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Star Cinema head Gazmen: We were not wrong in trusting DonBelle

Nathalie M. Tomada - The Philippine Star
Star Cinema head Gazmen: We were not wrong in trusting DonBelle
Donny Pangilinan (right) and Belle Mariano topbill the rom-com film An Inconvenient Love, which marks ABS-CBN Star Cinema's official return to the big screens.

MANILA, Philippines — The head of ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc. said they were proven right to place their trust in the loveteam of Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano for Star Cinema’s official return to theaters since the pandemic.

The latest big-screen offering of the 30-year-old flagship brand of the Kapamilya movie arm opened in over 100 cinemas on Wednesday (the number has since risen to 175, as of writing). Star Cinema’s last theatrical release was Hello, Love, Goodbye, which still holds the record as highest-grossing Filipino film of all time.

“I think what was validated is that we were not wrong in trusting that Donny and Belle are movie stars. I posted about it nga, that the first time I read the script, I thought, how are Donny and Belle going to do this? Because it is such a difficult material,” ABS-CBN Films managing director Kriz Gazmen told The STAR in an exclusive online interview.

“But they delivered and they really pulled it off. It always feels good when you challenge these actors and then they deliver.”

Directed by Petersen Vargas and written by Enrico Santos and Daisy Cayanan, An Inconvenient Love tells the story of Ayef (Belle), a convenience store worker who aspires to be an international animator, and Manny (Donny), a plant shop owner and secret social activist. Both mutually agree on the belief that romance is simply an inconvenience and opt to sign on a love contract with an end date. The Star Cinema synopsis teases: “As the dreaded expiration date nears, will they end their contractual relationship or will love end their inconvenient beliefs?”

In a previous interview, Gazmen said that it was only fitting to have DonBelle banner the opening salvo of Star Cinema’s series of comeback films this last quarter of 2022. Over the pandemic, the tandem was born and embraced by a fanbase through iWantTFC’s No. 1 original series He’s Into Her.

Asked what were some of the firsts that Star Cinema did with An Inconvenient Love, Gazmen said, “I think what we did for the very first time is we entrusted a theatrical comeback, first, to a love team that has never had a teleserye (on ABS-CBN) and has never had a film with a theatrical release and second, to a director who will work with Star Cinema for the first time.

“It really was us, putting our complete trust in these talented individuals, and making them shine. We believe in DonBelle and Petersen so much, and our faith in them paid off.

“We’re so proud because if you watch the film, it gives you the familiar Star Cinema experience that feels like a warm hug, but Petersen put his own stamp into it and said, this is how I’m going to tell a Star Cinema story for my generation,” he added, referring to its 30-year-old director whose previous works included 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten and Hello Stranger: The Series.

“He paved the way for the storytellers of his generation and I can’t help but be excited about the future of Philippine cinema.”

The DonBelle loveteam drops by one of the cinemas screening their new film.
Photos from ABS-CBN Film Productions' official Facebook page

In a separate presscon, responding to a STAR question, Cayanan said that the film was written with DonBelle in mind. “Just to share, one of the main ideas bakit nabuo yung An Inconvenient Love is because after the pandemic, after everything that happened to us, ang dami nagbago sa life… (and) siguro sa pag-ibig din, nag-iba yung mga behavior ng mga tao, most probably (with) people our age, Gen Z, kasi lahat (naging) instant, parang kumonti yung time natin lahat nung nagka-pandemic. Na-realize natin kailangan mabilis lahat ng kilos,” the writer said.

“So isa sa mga naging main idea namin in creating the movie is ano na yung pag-ibig sa ngayon. Nung nakikita namin yung DonBelle, eto na yung pag-ibig sa ngayon, so why not iikot natin dun yung idea sa magiging story.”

For Vargas, the film has the familiar feels of a Star Cinema film, but at the same time, it presents a “new face, new storytelling form and new point of view” as it entertains a fresh and younger audience of the long-running brand.

“Very evident and very obvious sa amin na Star Cinema is also speaking to a new audience. Especially after the pandemic, there’s a new generation, new ways of loving, building friendships and relationships. So, I think ang strength talaga when I knew DonBelle would be the loveteam for this story is that they also get it — how young people behave, how they talk, how they form relationships,” the director said.

Meanwhile, returning to the cinemas, Gazmen said they didn’t know what to expect “because we didn’t know how the audience would respond to us showing movies in cinemas again.” He, however, stressed that they’re happy and grateful to be finally back.

“Personally, ang wish ko lang, sana may manood because I am confident that we produced a beautiful movie. We didn’t expect such a warm reception,” he further said.

“Based on the current shape of the local theatrical (scene), given higher ticket prices and inflation, our numbers are really good. Hopefully, this encourages local producers because we really need to revitalize the local theatrical industry.”

BELLE MARIANO

DONNY PANGILINAN

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