Sharon Cuneta on doing her first indie film, 'Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha'

MANILA, Philippines – Star Cinema is bringing Sharon Cuneta’s first independent film, Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, to audiences nationwide, following it’s box-office success at the 2017 Cinemalaya Film Festival.

At the blogger conference on Sunday, September 3, Sharon shared that it has always been her dream to star in an indie film. Seeing the likes of veteran actors such as Nora Aunor cross over from mainstream piqued her interest even more.

“Ever since, marami namang (there have been a lot of) offers to do indie films. Money, the talent fee, was never a factor. You have to give your fellow filmmakers a break. If they have a good storyline, hindi mo palalagpasin 'yun (you won't pass up on it) just because [of the limited budget].  I mean, I was fortunate enough to be in that position na humindi sa ayaw ko at um-oo sa maganda. At nagandahan ako (to say no to what don't like and say yes what I like. And I liked it),” she said.

A remastered version of Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha will hit theaters on September 6. Director Mes De Guzman encouraged even those who have already seen the film during its Cinemalaya run to watch it again in cinemas, promising not just a cleaner edit and better sound quality but a more streamlined storytelling.


 

Unknown to many, Sharon did quite a lot of improv in the movie. She said Mes gave the actors the liberty to speak from the heart whenever inspiration strikes, and most of her improvised lines made the final cut. Her past experiences – good and bad – helped her make the character even more believable. In one of the pivotal scenes in the movie, Sharon seized the chance to let out all her frustrations.

“I really made paalam, sabi ko, 'Direk meron po akong mga sama ng loob na hindi ko pa nave-vent, ‘yung mga ninakawan kami ng mana, mga pinagkatiwalaan mong parang anak na rin ng magulang mo tapos ganoon.' It happened twice, ha. When my dad died, then when my mom died, so parang bakit ganoon? When you’re good to people, you would think they will be good to you, as well. Unfortunately, they take advantage….Saka syempre ‘yung buhay ko napakamakulay. It’s an open book. My heart is so battered already. Pinasa-Diyos ko na lang. Lagi naman eh. Sabi ko kay direk, ‘Puwede pong bukod sa dialogue na sinulat ninyo, kung may idagdag ako okay lang? If I feel it's approporiate.'"

(I really asked permission. I said, "Direk, I still have some issues that haven't vent out like when they stole our inheritance, the people you treated like the children of your parents and so on." It happened twice already. When my dad died, then my mom died, so it was like why is it like that? When you're good to people, you would think they will be good to you as well. Unfortunately, they take advantage....And of course my life is very colorful. It's an open book. My heart is battered already. I just leave it up to God. I told Direk, "Aside from the dialogue you wrote, is it okay to add? If I feel it's appropriate.")

"Sabi nya, ‘Sige gawin mo.’ So napasok ‘yun, maraming napasok sa eksena, kung ano yung nararamdaman ko. It was so painful for me. The whole scene, kung binuo 'yun, baka ma-ospital ako," she added.

(He said, "Go ahead, do it." So it was inserted in many scenes, all those emotions I felt. It was so painful for me. I would have been hospitalized if that whole scene was completed.")

Being a dark comedy, Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha also relied heavily on the humorous repartee between Sharon and Moi. The Megastar was impressed with Moi, who she found to be such natural actor, adding that she’s ready to carry a movie on her own.

“She is naturally funny and I think I am too. I was born like that. So noong kami na 'yung magka-eksena, palitan lang kami ng palitan. Kapag sinabi na ni Direk na cut, biglang tawa na lang kami ng tawa….Basta sabi ko sa kanya, hindi ko siya pababayaan (So when we're in a scene together, we would just exchanged lines. When Direk said cut, we would just laugh....I just told her that I would take care of her.)

Awards and giving back to the industry

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha had a successful run at the box office. Talent manager and columnist Noel Ferrer announced that the movie was among the 4 top-grossing films in the festival, alongside Respeto, Nabubulok, and Kiko Boksingero. The movie, however, failed to take home any award, which Sharon admitted was a disappointment. It wasn’t about losing the Best Actress award to Angeli Bayani (Bagahe) but she felt that the movie deserved more recognition.

Sharon with director Mes de Guzman during the blog conference for the movie.

Sharon with director Mes de Guzman during the blog conference for the movie.

