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Nora Aunor topbills CineFilipino entry ‘Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti’

Nora Aunor in a scene from 'Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti'. (Photo by William Reyes)

When the eight finalists for the first CineFilipino Film Festival were introduced last January, one filmmaker immediately stood out from the rest of the pack.

Fresh from his big win for “Diablo”(Best Film and Best Director) in the New Breed category of last year’s edition of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Festival, Mes De Guzman naturally was expected to be the odds-on favorite to win the top awards even before his cameras started rolling.

It looks like the veteran indie director is already living up to expectations as his film, “Ang Kuwento Ni Mabuti”, is off to a rousing start with the casting of no less than superstar Nora Aunor in the title role.

Not to be confused with the Filipino literary classic by Genoveva Edroza-Matute, De Guzman’s film is actually a morality tale about Mabuti, a faith healer who maintains a positive outlook in life despite her poverty. But that was until she found herself in a moral dilemma after accidentally finding a bag containing P5 million in cash that could bring an end to her family’s problems.

Like most of De Guzman’s films, including “Diablo”, “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti” is also being shot in his home province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Direk Mes De Guzman and Nora Aunor on the set of 'Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti'. (Photo by William Reyes)

Like “Himala”, which the director listed as one of his all-time favorite films in the online forum of, his new film also casts Nora Aunor as a faith healer and even reunites her with “Himala” co-star Ama Quiambao, who also won the 2012 Cinemalaya Best Actress for her lead role in “Diablo”.

Rounding up the cast are indie veterans Sue Prado (“Ang Bangka Sa Pagitan ng Dalawang Ilog”), Arnold Reyes (“Graceland”), Mara Lopez (“Palitan”) and what De Guzman calls “a bevy of non-actors from Nueva Vizcaya”.

Dubbed by De Guzman as one of the country’s best cinematographers, Albert Banzon (“Haruo”, “EDSA XXX”) has been tapped as the director of photography for “Ang Kuwento Ni Mabuti”.

As with his other films produced by Cinelarga Productions, the film company he co-owns with his wife Rhea, Direk Mes does not expect any hitches in the production of his new film. “It’s an indie policy of our production outfit to stick to our budget and production schedule”.

With the P1.5 million seed money granted by CineFilipino, which is a bigger amount than the P500,000 grant of Cinemalaya that they had to work with in “Diablo”, audiences can expect to see even higher production values for “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti”.

Along with seven other finalists, “Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti” will be showcased during the CineFilipino Film Festival that will take place at Araneta Center’s Gateway Cineplex and Ali Mall Cinemas as well as at the Newport Cinemas at Resorts World from June 26 to July 2.