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Japan-set rom-com fields unlikely tandem of Alessandra, Empoy

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I knew it was a good film when even I fell in love with Empoy after watching it, ” said filmmaker Sigrid Andrea Bernardo of the romantic comedy “Kita Kita, ” starring comedian Empoy Marquez and dramatic actress Alessandra de Rossi.
I knew it was a good film when even I fell in love with Empoy after watching it, ” said filmmaker Sigrid Andrea Bernardo of the romantic comedy “Kita Kita, ” starring comedian Empoy Marquez and dramatic actress Alessandra de Rossi.
In the film, which will be screened nationwide starting July 19, Alessandra plays a taxi driver-cum-tourist guide in Japan. Her character, who is suffering from temporary blindness, meets and falls for Empoy.
“I already knew Alex (Alessandra’s nickname) , so I did my research on Empoy by watching his videos. I looked for their common denominator. I learned that Alex can also be funny, but she was never given comedic projects, while Empoy also has a serious side. I discovered the balance between them, ” Sigrid said during a media gathering that was also attended by Spring Films producers Erickson Raymundo, Joyce Bernal and Piolo Pascual.
How did the director make a serious actor out of Empoy? Sigrid said: “I didn’ t tell him to stop being a comedian. I just told him to reduce his acting by 90 percent, to act more real and natural, to show the Empoy behind the camera we knew.”
Sigrid said she was earlier offered a different script, which she said “wasn’ t my style.”
She explained: “Its brand of comedy was different from mine, so I pitched my own story. I was surprised that my producers took a risk on it. They just said they wanted the film shot abroad.
“I thought Japan would be perfect because shooting there would be cheaper. Then, I went there ahead to research on the culture.”
The filmmaker said her task was to make a love story about how one falls in love with someone she doesn’ t see. “There’s also the aspect of them being OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) , and the fact that the movie is set in Japan. I just married all the elements and came up with this. We’ ve heard of many stories involving OFWs, mostly about their money issues. But, this is different—after all, OFWs also fall in love.”
Sigrid said that while the original plan was to shoot the film somewhere in Europe, she opted to do it in Hokkaido, Japan. “I’ ve been to several places in Japan, but not Hokkaido. The area is known for hosting the Winter Olympics, but we went there during summer. It’s so beautiful.”
Incidentally, the film is one of three that competed at the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival in March. Sigrid’s “Ang Huling Cha Ni Anita” (2013) brought home a special mention from the same festival in 2014.
“From previous encounters with the Japanese audience, I already knew how they’ d react. We’ re so used to Filipinos laughing aloud inside the cinemas, but in Japan, there seems to be a rule not to disturb other people who are watching, ” Sigrid recalled.
“They were all quiet, but after the screening, during the autograph-signing, a lot of them approached us to say that they were so affected by the movie—and some of them even cried.”
Asked what it was like to have Piolo as a producer, Sigrid said: “He gave me complete artistic freedom while filming. He made a comment only during the editing.
“I’ m glad that Piolo trusted me with this project, as well as Direk Joyce and Erickson, who even went to our Manila set just to say they’ re proud of it. This might just be commissioned work for me, but I also want my producers [to be] satisfied.”

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