Ang downside is nalaman ko ‘pag may ganyan, I’m sorry ha, because I hear facts from people from the inside, meron din pulitika, maski paano. They were saying, ‘Best actress ka.’ Naku, hindi, every award-giving body has a different set of rules, or criteria. I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just happy to do this movie and to work with him [Mes De Guzman]. At saka sabi ko, okay lang sa 'kin, kasi ayoko nang magpagawa ng bagong estante. Okay na ‘ko. Okay na sila doon. Ayoko na magdagdag. It’s not like I don’t know that I know how to act.”

(The downside is when I find out something like this, I'm sorry, but I hear facts from people from the inside. There's politics as well. They were saying, 'You're Best Actress' and I was like, no, every award-giving body has a different set of rules, or criteria. I wasn't expecting anything. I was just happy to do this movie and to work with him [Mes De Guzman]. And I said it's okay because I don't want to make a new trophy stand. I'm okay. They're okay also. I don't want more. It's not like I don't know that I know how to act.)

“I just felt a little slighted because it was Direk Mes’ first foray into comedy. Moi was really good. I felt she deserved some recognition, and the whole movie as a whole, ‘yung script ni Direk. Saka ‘pag sinabing script, may script talaga si Direk (When you say script, Direk really has a script).”

While happy for the success of her first independent film, Sharon revealed that she was disheartened after hearing comments from other filmmakers. According to her, some members of the indie community were not too thrilled with directors partnering with big-name celebrities. Sharon clarified that since the beginning, her only objective was to give back to the industry. (READ: Kiko Matos talks working with Sharon Cuneta, rematch vs Baron Geisler)

Medyo na-slight ako ng konti kasi sana hindi minamasama. Hindi ko nilalahat naman, naturally. Sana hindi minamasama ng ibang filmmakers ‘yung kapag ang isang fellow filmmaker ay nagustuhan makatrabaho ng isang matagal nang artista. You know what I mean? Like Ate Guy. ‘Di naman sa nakiki-level ako kila Ate Guy pero alam ko naman na hindi naman ako starlet.

(I felt slighted a bit because I wish they did not have to take it the wrong way. I'm not generalizing, naturally. I hope many filmmakers won't take it the wrong way when one fellow filmmaker wants to work with an artist he likes. You know what I mean? Like Ate Guy. I'm not saying I'm at Ate Guy's level, but I know that I'm not a starlet.)

“If my being in the whole festival, because I did the movie with Direk Mes, helped in any way to help bring more exposure and more attention to Cinemalaya, it was from my heart. That would make me really so happy. Sana ‘wag masamain. Bakit ‘di sila lumapit din sa ibang artista na malalaki para magtulungan? Kasi hirap na ang industriya natin….Tulungan dapat hindi hilahan (I hope they won't take it the wrong way. Why don't they approach big-name artists who could help? Because our industry is already having a difficult time. We should help each other and not bring anyone down)."

Sharon talks with bloggers and the press about 'Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha.'

Sharon talks with bloggers and the press about Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha.

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Sharon added that she felt bad for Direk Mes and the rest of the cast, thinking that her involvement in the film might have done more harm than good.  

Noong una (At first), feeling ko it was such a warm embrace, honestly. Then later it was like a rejection, but you know, all is fair in love and war. ‘Yun lang, it was my way of giving back and kumbaga gusto mo lang makatulong at ma-experience din at maging part nila, mayakap nila as family, as part of the independent filmmaking community. Mas na-affect ako for Direk saka kila Moi. Maski paano parang I wanted to help so much tapos biglang I wasn’t helpful. Baka ako lang nakaka-feel noon, hayaan mo na.”

(That's all, it was my way of giving back and in other words I just want to help and experience and also be part of them, hug them like as family, as part of the independent filmmaking community. I feel more affected in terms of Direk and for Moi and the others. In a way, I wanted to help so much and then all of a sudden, I wasn't helpful. It's just probably me who's feeling this, never mind.)

Despite her somewhat negative experience with the festival, Sharon shared that she’s even more excited to do indie films in the future. She pointed out that her next project doesn’t necessarily have to be part of a film festival to be successful, citing Kita Kita as an example.

“Don’t forget na we can always do indie films outside of any festival. We can always do that so I am not afraid of still continuing to support small filmmakers. You don’t have to be in Cinemalaya, or PPP, although they’re very respectable….It’s nice to be able to be help small filmmakers. When I say small, I just mean limited budget, not small in talent.”

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha opens on September 6.– Rappler.com