How will Gina top Kubrador?

- Edmund Silvestre New York Correspondent -

NEW YORK — Gina Pareño is in talks to star in another Filipino film for international release that will require her to — hold your breath — bare all.

Gina admits she’s thrilled about the prospect of making another world-class picture that could duplicate the feat Kubrador gave her as one of today’s most internationally-honored Filipino actresses.

But the nudity clause in the contract has put her under stress since she got the word Thursday (Jan. 10) at the New York premiere of Kubrador (The Bet Collector) at a packed Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) theater. Among those who attended the screening were Consul General Cecilia Rebong, Consul Leandro Lachica, Princess Punzalan and husband Jason Field, and Dr. Angie Cruz, co-founder of the Filipino-American Women for Hillary Clinton, among others.

The Bet Collector, which runs from Jan. 10 to 17, opened the 10-film exhibition of the Global Lens 2008 of The Global Film Initiative, the same group that plans to push the film for next year’s Oscars.

“This new film that I’m supposed to start in February is really a dream role for a woman my age, just like Kubrador,” Gina said in an interview Friday noon at the InterContinental Hotel in Manhattan, where she’s staying with her Kubrador director, Jeffrey Jeturian, her daughter former actress Janica Pareñ, Kubrador producer Joji Alonso, and writers Ralston Jover and Armando Lao, among others.

“The story is beautiful, but this is different from Kubrador,” she points out. “After Kubrador, dapat mas mataas, mas malalim.”

“My only concern is the shower scene that the script requires,” says Gina of the movie that will be directed by another internationally-recognized Filipino filmmaker, Brillante Mendoza (Kaleldo, Tirador, Foster Child) to direct.

“I was told it will be a quick shot and will be done artistically, but at my age, do I need to do that?” she notes. “Ang ganda lang kasi talaga ng script. I hope I can convince them to remove the frontal nudity.”

In case Gina decides to do “it,” she should probably take it from Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates (Misery), a large, middle-aged woman like Gina, who appeared in a brief, albeit memorable, nude scene in About Schmidt opposite Jack Nicholson.

At the Global Lens opening at the MoMA, Gina’s out-of-this-world performance as bet collector Amy was hailed by both Filipinos and non-Filipinos who took turns in congratulating the star glowing in her shimmering gold dress like a goddess, as her proud director was also surrounded by an awed crowd.

It’s been over a year now since Kubrador began collecting international awards left and right, beginning with Moscow International Film Festival’s FIPRESCI (Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique) Prize for Best Film, and quickly followed by a grandslam win at the Osian’s Cinefan Festival in India with another FIPRESCI Prize from the International Critics Jury, plus Best Actress for Gina, and Best Asian Film in competition.

The film has been invited to nearly 60 international film festivals and it looks like there’s no stopping it. After New York, it is heading to Mexico, before the Global Film Initiative brings it to Los Angeles for a week-long run to qualify for next year’s Oscar race.

The Global Initiative head Susan Coulter is said to be convinced Kubrador and Gina’s powerful performance — often compared to Brazil’s Fernanda Montenegro and Italy’s Anna Magnani in the festival circuit — has a shot at the Academy Awards if given a proper push.

Gina says she dreams of someday bagging an Oscar nod (“Nomination lang, ayos na sa akin,” she says), but she’s not praying for it.

 She says God has given her so much that she’s now enjoying not only professional success and fulfillment, but a life literally filled with peace and contentment.

Jeffrey earlier said that whatever blessings Gina is getting are well-deserved. “The woman has suffered so much,” Jeffrey said. “But she’s a great talent and has a good heart, that’s why every comeback she had made was a success.”

“For many years, I have never found true love,” she says. “Everytime I fall in love, nasisira ang buhay ko. Pag wala naman akong minamahal o nagmamahal, parang I feel low because it seems nobody loves me or takes care of me... until I learned to take drugs..”

Gina’s lowest point came when she landed in the Makati Jail on drug charges. It would be the turning point that would bring her back to her senses.

“I was stripped naked in front of the male warden and other women inmates by a female officer, and then they made fun of me,” Gina recalled, her eyes welling.

Doon ko naramdaman na nababoy ang pagkatao ko. That’s when I regretted what I did because the warden violated me and I lost my dignity.”

The incident was exposed in a tabloid (Bulgar) and Gina credited r Rudy Fernandez and the late Inday Badiday, among others, for coming to her rescue.

“Those who were involved in that incident have been fired because of Rudy and Ate Luds,” Gina said. “I’ve forgiven them. I didn’t get angry. I don’t even remember their names. I’m just sharing it as a lesson.”

Gina said Rudy, then president of the Kapisanan ng mga Artista ng Pelikulang Pilipino at Telebisyon (KAPPT), offered to bail her out. But Gina said she opted instead to finish her three-month sentence and then headed to a DARE rehabilitation center with the help of KAPPT.

“I prayed hard. I asked the Lord to give me strength because I wanted to change. I knew the day will come when I will overcome everything,” she shared, holding back tears.

Today, Gina said her past made her a better person, and a better actress.

“‘I don’t regret anything that happened to me, but I don’t want it to happen again,” she said. “‘Yung past ko, ‘yun ang dahilan kung bakit ang dali ko umiyak sa mga eksena, ang dami kong paghuhugutan.”

“Alam mo iba talaga si Lord. You really don’t know when He will give things to you,” she said. “He will give it in His time...like now. I’m in New York, right? It’s my first time here. And I’ve traveled to many countries. Ang dami kong naabot at this point in my life.”

Currently seen in the TV drama series Ysabella topbilled by Judy Ann Santos, Gina is set to do the movie Ploning, also starring Judy Ann, plus a new TV series for ABS-CBN.

“That’s the problem. The projects come simultaneously,” says Gina, who had to turn down other offers. “I can play any role, even mother roles, as long as my acting is okay. All I want is for my scene to leave a mark on moviegoers’ minds.”

“I really love to act, even when I was a child,” she continued. “Maarte ako talaga sa harap ng camera. I think I will die while acting.”





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