‘Van Damme Stallone’ director on the scene that made everyone on set cry
MANILA, Philippines – Among the several family-themed films on the lineup of the upcoming Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino is Star na si Van Damme Stallone – a movie that appears to be light and charming even as it tackles a serious subject hardly talked about in local cinema.
Star na si Van Damme Stallone is about a young boy with Down Syndrome and his loving single mother who work together to make the boy’s dream of becoming an action star come true.
According to director Randolph Longjas, the film was inspired by his late cousin, who had the genetic disorder. When she died, he realized that stories of people who shared her disability had hardly been told in local cinema.
Venturing to make one of the first Filipino films tackling Down Syndrome was no easy feat. In an interview with Rappler after the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino kick-off on August 3, Randolph shared that they faced challenges all throughout making the film, right from casting the child who would play the title character.
Casting Paolo Pingol to play the older Van Damme Stallone was easier because the actor had already been in a McDonald’s commercial. But choosing the kid to play the younger Van Damme Stallone was a different story. Partnering with the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines, Randolph met with 700 kids and still did not find his star.
It was during a story conference that he found the young Jadford Dilanco, who walked into the room and brightly greeted everyone with a resounding “Good Morning!” Randolph knew then that he had found his young Van Damme Stallone.
'Not a dull moment'
Of course, casting was one thing, but filming was another – and as both the director and star Candy Pangilinan shared, every day on set was an adventure.
“[There was] not a dull moment kasi hindi namin alam kung anong mangyayari (we never knew what would happen),” she told Rappler after the August 3 event.
“Hindi namin alam kung hanggang saan lang ang kaya nilang gawin o gusto nilang gawin (we never knew the limits of what they could do or what they wanted to do),” she shared.
At the same time, Randolph talked about how, with Jadford in particular, every take was different. He shared that the young actor sometimes wanted to walk, other times refused to do so, and had to ride piggy back, and sometimes wanted to climb aboard a tricycle – all for the same scene.
“It was hard, not because they have a disability, but because I’m dealing with kids. So I have time limitations, patience,” the director said.
The spontaneity was difficult, but the creativity of the actors and crew were pushed, resulting in scenes with authentic emotion.
Randolph recalled shooting one scene where the older Van Damme Stallone learns to button up his shirt. During the first take of the scene, Paolo’s dad told the director that Paolo didn’t know how to do his buttons. Randolph, upon Candy’s insistence, decided to film anyway.
All in all, the take took 18 minutes – and as a result, they were able to film not only the character of Van Damme Stallone but the actor himself learning how to do his buttons. The scene had left the set in tears.
“Walang lumalapit kasi lahat umiiyak (no one moved because everyone was crying),” he said, adding that he excitedly reported Paolo’s achievement to his mother.
As Randolph shared, the parents of the actors were very involved in the filming. Nurses, teachers, and members of the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines were also always present on set, because the director wanted to ensure “utmost sensitivity.”
“Even the script, dumaan din sa kanila (went through them), may approval from them,” he said.
As much as the film is about people with Down Syndrome, Randolph shared that it is also bigger than that.
“It’s really representing the basic unit of society in our country: the family,” he said.
Candy shared the same sentiment: “It’s the story of every Filipino. It’s our story, actually, it’s every family’s story.” – Rappler.com