Seasoned director Gil Portes hopes his film “Moonlight Over Baler” will be chosen as one of the eight finalists in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Entries for selection were previously based on screenplays but the MMFF has changed its policy by requiring a finished film on “picture lock stage.” This means producers will be allowed to make enhancements but they can no longer make revisions.
Some producers reportedly had a hard time making it to the Nov. 2 deadline but not Portes.
“We worked hard. Hindi naman binilisan namin, inayos natin ang schedule kaya nagawa namin lahat,” he said in an interview.
The director shared the MMFF is taking a risk with picture lock.
“Kasi that’s 40% of the film pa lang,” he said. “It’s basically unfinished. Kasi ’yung picture lock, picture lang iyon. May audio, pero baka hindi pa dubbed, walang sound effects.”
With “Moonlight Over Baler” he said, “It’s finished. I think it stands a better chance than an unfinished film.”
The story of “Moonlight Over” is personal for Portes. It is inspired by the story of his adoptive mother, who lost her boyfriend during World War II.
“She was supposed to get married and the war was declared. USAFFE ’yung kanyang boyfriend. They postponed the wedding after the war but he never came back. It’s assumed that he died,” he said.
It was eight years in the making. Portes narrated the story to Eric Ramos, who then wrote it as a classic romance drama. They filmed the movie in Baler.
“Matagal ko ng iniisip na gawin iyon. Kami nga ni Eric, we decided na sige gawin natin. We received a book about Baler so sabi ko, magandang i-locate natin ’yung kwento sa Baler,” Portes said.
Ramos depicted the story of a retired school teacher who met a Japanese photojournalist that resembles her former lover.
“Moonlight Over Baler” stars Elizabeth Oropesa as retired school teacher Fidela; Sophie Albert as the young Fidela; Vin Abrenica as Japanese photojournalist Kenjie and Ellen Adarna as Aurora.
“Ginawa namin siyang Hapon kasi the boyfriend of Elizabeth Oropesa’s character was killed and here you are, you’re a Japanese at naging kaibigan. It’s a simple friendship that deepens when Elizabeth (Fidela) recalls what happened during the war,” he said.
Following his historical film “Ang Hapis At Himagsik Ni Hermano Puli,” Portes made a refreshing take on friendship, love and loyalty while also showing the old practices of courtship among Filipinos in “Moonlight Over Baler.”
“Like the harana, wala na ding sumusulat ngayon, email na or text. Nobody knows what ‘Florante and Laura’ is. These are the old virtues of courtship na magandang i-revive. There’s no harm in going back to the past and remembering how our fathers courted, or fell in love. Nothing earthshaking naman, it’s just a simple film,” he said.
Portes is happy with the performance of Abrenica, who auditioned for the role.
“I was scared when I auditioned, the role was quite challenging and I was competing with another young actors. But I know how Direk Gil works as we were together in ‘Hermano Puli’ and that made a lot of difference. Any young actor will want to have this role,” the actor said.