Jul 27, 2017

By now, you’ve probably heard of Kita Kita by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, director of Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita. Although it has been said before, we just want to reiterate: You should see Kita Kita (if you haven’t yet). 

Shot in Japan, the film follows Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) who goes blind after breaking up with her unfaithful Japanese boyfriend. She meets her neighbor Tonyo (Empoy Marquez) and becomes friends with him until their friendship buds into a romantic one. The two take us to a whirlwind of emotions until we find the answer to the question: “Is love blind?”

Kita Kita exhibits the power of great, credible actors. De Rossi has shown her acting prowess many times: from Gil Portes’ Mga Munting Tinig to Aureaus Solito’s Busong to Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis to Ice Idanan’s Sakaling Hindi Makarating. With a diverse filmography, De Rossi might just soon become our generation’s sought-after leading lady. Marquez, on the other hand, has proven to be an effective comedian since the beginning and the film puts his talent to great use.

Their casting opposes the standards of many romantic-comedy films, particularly young, good-looking actors with a huge fanbase. Although they are not a typical cutesy love team with a huge following, De Rossi and Marquez exude a chemistry that works and elicits a pleasant response from the viewers.

“I realized that these actors were boxed in by how the audience perceived them. Everyone had the same perception of the actors. That is how I got the idea of making one of the characters blind, because we usually judge people by what we see. So what if the girl cannot see the other person. Will she still fall in love?” Bernardo tells Bayani San Diego, Jr. of Inquirer.

A sleeper hit 
The film’s success shows how Filipinos still love romance. In fact, Kita Kita is somehow an already familiar plot to the audience. Save for a few films like Vince, Kath, and James, there are not so many great romantic comedy films. However, Kita Kita demonstrates the endless possibilities in romantic-comedy films. And as long as the film is well-crafted, it can draw audiences to the cinemas.

The film opened on July 19 and made P100 million after a week.  A mainstream movie with an established love team that makes that big in the box-office for the same amount of time or less is not new, but for a film made outside the mainstream, this is quite surprising.

This is the curious case of sleeper hits.

Sleeper hits are films that slowly gain attention and viewership. In the case of Kita Kita, it seems like the film captured a following faster than usual. “I was told that we had 120 theaters at the start. Then, on the second day, we got 150. We just kept adding cinemas, as the days went by,” she said, noting that it came as a surprise to her.

Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna is another sleeper hit hailed as the highest-grossing historical film of all time. The film earned P240 million, but it took quite a while before the film picked up in the box-office. Some films even pulled the film out of theaters on its second week. However, those who have seen it shared the word on social media and even the people behind the film encouraged interested viewers to ask nearby theaters to bring it back. The demand for the film and its sequels saw the increase in number of theaters that showed the film.

In my interview with screenwriter and producer Moira Lang for the December 2016 issue of Northern Living, she finds that there is a need for a film to stay in theaters for two weeks before they do well in the box-office. This is especially true for independent films that mostly rely on the power of social media and word-of-mouth. “Not all films are blockbusters or were made in the blockbuster mode,” she says. “We have to find a happy middle ground with commercial theaters where every film will be given the chance to be screened.” Although she refers to the pre-2016 editions of Metro Manila Film Festival, her statement holds true to the entire state of Philippine cinema today.

If there is one thing dedicated moviegoers should start practicing, that is to create awareness for great Filipino films. Not all Filipino films are capable of having their trailers screened on TV or their posters mounted in public spaces. Aside from social media marketing, films rely on posts from viewers more than reviews from critics.

If there is anyone who can convince your colleagues to watch a great Filipino film, it’s not the critic who writes a well-written review but someone they know. So, be a great friend and tell your barkada to watch Kita Kita and all the great Filipino films out there. I heard Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino is screening a dozen of good Filipino films including Patay na si Hesus, which features dialogues in Bisaya and Cannes Best Actress Jaclyn Jose. If we all do that, then Filipino films would enjoy bigger cinemas and longer theatrical runs.

Header image courtesy of Kita Kita Facebook page

Read more:
Why do local films flop?
Your favorite neighborhood in QC will soon have a cinema
There will be a new cinematheque in Quezon City
How Brilliante Mendoza is saving Philippine cinema
Five books from Petersen Vargas’ bookshelf


TAGS: arts cinema Filipino film Film Kita Kita movie nolisoli nolisoliph Sigrid Andrea Bernardo sleeper hits