To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Bench has released a series of short films under the umbrella title Benchingko Films, featuring some of its celebrity endorsers in collaboration with some of the country’s acclaimed filmmakers.
At the star-studded premiere of the first six films at the SM Mall of Asia Center Stage Theater on Friday, Bench CEO Ben Chan said that while “fashion is always evolving, movies and films are meant to last longer.”
“Movies are the backbone of Pinoy pop culture. Some are made to last forever. They make the foundation of a culture. They stay in people’s minds and hearts. They become classics. It’s the 25th anniversary of Bench, and this year we wanted to make something truly classic and ageless. So, we made these films,” he explained.
As a form of branded content that blurs the usual distinctions between advertising and entertainment, these short films specifically produced for the internet may have been inspired by a similar series of short films pioneered by luxury auto manufacturer BMW at the start of the millennium.
Starring Clive Owen and released as “The Hire”, the BMW films released between 2001 and 2002 were directed by the likes of John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott and Joe Carnahan. They also featured supporting roles by Mickey Rourke, Forest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, Gary Oldman and Madonna, among others.
Although other brands have produced their own series of online short films, Bench is the first Philippine brand and only fashion retailer to come up with this kind of initiative.
Clocking mostly below the five-minute mark, the well-made films cover diverse genres, including comedy, musical and documentary.
And aside from Lucy Torres-Gomez, Piolo Pascual, Lovi Poe, Coco Martin headlining their own shorts, one film stars Ben Chan himself and another features the legendary kontrabida Bella Flores.
The series-opener is “25 Bens”, a documentary with a humorous twist, which is now showing at the Benchingko Films official website (bench.com.ph/benchingko) and the brand’s YouTube account.
Director Ianco Dela Cruz shows 25 Ben Chans talking among themselves and discussing how far Bench the brand has come over the last 25 years.
Next attraction and coming soon is Lovi Poe as a sexy nurse that heats up Borgy Torre’s “Kama,” a musical trilogy divided into “Kamanyakan,” “Kamachohan” and “Kamalasan.” It also features Lou Veloso, Jake Macapagal and others in key supporting roles.
“Horsepower”, also directed by Torre (“Corazon, Ang Unang Aswang”), is a Pinoy-style “The Fast and The Furious” starring Coco Martin (who did not make it to the premiere) as a jeepney driver who likes to drag race primarily for bragging rights.
Lucy Torres-Gomez is featured in “Star Teacher,” her very first documentary directed by music video director Marla Ancheta. Here, the celebrity turned public servant visits a school in her hometown of Ormoc City where she makes environmental issues relevant to pre-schoolers by way of a read-along and puppet show.
“It’s nice to play myself after usually playing white ladies, ghosts and fairies in my other movies,” she quipped.
Philippine cinema’s premier villainess takes centerstage in Jose Javier Reyes’ hilarious and wildly applauded “Kontrabida Pa Rin” as Bella Flores, now 84, gives audiences a crash course on evil. Post processing comic strip text effects further heighten the comedic experience.
Finally, fans reserve their loudest cheers for heartthrob Piolo Pascual who stars as an unlikely “freak” held captive in a local carnival in Topel Lee’s “Perya.” Stellar cinematography and a memorable supporting turn by indie favorite Sue Prado add life to what is literally a tale of finding love among the ruins.
‘We shot this in just one day,” Piolo would later tell audiences adding an extra sense of awe to a film that seems to have taken a lot of intricate preparation.
During the premiere hosted by Raymond Gutierrez, other Bench endorsers such as Diether Ocampo, Enchong Dee, Melai Cantiveros, Rocco Nacino and many more were around to support the first wave of Benchingko films as they await their turn to be feaured in future Benchingko productions.
Ben Chan also paid tribute to the late Comedy King Dolphy in his speech. He acknowledged the presence of members of the Quizon family in the audience, namely Eric, Epi, Ronnie and Zia.