By: Ricca Sy
The directorial debut from Marla Ancheta follows Brix Rivero (played by Jelson Bay), a businessman on a journey in Morocco, and his adoptive sister Cathy (played by Sue Ramirez), as they piece together the life of Agnes (played by Roxanne Guinoo and Sandy Andolong), who is both Brix’s estranged mother and Cathy’s adoptive mother. Finding Agnes was full of heartwarming and hilarious moments, held together by an understated yet emotional core.
In a virtual press conference, the cast and crew mentioned that one of the biggest obstacles they faced was the fact that they filmed in another country. Actress Sue Ramirez, who played a Moroccan in the film, had to learn to behave like a native. She personally found this difficult because she had to deliver her lines properly despite not having a background in Arabic. Thankfully, there were Filipinos who lived in Morocco who helped Ramirez deliver her lines believably.
Director Marla Ancheta also shared the challenges of looking for foreign extras for the film. “Medyo matagal din. Mahirap kasi siyempre yung usual protocol is we’ll get a set cast. Tapos they have to send acting videos kasi lalo na sa Morocco actually hindi sila fluent sa English. Nalaman ko lang ‘yan noong pagdating doon. Yung mga Moroccans kasi mas French and Arabic sila” (“It took us a while to cast foreign extras. It was difficult because the usual protocol is to get a set cast, then they have to send acting videos. But in Morocco, not many people are fluent in English, which we found out when we arrived there. Moroccans spoke in French and Arabic so it was difficult to communicate”), Ancheta shared when asked about the casting process. She also added that they tried looking for extras in Marakesh, since the area wasn’t known to be their “Hollywood,” so their plan B was to source some of their extras from other countries like the US.
Aside from the challenges, it seems as though the cast and crew still had fun filming. Lead actor Jelson Bay, usually known for his comedic roles, showed off his dramatic chops in the movie by showcasing his emotional side in serious scenes and injecting his usual brand of humor in comedic scenes. Co-star Sue Ramirez also enjoyed portraying Cathy, saying that she really looks up to her character because of her grit and determination.
During the interview, Bay was asked about his budding friendship with Ramirez. He replied with much enthusiasm, saying “Grabe siya mag-alaga ng leading man! Napaka-rock-and-roll si Sue eh. Gusto ko siyang maging kaibigan, lalaki siya eh, lalaki rin siya. Tutulungan ka niya, Nararamdaman niya pag tahimik ka. Hindi ko rin ma-dedeliver siguro ‘to nang ganito kung hindi sis Sue ‘yan ayon” (“She knows how to treat her co-stars. Sue is so rock and roll. I really wanted to be her friend because she’s ‘one of the boys.’ She’ll really help you out. She can feel when you’re quiet or out of it. I wouldn’t have been able to perform the way I did if I didn’t act alongside Sue”). To which Sue Ramirez replied, “Love you, kuya!”
During the interview, the video call was filled with smiles and laughter as Jelson Bay and Sue Ramirez teased each other back and forth. Their friendship was a wholesome treat, as both actors showed that they can also be great friends outside of the movie. Eventually, they ended up infecting everyone with their funny personalities and positive energies.
These good vibes also overflow from the actors as you watch Finding Agnes. Overall, the film was directed beautifully, with a picturesque setting, a quiet but moving mood, and characters that you could root for in their journey of self-discovery. What sealed the deal for me was (spoiler alert!) the revelation concerning Agnes, which would ultimately change her son Brix’s life for the better. It’s definitely worth the watch, and definitely better with friends and whole bowl of popcorn!
Catch Finding Agnes on Netflix and share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.