their agency decided to bankroll Emir because "this is a film that no ordinary producer would produce. It is truly a landmark movie and will extend the frontiers of Philippine cinema."
Through this project, Emir director Chito Roño hopes that the film will cast OFWs in a new light, employing the musical genre to elevate and transform the current perception of our overseas Filipino workers.
It is said that Emir was inspired by true events: particularly the Gulf War and an actual meeting with a crown prince who surprisingly speaks fluent Tagalog and Ilocano. Direk Chito would rather not disclose the identity of this royal prince but he did point out that there are a lot of OFWs who raise foreigners, thus, introducing them to Philippine culture, values, and language.
"Marami na kasing yaya, sa parteng sa Europe na mga Filipina ang yaya. Marami na, pero hindi natin alam, hindi lang sila sikat. Kumbaga, 'the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,'" says the director whose last movie was the 2009 horror-drama film T2 (Tenement 2).
When the trailer Emir was shown, there was one sequence that looked much like a Bollywood production. Did the filmmakers intend it that way?
"It is inspired by Bollywood," explains Direk Chito. "Musical, e. Hindi naman Bollywood na Indian. Meron lang kaming part na parang Bollywood. Kasi sa Middle East, if you are familiar, hindi lang naman Pinoy. Marami pang nationalities tulad ng Pakistani, et cetera. Meron kaming Bollywood-inspired scenes because naisip namin, bakit mga Pinoy lang. Sabi ng mga Bumbay, kami rin nagtatrabaho dito, and they go on and perform a Bollywood number."