Currently showing under the Cine Lokal program of the Film Development Council of the Philippines is Mike Alcazaren’s acclaimed psychological thriller, “Puti.”
An entry in the very first Cine Filipino film festival in 2013, the film won three technical awards there while Alcazaren himself was later honored with Best First Feature by the Young Critics Circle.
The version of “Puti” that audiences are going to see in its current theatrical run is not the same as the one screened during Cine Filipino. In a recent interview with InterAksyon, Alcazaren said his director’s cut is a little darker than his original cut.
“I reshot the ending and it’s now more open-ended,” he revealed, hinting that it could also pave the way for a possible sequel.
In an earlier interview, Alcazaren said that “Puti” was actually inspired by Mike de Leon’s award-winning horror classic, “Itim.”
“I had the chance to work with Mike when I was still in college. Watching his creative process was more than any film school could teach,” Alcazaren recalled.
Alcazaren, an accomplished director of TV commercials and short films, said that being an apprentice of De Leon provided him with a unique perspective on how to approach his first full-length movie.
“Mike talked about ‘Itim’ and I guess I took the cue from him to start with a relatively small, personal film as my debut. It is similar in that the scary stuff is more psychological than having special effects. ‘Itim’ was also very atmospheric in treatment which I also followed. Very quiet but also quietly getting into your head.”
That’s where the similarities of the two films end, though. Alcazaren said story-wise, “Puti” is “more flipped out, disturbing”.
“I wanted to screw with the viewers’ imaginations a bit more. ‘Puti’ takes place in an urban setting unlike the provincial Holy Week backdrop of ‘Itim’.”
The story is about Amir, a counterfeit painter who became color-blind after surviving a freak car accident with his son. While recuperating, he begins to experience strange things.
When he was casting “Puti,” Alcazaren auditioned several actors until he found his lead in Ian Veneracion, at the time a character actor for mostly teleseryes.
“There was one other actor who did a great reading. But when Ian came in and read, his delivery, his age, his perspective in life was perfect for the role. It was a plus too that he paints,” Alcazaren shared.
Ian admitted his own passion for art in a separate interview.
“My father is also a painter and like him, I’m lso very comfortable with the canvas, the paints, the palette, the brush and life. I guess that’s what gave Direk Mike the idea of giving the role to me because he knows I’m already comfortable with the medium,” the actor said.
“I’m also doing my own sort of forgeries for my whole career as an actor. This is actually the first time I’m doing something I really like,” Ian said at the time.
The casting of Ian turned out to be a stroke of genius as “Puti” turned out to be a starmaking vehicle for him. This eventually led to a return to leading man status that began with the teleserye, “Pangako sa Yo.” Today, Ian is a household name at age 42, thanks in large part to his latest soap, “A Love to Last.”
The casting of Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Lauren Young in “Puti, was also pretty much a no-brainer for the director.
“Jasmine was actually a very early call for me as I had worked with her in commercials. Her age was just right for the film and I felt that it would be interesting for her to play out-of-type. Although known more for her sweet image, she is actually more edgy here,” Alcazaren explained.
As for Lauren, younger sister of Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Alcazaren said she showed a lot of depth when she first read for the character of Ian’s intriguing nurse.
“Her role is actually complex and I needed someone who could put it together. Lauren sounds very mature for her age. All in all, it was a pleasure working with the actors because they honestly did their homework for the roles.”
Also starring Leo Rialp, Bryan Pagala and Maricel Baluan, the director’s cut of “Puti” is currently showing at SM Cinemas in Megamall, North EDSA, Fairview, Southmall, Mall of Asia, Bacoor, Iloilo and Cebu.