KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't Happen

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't Happen

Manila, Philippines--A small film with a big heart, "Kiko Boksingero" (Kiko, The Boxer), a film by debuting full-length feature filmmaker Thop Nazareno, a multimedia arts graduate from the College of Saint Benilde, is one of this year's top-grossing entries at the Cinemalaya: Philippine Independent Film Festival, which closes today at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and select Ayala mall cinemas.

Reviews have been generally positive: "The most endearing thing about 'Kiko Boksingero' is how it is so unafraid, as a film, to tell a simple story in a very simple manner. By being straightforward and removing unnecessary dramatics, 'Kiko Boksingero' finds its footing early and eventually rises beyond expectations," wrote Wanggo Gallaga on Interaksyon.com.

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't HappenFilm critic Oggs Cruz, in his review, said, "Sure, it's essentially the coming-of-age story of a boy who has been raised first by a sickly mother and then by a gentle nanny. However, beneath its mellow charms and elegantly depicted quirks is a sublime portrait of a childhood that is rendered incomplete by society's expectations of what proper masculinity should be and the immaturity of a man who perceives fatherhood not as a duty but as a mere hobby."

Inspired by his childhood friend whose untimely death happened while the story of "Kiko Boksingero" was still being developed, Nazareno told BWW Movies, "It's been surreal. We never expected the audiences' positive feedback. Honestly, the film almost didn't push through because of budget constraints. We only shot last June [a little over a month shy of the Cinemalaya film festival]."

He said, "Budget is always a major concern among independent filmmakers. In shooting a full-length film, you need a bigger team compared to doing a short film. We shot in Baguio City for eight shooting days, but we stayed there for 10 days, not including conducting ocular visits prior to the principal photography. That's why we wrote the film with a small story, focusing on just three characters because we had a small budget.

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't Happen"But I fought for the use of high quality, more expensive cameras, which were sensitive to low lighting conditions. Using those cameras have allowed us to bring a smaller crew to Baguio compared to using less expensive cameras that would require a lot more lighting design people. We only had a two-camera setup."

On paper, the Cinemalaya film festival, now in its 13th year, limits each film entry to spend only a maximum of P3.5 million, which includes the festival's P750,000 grant for each, which totaled to nine full-length films this year.

But such a financial hurdle didn't prevent Nazareno's production team, which includes writers Denise O'Hara, Ash Malanum, Heber Justin O'Hara, and Emmanuel Espejo Jr., production designer Ericson Navarro, cinematographer Marvin Reyes, and Nazareno's long-time musical scorer and former audio production professor Pepe Manikan, to tell Kiko's affecting coming-of-age story shot entirely in the solitary suburbs of Baguio City, an increasingly urbanized community in the northern part of the Philippines.

"Baguio is the perfect place for the story. I consider the location as an additional character. Shooting in Baguio helps a lot in the character development of Kiko, who, like Baguio, is cold and isolated. Additionally, Baguio also has an active boxing scene," the director explained.

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't HappenKiko, an 11-year-old boy, was left alone with his nanny Diday after the recent death of his mother. Longing for family, Kiko reconnects with his estranged father, George, a has-been boxer. Despite Diday's misgiving, she gives Kiko a chance to spend time with George. She thinks it will help heal Kiko, who is still grieving from the untimely demise of her mother. Filling the gap of the time lost, the father and son bonds through their shared love for boxing.

Multi awarded young actor Noel Comia Jr. plays the titular role, which earned the critical respect of noted film reviewer Philbert Dy: "Comia deserves credit for conveying a struggle that goes without the benefit of lines to sketch it out for him. Comia is a charming presence on screen, and he manages to show off a depth of emotion that belies his age."

Comia, who's a big fan of Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, took boxing to heart. "When the role was offered to me, I checked the Internet at once to see the right stance of a boxer--how he moves, boxes, jabs, and does his boxing footwork, just so I would be ready when we shoot our boxing scenes. We also had a boxing consultant during the shoot and he taught me all the techniques, so I guess we didn't have a hard time," Comia recalled during our interview.

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't HappenThe young actor added, "Shooting this film was a different experience from the roles I've done previously in theater and on TV. For one, since this is a movie, I should not overact or over-react. Unlike theater where I should act big so the audience can see what I'm doing on stage, Director Thop and our assistant directors told me to act subtly and with restraint. Also, some of the scenes required me to just show my emotions, without speaking any lines."

Interestingly, the film is told based on the point of view of Comia's Kiko, which was devoid of unnecessary complicated back stories and melodramatic flare. "Well, Director Thop told me a little about the real-life Kiko and that somehow helped me portray the role," said Comia who shares the movie's 76-minute running time with veteran film and TV actors Yayo Aguila (Diday) and Yul Servo (George).

After the Cinemalaya film festival, the producers behind "Kiko Boksingero" will tour various local schools. They're also aiming to screen the film at various international film festivals. Given the opportunity, they're open to a commercial release in order to reach a wider Filipino audience.

KIKO BOKSINGERO, A Small Film That Almost Didn't Happen"More and more people should watch our film because it's a feel-good, light movie. If they want to watch a film that will touch their hearts, and will also put a smile on their faces, then I recommend that they watch 'Kiko Boksingero'," Comia quipped.

Further, according to its filmmakers, "The film intends to redefine the word 'family.' Not to confine it to the people who are blood-related rather extend it to those who come into our lives and, no matter what, decided to stay."

"Kiko Boksingero" is Kiko's "family" story.

To know "Kiko Boksingero's" post-Cinemalaya screening schedule, follow its Facebook Page KikoBoksingero.

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