Just a couple of days before the Metro Manila Film Festival stunned the movie industry with the selection of an all-independent lineup of finalists for 2016, Sid Lucero sat down with The Manila Times and offered insightful views on what has certainly become a timely discussion. The viability of independent movies at the Philippine box office.
A very passionate indie actor himself—and multi-awarded at that—Lucero deeply laments the reality that while Filipino independent filmmakers have set off a winning streak in the international arena, they almost always fail to succeed on native soil when they run their critically acclaimed movies commercially.
But despite the fact that he has only appeared in a single mainstream movie out of his filmography, Lucero is also realistic enough—and more importantly receptive enough—to go beyond his artistic pain and discern the situation. Pragmatically too, he has done so not from his side of the equation but from the Filipino moviegoing public’s perspective.
Why is it hard to draw Filipino audiences into indie movies?
“It’s because they don’t want to see their hardships on screen,” the ever opinionated scion of Philippine showbiz’ highly respected Eigenmann clan of actors averred.
“I admit it’s frustrating that I may have a Best Actor award from an international film fest as proof that my indie movie is good, or that my director or the movie itself won an award abroad, and yet we just get a few days at the cinema and we get kicked out,” Lucero continued, never one to mince words.
“But again, I’m not going to say I don’t understand why Filipinos choose not to watch indies because I do. Because again, why would you want to watch something that happens to you all the time and spend money on that? Because that’s really what the winning indie films abroad show—poverty in the Philippine setting.”
Still hoping for a change of heart among moviegoers, especially with the kind of material, artistry and passion that goes into this filmmaking genre, Lucero is still optimistic that over time, his fellowmen will choose to experience pieces which have touched the lives of foreign audiences over and over again.
A thinking actor—over-thinking at times in fact, as Lucero confessed—it may well be that a few adjustments in how a particular truth in society is presented could make dent in cinema habits.
Toto, his latest indie, which begins its commercial run on today, is poised to serve as his case study.
“I play Toto in this indie movie, which uses humor in presenting someone with very Pinoy traits and attitudes,” Lucero said of his LA Comedy Festival Best Actor portrayal.
Antonio “Toto” Estares is from Tacloban, the Visayan province ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. His father left them penniless; his mother has cancer. He works at a hotel in Manila, and tries every which way to get to get a US visa in the hopes of giving a better life for his family.
Toto makes one failed attempt after another to get a US visa, risking friendships, his job, a lot of borrowed money, his dignity, and his heart.
“Toto is all about the power of the dream. Although the failures of his father haunt him, it’s the power of his father’s dream that fuels him, not just for himself, but for those he loves, to help better their lives and achieve their own dreams. Some call it the ‘American Dream,’ but for those beyond the US it’s simply ‘the dream.’ After all, there is a Toto that resides in all of us,” Lucero ended.