Award-winning Fil-Am Actor-Director Vincent Soberano…An Early MMFF Hopeful?
By Maryo B. Labad
“This film is primarily meant for worldwide distribution; it’s a film where all Filipinos, not only here but around the world, will be proud of. It has always been my goal as a filmmaker, to uplift the Asian-Americans, particularly Filipinos.” – Vince Soberano, actor/producer/director
Last year’s winner of Best Short Film at the prestigious Cinemax HBO Action Film Competition and the Urban Action Showcase & Expo, Blood Hunters is written, produced and directed by Filipino filmmaker and martial artist Vincent Soberano, born and spent part of his elementary days in Bacolod before his family migrated to the U.S. Today, the film has evolved into a full-length film entitled Blood Hunters: The Rise of the Hybrids.
A full-packed Filipino action film, the movie is a collaboration between Soberano (a Muay Thai world champion), and his childhood friend, Monsour Del Rosario (a Taekwondo Olympic medalist), back in the province. They both started training martial arts when they were eight years old. The film is an initial production under IndieGo Pictures, an outfit owned by Soberano.
During the last shooting day, a group of entertainment press (me included) visited the film’s location, at the former Vietnamese Refugee Camp in Morong, Bataan (1982-94). With our guide, Elaine Lozano (line producer of the movie), we met the entire cast and the production crew, except for Monsour who was unable to follow due to his duty as a public servant. After a brief exhibition of fight/scenes demonstrated by some members of the cast, we were treated for a merienda before we proceeded to the Q&A.
“It is always been my passion to portray Asians, and Filipinos in a very positive light. I grew up in Hollywood, where I studied film, and worked in a film industry for a time, and one of my biggest frustrations I had back in the 90s is that the luck of top opportunities for Asian-Americans, especially Filipinos because we were always typecast,” shared Soberano.
“Recently,” he went on, “I’ve seen a lot of great action films from Indonesia, from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. But when they try to talk about the Philippines, they’re looking blank. We having nothing to show in terms of world class action.”
“So, I set up in a journey to create the first Filipino international action film that is worthy of Hollywood,” he added. “I want to highlight Filipinos, show the Filipino martial arts, show the Filipino martial artists. And this is the result of that, it has been over a year of planning, campaigning, getting funds to do this, getting the right people and training the right people to do this. Before we shot the film, we already spent three months of rehearsals and choreography, so we already spent a lot of money even for this. It is something you don’t see in any local productions because I want my cast to look badass and I want to show the world what the Philippines is all about.”
Her first time to visit the country, Sarah Chang, one of the lead stars who hails from Virginia (USA), is trained in Wushu since she was seven. A graduate in Material Science from the University of Toronto, she went to Beijing to pursue a degree in acting. That’s where she auditioned for the role in Blood Hunters when Vincent conducted a search for a female lead. She auditioned for the role of Mulan for Disney’s live film version and passed the first elimination round done last month. While waiting for the final audition, she tried her luck for Blood Hunters.
She arrived in the country two months ago, but she auditioned for the role when she was in Beijing, China. “When I came here I have no idea what to expect, but now I’m totally in love with the Philippines,” said Sarah. “I love Philippine martial arts. It’s really important what Vince is doing here. I’m so excited to be here and honored to be part of this movie. I’m not a Filipino but I’m an Asian so it’s great to do an action film using Filipino martial arts.”
On the other hand, Roxanne Barcelo,stressed that it was an unbelievable experience working with the cast and the director. “I auditioned for the role; and I want to thank Vince for giving me this opportunity,” she said. “I’m not a martial artist but I’m an actress; and it is such an honor to be part of this and to be trained for the past three months; first time konaka experience na ganitong production na maraming nangyari before mag roll ang camera; nakapag workshop kami ng ilang beses at kinilala namin ang characters namin isa’t-isa. And to be part of a Filipino action film is a great opportunity.”
“It’s insane because each and everyone of them are professional martial artist. They live and breathe martial arts,” continued the villain of Wildflower. “I love martial arts, I love action films; alamnyonamangaanokokamahalang acting, ibang level. I can really feel the pressure to find the real meaning of my character; hindikosinarili, I was very open to our fight director and all our fight masters; I was very honest kung nasaan ako when it comes to my character; and they were all helpful. Although I have a five-year background in Muay Thai.”
Ian Ignacio, a graduate from Dominican University of California with a degree in International Business Management, plays the role of Max, a protege of Monsour del Rosario.“This film makes you feel excited because most of the cast here are martial artists; this is not just an action film, but a Filipino martial arts action film, and a film. A perfect combination of action, the craft of acting and the passion for the art,” he shared.
“Sa tingin ko mas marami ang ma inspire after watching this film and be influenced with it; at ipapakita ang kakayahan nila in martial arts. In this movie, you will be motivated to pursue martial arts,” Ian can also be seen in Encantadia. After college, he plunged himself into theater (under Tony Mabesa) before he went into film.
A product of several indie films, Brian Wilson is half Filipino-half British. His mom is from Cavite and appeared several indie films. “The opportunity to represent and showcase Filipino martial arts to the world is something I don’t want to let go; I have to grab that opportunity. He plays Mike, an aswang slayer.
“I’m a huge fan of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And with this film, it will inspire more Filipinos to support martial arts and appreciate Filipino action films,” said Brian.
An initial offering of IndieGo Pictures, Vince revealed that after December, they will be realeasing Blood Hunters in the nearby region. But before the year is over, his production will be doing two more films.
Since the movie is apocalyptic in nature, combined with folkloric theme, it will tackle the forces of evil like the aswang, kapre, tikbalang and other forces of evil based on Filipino myths and beliefs.
The language is in english with subtitles. “This movie is to prove to the world that we can compete; if this is an all-filipino language movie we can do it abroad; but since it’s in English, it is something we can offer to Hollywood and tell them that we can do it in international language, but in Filipino background, and ask then to please watch. We can speak in English and we can do our own film,” insisted the director.
To improve the value of the film, special effects will be done in Korea. And after December, Blood Hunters: The Rise of the Hybrids will be brought around the nearby regions before it goes to the other parts of the world.