On Tonight with Boy Abunda, Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis director Lav Diaz and producer Paul Soriano talked about the film that has gained acclaim and won the Alfred Bauer Prize in the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.
Lav revealed he has had the script written for Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis since 1998. He said the film is his love letter to the Filipino people and in a nutshell, “Hiwagang Hapis is the Filipino sorrow. Lets go straight to the point. Bugbog tayo sa corruption, bugbog tayo sa revisionism. This is a very displaced society, napaka-dysfunctional natin. We have this beautiful history, ang ganda ng kasaysayan natin, may pinaglaban ang mga bayani natin. Beautiful heles, mga lullabies. Harapin natin, yakapin natin. We will become a good nation one day. We will find it, the Filipino soul.”
Paul also revealed why he has decided to produce the film. “One of the reasons why I wanted to produce this film is I wanted to learn from Lav Diaz. What an opportunity for a young filmmaker to put himself at the side of a great storyteller and for me to pick his brain and bring it into my cinema. It’s about time the Philippines recognizes the cinema of Lav Diaz.”
The film stars two of the hottest and most brilliant actors of this generation: Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz.
John Lloyd once said, “parang magiging isang kasalanan kung hindi ko makakatrabaho si Lav Diaz.”
Lav recalled how John Lloyd, Piolo and other actors came on board. “Humbling yung experience na they came on board kasi wala naman sa plano yun, and then two years later we found Paul and Paul said ‘let’s shoot.’ And then when we were doing the casting suddenly pumasok na si John Lloyd, Piolo, Ely Buendia. Everybody was like coming on board. It was magic, humbling yun. Destiny. We didn't plan it. Generosity ng spirits yun e.”
Paul and Lav are hopeful that with Piolo and John Lloyd topbilling the film, more people will line up to watch it. “We know their stature yung pangalan nila …. Of course people will line up. People will come. Malaking bagay na yun e, yung binigay nila talagang open heart. It's a whole hearted na pagtulong.”
How are the two as actors? Lav said, “Ang galing. Everything naman sa akin instructional. They’re free.” He added, “the first thing that I do with actors, I trust them. I give them space. (With) intelligent actors you don't need to say so much.”
They also had a chance to talk to one of the judges of the festival, Hollywood actress and three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Lav said about Meryl, “She’s cool. Very generous siya. She approached us, she kissed the actors. Mabait siya.”
Did Lav have a chance to talk to her? “Well she was talking to me for a long, long time. She was telling me when she saw the film, she felt very sad because she thought of the old days of making cinema. They had patience, time; ngayon daw nagmamadali na lahat. She was very, very nostalgic and sad and she loved the film. She said she will watch it again in the US.”
Lav and Paul are aiming to show Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis in Philippine cinemas before the elections.