From Concepcion Macatuno, the director of iWant's first ever made-for-digital film Glorious, the platform's newest offering Malaya puts love and ambition amid alienation and confusion front and center with picturesque Italy as the backdrop. The movie follows Malaya, a college grad who she reunites with her OFW mother in Puglia, Italy—only to meet fellow Filipino dreamer Iago. What's revealed later is a strong connection between the two, shaken by Iago's news of getting married.
Sex-on-a-stick actors Lovi Poe and Zanjoe Marudo play Malaya and Iago, respectively—with their first team-up some fans might have anticipated.
ABS-CBN Lifestyle got to sit down with Macatuno on steering the project, which she says will provide beyond just the expected fill of sizzle.
What were your first impression of Lovi and Zanjoe before working with them, and how did it change after filming?
“My first impression of Lovi was her natural sensual personality. Based on my research of her past works, she has done films that are sort of risqué. She can definitely act and I felt the sincere artist in her, so I was excited to see her transform as Malaya. My goal is to show her vulnerability yet still be an empowered woman. A strong, leading lady material. Doing Malaya with Lovi reinforced that gut feel that she is a great actress! I was blown away by how she owns the lines and sequences as if she wrote them on her own. Very talented si Lovi. I definitely want to work with her again in other projects.
“What struck me during my first meeting with Zanjoe was that he was itching to do a character that he has not done yet. That totally works for me as a director as long as an actor is open to explore other ways to take on a character, I will gladly go through the journey with him. Zanjoe has a lot of subtle nuances in portraying Iago which is a good contrast to Malaya’s overt delivery. His eyes reveal his emotions and he is pretty good in making his portrayal organic and real.”
What challenged you in making Malaya, one shot in a foreign land?
“There were surely many challenges logistically. Physical, because of too much walking from one place to the next. Emotional, because we are far away from our comfort zones and our families. Mental, because we had to be prepared to last throughout each day of grueling work and practical challenges to make our budget fit in the given number of shoot dates considering fees are in euros.”
In a nutshell, what is Malaya all about?
“Malaya is a story about self-empowerment, perseverance to find true love, and resilience of Filipino families living abroad.”
Then there's this eternal question for filmmakers, why did you make this film?
“Why not? I see too many loves unreturned, love that did not materialize when it could have been great because people would naturally choose the easier route instead of what truly will make them happy. Of course, perseverance is a key element and so is courage to get through life's challenges. And there's also a lot of personal experience din related to that, which made me grow as an individual. That's why I made the film. My take away from this film is: Sana we learn to make a stand and walk the extra mile to be with someone.”
Care to share some funny anecdotes while you were filming? Based on Instagram, you seem to have had loads of fun during the shoot.
"Lovi is very dramatic: Much like her father, very FPJ! Pag nagbibitaw ng lines at pumalo, bigay na bigay. They have a beautiful scene wherein the beginning she was shy to do it properly to Zanjoe. During the second take, full on force si Lovi sa palo niya that I feel for Zanjoe who was on the other receiving end—kawawa. Haha!
“Zanjoe, magaling siyang ‘Fake it until you make it’—especially sa Italian language. In fairness to both of them, kinarir nila ang portrayal nila.
“As for personal anecdotes, in the film ang dami kong ‘Aha!’ moments about filmmaking and that's what I loved most about this project.”
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