The latest Filipino film to air on Netflix is “Finding Agnes,” starring Jelson Bae and Sue Ramirez.
Bae plays Brix Rivero, a successful businessman who suddenly finds himself in Morocco, trying to figure out what happened to his estranged mother, where he meets her adoptive daughter, Cathy (Ramirez).
It is the debut feature film of director Marla Ancheta, and according to her, what attracted her to the project was the idea of doing a film where these characters go on a personal journey.
Once the producer agreed to tweak the story he early stages of development and discussions, and the direction geared toward more of what she wanted, Ancheta got her very excited to get started.
Bae for his part, saw it as a venue to show his acting chops. “Sa akin, kakaiba ito sa mga ginagagwa ko.” (For me, this was so different from what I usually do). Best known for comedies, this marked a rare switch to more dramatic fare for Bae. Wanting to spread his wings, he jumped at the chance.
At first though, he thought someone was pulling his leg. “Noon unang inintroduce sa akin yun idea, akala ko prank talaga.” (When I was first introduced to the role, I really thought it was a prank.) It was a gamble, after all, to have a comedian lead a more emotional project, but it was
one that the creators thought was worth taking.
The director agrees, stating that comedians usually have a deep well of emotion to draw from, not often seen as normally it is covered up by the laughs and smiles of comedy.
Having come off of a heavier sort of project, Sue Ramirez on the other hand was attracted to the understated nature of the movie, calling it a quiet sort of film. “Kung napanood nyo naman yun movie, hindi kami nag extreme acting doon.” She says (If you’ve seen the movie, we didn’t do any sort of extreme acting.) She found it rich and heartfelt, but also not over-the-top.
And of course, she adds, the chance to visit a beautiful foreign country also weighed in on the decision to accept the role.
A role, it turns out that was still not without its challenges, as she plays a young woman who grew up in Morocco and so had to learn to behave and speak like a native on the fly, as they were shooting. Many fellow Filipinos who had been to Morocco for much longer offered much appreciated guidance. “I got to the point where I wanted to know what the word meant, just so I could deliver it properly.” She admits. “I actually didn’t get to learn a lot, but I know what my lines mean.”
Morocco was not a typical choice to place the story, as when the topic of Filipinos abroad comes up the usual suspects are the Middle East, Singapore or Canada. But Ancheta says Morocco fit the bill. “Noong dinidivelop naming yun story, of course there were other countries na in mind yun producer at that time.” (When we were developing the story, of
course there were other countries the producer had in mind at the time.) She says. “Noong rini-research naming, siya yun nag-swak doon sa story.” (While we were researching, Morocco turned out to be a perfect fit for the story.)
It turns out that during the 1980’s, Morocco was a popular destination for well-to-do Filipinos, sort of a vacation spot for those with the means, and that fit well into the timeline and feel of the film.
When pressed about the meaning of the movie, the message that she would want people to come away with, Ancheta has this to say, “Walang masamang kumonekta sa mga tao sa paligid mo.” (There’s nothing wrong with connecting with people around you.) Whether they be family
or friends or co-workers, it’s all about making a connection. You can join Brix and Cathy on their journey in Finding Agnes, on Netflix starting November 30.