It has been four years since “Ang Huling Cha Cha ni Anita” became the toast of the very first CineFilipino film festival in 2013.
The film won four major awards: Best Ensemble, Best Supporting Actress for Angel Aquino, Best Picture (in a tie with Mes de Guzman’s “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti”) and in a stunning upset of Superstar Nora Aunor, Best Actress for then newcomer Teri Malvar (now known as Therese Malvar).
Since then, “Cha Cha” has reaped more accolades from prestigious award-giving bodies like the Gawad Urian, Gawad Tanglaw, Golden Screen and Star Awards for Movies.
It also travelled around the world and won honors in several international film festivals like The Osaka Asian Film Festival (Special Mention Award), Frameline Film Festival (Volunteer’s Choice Award), Zinegoak Glbt Film Festival (Lesbianism and Gender Award, Best Screenplay) and Festival Mix Milano (Honorable Mention For Best Feature Film).
In a recent interview with InterAksyon, director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo reflects on the storied journey of her first feature film.
“I wrote the script for this film way back in 2006 and it took eight years before it was selected for Cine Filipino. I never thought it would go this far since I produced this film together with Pixeleyes Multimedia headed by Jalz Zarate. We didn’t have money to submit it to international film festivals. But after we won in Osaka, the invitations to other festivals started pouring in,” Direk Sigrid recalled.
Set in Obando, Bulacan, the film is the coming-of-age story of a 12-year-old girl who falls in love with an older woman who had just returned to their small town after working overseas as a physical therapist.
To date, “Ang Huling Cha Cha” has been to a whopping 42 international film festivals. Bernardo noted that a good number of those festivals are from countries staging their very first LGBT-themed events.
Although she became identified with LGBT films following the success of “Cha Cha,” Bernardo went on to do two more feature films that tackled different themes.
Her follow-up film, “Lorna” an entry in Cinema One Originals in 2014, focused on a 60-year-old woman’s mid-life crisis. Her latest, “Kita Kita,” starring Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy Marquez is about an unlikely romance between a visually impaired tour guide in Japan and a wisecracking everyman.
“There’s nothing wrong with being identified with LGBT-themed films. There really is a need for more of those kinds of films. But more than being identified with certain films, I just want to do more film. I feel that there is a need to do more stories about different themes,” she pointed out.
She noted that more than just an LGBT-themed film, “Cha Cha” is also “the story of women who desire to be independent, to love freely, to have a child, or to be childless.”
To help her achieve her desire to do more diverse films, Direk Sigrid has recently joined the creative stable of The IdeaFirst Company of Perci Intalan and Jun Robles Lana.
“I co-produced ‘Cha Cha’ and ‘Lorna’ myself and it’s not easy to produce films. Thankfully, I was asked by Spring Films to direct ‘Kita Kita” and now that I’m being approached by other producers, I need to be properly represented so I became an Idealist,” she said.
“With The IdeaFirst Company, I can also collaborate with Perci and Jun and their growing creative team. I’m also looking forward to directing other people’s scripts so there are so many possibilities. And I have already discussed some future projects that I’m not yet at liberty to discuss.”
But even as she seems on her way to bigger things in the industry, Direk Sigrid says she will always have a soft spot for “Cha Cha,” which returns to the big screen this month via the CineLokal initiative of the Film Development Council of the Philippines and SM Cinema.
“Like I keep saying, it took me eight years to get this film made but I never gave up. If it will take another several years for me to do another film, I can always look back at this experience,” she quipped.
Direk Sigrid also has nothing but high praises for her two lead stars.
“I feel like a very proud mother to Therese Malvar who has come a long way since ‘Cha Cha’ and continues to win awards. She was still very young when we cast her as Anita in ‘Cha Cha’ but even then she was already a very good actress. And now, she has grown into a fine, beautiful young woman,” she enthused.
“We did not keep our hopes up when we offered the project to Angel Aquino but we were happy she did it. And I think we were able to show another side, another dimension to Angel’s talent in this film.”
Also starring Lui Manansala, Marcus Madrigal, Lenlen Frial, Solomon Mark de Guzman and Jay Bordon, “Ang Huling Cha Cha ni Anita” is currently showing in SM Cinemas in Mall of Asia, Megamall, North EDSA, Fairview, Southmall, Bacoor, Cebu and Iloilo.