Miss Bulalacao is one of the finalists for this year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2015 on November 4-17 in select theaters around Manila. It is Director Ara Chawdhury’s debut feature after winning grand prize at the Sinulog Film Festival 2015 for Operation Prutas.
Shot entirely in the scenic island province of Biliran by award winning cinematographer Christian Linaban, it is produced by Jill Anoba-Yap and Bianca Balbuena for Cinema One, with Panumduman Pictures, Above the Line Productions and Epic Media.
Chawdhury says that she got the inspiration for the script from The Sims, various films, and her experiences growing up in Naval, Biliran. “I was pregnant and bored, so I looked around me and thought of what I could shoot in my mom’s village. We lived with our helper’s family and an addition to the family was our maid’s husband’s son who, when he first came to us, was flamboyant and proud. I already knew the husband beat the wife every now and then. So it wasn’t hard to imagine why the boy stopped singing Regine Velasquez every morning. I thought, maybe if he was the pregnant one, his dad would go easy on him.”
The result is a one and a half hour black comedy about a young drag queen, Dodong, who joins a barangay gay pageant to gain acceptance in his father’s community. He is instead met with hostility from his father, who chases him to a jungle, where he sobs to a lone bright star. What follows is the strangest night on his entire life, and even stranger 9 months when he realizes he is pregnant. With only his stepmother, Lisa, as support, Dodong deals with ridicule from a barangay who does not believe him – until the rumors become a headline in a tabloid. “Bakla: Ina ng Dios”
The film stars Cebuano bred performance artist Russ Ligtas in his first lead role in a film. Of the experience, Russ says “Even as someone who is part of the LGBT, shooting the film revealed so many things about my own prejudices. I am humbled to be part of it.” Chawdhury says she is hoping the film is accurate in its portrayal of life in the storm besieged Region. “Region 8 is one of the poorest regions in the country, even before Haiyan. I am hoping this film sheds some light on the culture and attitudes of people who have to survive on family bonds and community spirit, and how the individual suffers for this.”
Aside from Ligtas, the film also features Chai Fonacier, Ferdinand Mesias, Tessie Tomas, Nanette Inventor, and Mon Confiado, among others. Tomas, who is a native waray speaker, was glad to reconnect with her heritage. “Miss B is a cleverly wacky story that challenges our beliefs on faith. I am proud to be a part. Kaupay na man la!”
Mon Confiado says he was impressed by Operation Prutas, and jumped at the chance to work with the production behind it upon receiving the script. “Kakaibang kwento. Nakakatawa pero di siya nagpapatawa. Nakakaiyak pero hindi ito nagdadrama. Mababaw pero malalim ang kwento. Nakakatuwa na bumabalik na ang sigla ng mga Regional Films!”
Producer Bianca Balbuena had this to say, “Regional stories are important fibers in Philippine cinema because of the little stories that we dont hear in the cities we live in, they are very intimate and refreshing but also universal in terms of emotions and feelings.”
While the cast is a mix of actors from Manila Cebu and Davao, the crew is entirely Cebuano.
“I’ve never worked with a more professional cast and crew. This is more or less the same crew that’s been working on the previous Cebuano Cinema One entries. I guess, the efficiency of this production is just a result of all those years of trial and error.” Chawdhury says.
“Biliran used to be part of Leyte before receiving province status in 1992. So the island is besieged by storms, and we shot right in the middle of Habagat season. We were not expecting the weather to be as kind to us as it did then. The people were incredibly accomodating as well. I guess it helps that we expressed wanting to Some of the scenes were shot in the diving resort we were staying in, Agta Beach Resort. The owners’ ancestral house is featured in the film as Maam Mercy’s house.” she added.
Miss Bulalacao will premiere at the CinemaOne Originals Film Festival in select theaters in Manila which is slated for November 4-17, 2015.