Ilo-Ilo may not have the advantage of being headlined by big name Pinoy actors, but it more than makes up for that with a heartwarming story and solid acting from lead actress Angeli Bayani, who came from CCP's Tanghalang Pilipino Actor's Company and has also been part of numerous indie movies including Lav Diaz's Norte: The End of History, which was also screened at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Bayani admitted she specifically wanted to do justice to her kababayans who had to go abroad for the sake of their families and endure all the challenges with becoming an Overseas Foreign Worker (OFW). “Gusto ko pag napanuod nila ito, masasabi nila na, 'Oo ganun nga talaga doon' or makaka-relate sila sa character ko. Kahit hindi nila matandaan name ko pero maalala nila yung role, fulfilling na para sa akin ma-achieve ko yung ganung reaksyon,” Bayani said.
Ilo-Ilo revolves around the day-to-day life of a typical Singaporean family and their Pinay nanny during the 1994 Asian financial crisis. The family has one son (played by then 11-year-old newcomer Koh Jia Ler) who is always trying to get his Auntie Terry (played by Bayani) in trouble whenever she tries to look after him. Jia Ler not only has to get used to sharing his room with his nanny, but has to endure teasing from his schoolmates whenever they see her picking him up from school.
The inspiration behind Bayani's character came from Singaporean director Anthony Chen's real-life nanny Auntie Terry who lived with his family for 12 years and hails from the province of Ilo-Ilo. This is his debut film and it has already won prestigious international awards such as the Camera d'Or at Cannes and more recently for Best Picture at the Golden Horse awards in Taiwan.
The husband and wife in the family are played by Singaporean actor Chen Tian Wen and Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann who effectively depicted empathetic employers who want to set the right boundaries with their son and the nanny, but at the same time are too busy with challenges in their respective careers to be able to spend more time in the household. The film gives viewers an interesting insight on what Pinoy OFWs experience in a country like Singapore while at the same time essaying the struggles nannies go through balancing household duties and leaving behind a family of their own in the Philippines.
Ilo-Ilo is currently being screened in 20 countries worldwide and is being considered for the shortlist for the Foreign Film category of the 2014 Oscars awards in the US.
Watch Ilo-Ilo starting December 4 at select cinemas nationwide. It will be shown in Trinoma, Glorietta 4, Newport Cinema, Market Market, SM cinemas in Megamall, North Edsa, Mall of Asia, Fairview, Manila, Ilo-Ilo, Davao, Robinson's Ilo-Ilo and Lucky Chinatown Plaza.