(Early this April, the country got a good news—a rare occurrence these days—that Filipino actors Soliman Cruz, Bart Guingona and Noel Sto. Domingo have been cast in a movie, “To the North,” a psychological thriller co-production of producers from Romania, France, Bulgaria.
Coming during the pandemic which has left the arts and culture as one of the worst devastated sectors in the country, the news became a welcome celebration, more so because it became yet another confirmation that the Filipino artists are among the best in the world. They have always been and continue to be the nation’s pride.
According to a story in the website of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Cruz plays the lead role of a religious Filipino sailor who discovers a Romanian stowaway on his ship.
The three actors are now filming in Bucharest. They have been there since early April.
With the readers of TheDiarist.ph, Guingona, the multi-awarded actor and director and the moving force behind a few leading theater companies in the Philippines, shares a bit of his sojourn in Bucharest.—Editor)
We arrived in Bucharest on a rainy afternoon after a 17-hour journey. Of course, even getting there in the first place was a feat in itself.
They first got in touch with me in 2018. That was the year Panahon ng Halimaw competed in the Berlinale. Apparently Mihai Mincan, our director, had seen the movie and thought that I was right for a part. The movie was postponed a few times, as most projects in development are wont to be, as funding and co-producers were lined up. (The movie is now a collaboration between producers from Romania, France and Bulgaria.)
The pandemic struck in 2020 and I was sure the project would fall through. But the casting agent was persistent, reminding me almost on a monthly basis that the project would still push through.
By January this year, we were given schedules and work on our papers started in earnest. We were granted cultural visas by the Romanian and Greek embassies, both of which otherwise have restricted entry for other purposes.
Upon arrival, I visited the rehearsal hall (our hotel’s conference room actually, booked for this purpose) where Soliman Cruz (who plays the lead) was already rehearsing with the director. Sol, who had arrived about five days earlier, missed his flight the first time around because immigration in Manila held him up until his plane left him. They didn’t know how to categorize his visa. If there was a silver lining behind his travails, it was that our Romanian producer learned from his experience and sent us (Noel Sto. Domingo, the other main Filipino cast member, and I) additional supporting documents which made our shared, if long, journey a breeze.
On our first day in Bucharest, it snowed. During a break in rehearsals, Noel, whose first trip to Europe this was, gleefully ran outside and asked me to take a video of him dancing under the snow fall.
I, of course, went to the balcony of my room to take a video of the falling snow.
P.S. After the long trip I was aching to celebrate having landed in Bucharest in one piece by treating myself to a shot or two of Romanian vodka. Alas, I was thwarted by the weather.