“Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B,” for which Prime Cruz won best director in 2016’s QCinema Film Festival will finally be shown commercially as one of the featured movies in the first Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, scheduled from August 16 to 22.
The film takes a different approach in telling the tale of the manananggal—a mythical creature of Filipino folklore usually described as a woman capable of severing her upper body from her lower half and then taking flight with huge bat-like wings. It stars Ryza Cenon and Gawad Urian Best Supporting actor, Martin del Rosario.
In the movie, Jewel (Cenon) is a mysterious woman who lives alone in the city as her secret forces her into a lonely existence. That is, until she meets Nico (del Rosario), a broken hearted, down-and-out guy who also feels unlovable like she does. Jewel is torn between wanting to love him and wanting to save him from herself.
Besides the movie giving Cenon her first lead role, her notable performance raised some controversy as well due to some daring scenes she was made to do.
“This movie is heaven sent to me because the last time I was able to talk with the press was when I was struggling with my life and career. When this [project]came along, it saved me and gave me a push for people to notice me once more. That’s how important this is for me,” Cenon told the entertainment press.
“In my 12 years in showbiz, I’ve always been in a supporting role but with this movie, I got my biggest break so far. We’re very proud of this film because we worked very hard for this,” she continued.
Sharing Cenon’s sentiments, del Rosario said, “Just like her I’ve also only had supporting roles on TV and the movies and it’s always been my dream to be in a lead with a romantic theme.”
Cruz’s Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B further earned praises as the story stripped off the Philippine mythical character its monstrosity. Its controlled way of “humanizing” manananggal sets the Unit 23B apart from other manananggal movies in the past that usually show a half-bodied fiend searching for prey.
“I researched about manananggals but we twisted some facts. It’s really Prime’s dream to make a manananggal film, but we wanted the manananggal to be the protagonist, not the antagonist that is usually played out movies. We made the character with human characteristics so that the supernatural becomes relatable,” writer Jen Chuaunsu said.
Cruz, according to reviews, ably connected the emotions of the creature with his audience.
“When they first brought the film’s concept to us, we were immediately drawn to it because we believed in the story first and foremost, and we feel that the audience is looking for something new. From the time that it was shown in QCinema last year, and now that it is part of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, we took note of the feedbacks from those who watched the film,” executive producer Jun Robles Lana said for his part.
“That is why this version you’re about to see now, there have been changes made. We edited it again, shot some new scenes, and I am really excited for you to watch this one because I was stunned by the quality of the film,” the award-winning director of “Die Beautiful” added.
Ang Mananaggal sa Unit 23B is produced by The Ideafirst Company Inc., and also stars Cholo Barretto and QCinema Best Supporting Actress Vangie Labalan.