How ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’ expanded Nonie Buencamino’s view of the Church

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Nonie Buencamino. (Photo by Jill Tan Radovan/InterAksyon)

Based on the extended version of the Palanca-winning crime novel of the same title by F.H. Batacan, “Smaller and Smaller Circles” tells the story of two Jesuit priests who try to solve the mystery behind the serial killings of young boys in the slums of Payatas.

Acclaimed actor Nonie Buencamino plays the lead as Father Gus Saenz, one of two Jesuit priests tasked to analyze forensic evidence involving the murders. His colleague and protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, is played by Sid Lucero.

Carla Humphries plays a sleuthing journalist; Bembol Roco and Christopher de Leon play the NBI director and his deputy, respectively; and Ricky Davao plays Cardinal Meneses.

It took some time for Nonie to realize that he was actually portraying the lead role — and it was both a pleasure and a challenge for him.

He explains, “Meron akong proseso na meron akong pinaplano, step by step, kasi ang daming opportunities para mag-build, para i-build yung character ni Father Saenz. Pasalamat lang ako na once in a while meron akong chance for these.”

Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero in ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles.’

As extraordinary his role may be, Nonie poured as much passion into it as previous ones. “For me it’s just like any other job, any other role that I play, that I study and go through all the details of my character. And learn it. Learn all the objectives, motivations, and all the given circumstances. So it’s a normal thing that I do, process,” he said in an interview with InterAksyon.

Being part of a film that deals with such controversial themes has expanded Nonie’s view of the Catholic Church.

He shares, “It reinforces the fact about the Catholic Church belonging to, I mean…which consists of human beings, people, who are also weak, who also commit mistakes, and who also need prayer. And who also need help from the community. In terms of dealing with problems. It brings it out in the open, and nowadays, I would like to believe that it is being addressed by — this issue of abuse and everything — is being addressed by the new leader, who is our Pope Francis, and it’s not being swept under the rug.”

“The fact that my character as a priest, I’m a priest and I’m pursuing people within the clergy who are committing those abuses and trying to rectify, means that within the Church, I would like to believe that there is a struggle within the Church to correct or to fix whatever problems they are facing.

“So it makes me respect the Catholic Church or the clergy even more because they’re human and they’re trying to improve, and trying their best to own up to and correct the mistakes that they’ve made.”

“Smaller and Smaller Circles” stars Nonie Buencamino, Sid Lucero, Carla Humphries, Bembol ROco, Christopher de Leon, Ricky Davao, TJ Trinidad, Junjun Quintana, Alex Medina, Roselyn Perez, Jess Mendoza, Madeleine Nicolas, Ross Pesigan, Cholo Barretto, and Gladys Reyes.

The script was written by Moira Lang and Ria Limjap based on the novel by F.H. Batacan. The film, directed by Raya Martin and produced by TBA Studios, is now showing in cinemas.