Rocket Raccoon. Hulk. Caesar. Some of the most memorable figures in cinematic history are filmed with a special, magical technique — motion capture! The procedure, and the actors who play these special roles, isn’t very common in the realm of Philippine cinema, where more grounded dramas and comedies are prevalent, reducing the number of opportunities to use cutting-edge technology for more fantastical and wacky characters. The only Filipino sci-fi films that have come out in the past few years are Jason Paul Laxamana’s Instalado and Keith Sicat’s Alinuom, both of which are limited release indie films. Filipino film festivals, such as this year’s Cinemalaya, tend to be filled with hard-nosed dramas (Pandanggo sa Hukay), thrillers (Tabon), and stylish neo-noirs (F#*@BOIS).
However, filmmakers Kim Zuñiga and Sandro Del Rosario are attempting to change the narrative with their Cinemalaya entry ANi: The Harvest, a coming-of-age sci-fi movie set in 2050 Bicol (a future Philippines!), where a young boy moves from the city to a rural community. Also, there are robots.
24-year-old Miguel Valdes plays the robot ANi, a silent, cheerful robot reminiscent of Chappie. We talked to him a few days before ANi: The Harvest’s premiere, and asked about his thoughts on being a landmark Filipino motion capture actor, how he handled the role of ANi, and his thoughts on the future of both the Filipino sci-fi industry, and the Filipino motion capture acting industry.
Young STAR: How’d you get into acting?
Miguel Valdes: My family background — majority are in that business, especially my mom (actress Eula Valdez). So I grew up watching them do that. But (during) that time, from a kid’s perspective noon, stress — stress siya. So for the longest time ayoko. Pero I took up film (in college), where I met Direk Sandro (Del Rosario) and Kim (Zuñiga). From there, mga small projects for school — you guys borrow each other to work as crew or as an actor. I got a small taste of it there, and thought “this seems fun.”
Later on, after graduation, mas drawn ako doon (to acting), to the point where I had an image in my head (of who I wanted to be).
How’d you get your role as ANi in this film? It’s a unique opportunity to be able to act via motion capture, especially in the Philippines.
Miguel: I was at a screening of Paki (Miguel’s debut film). During that time, I ran into Sandro and Kim. A month later, ‘yun nga, there were casting calls for Cinemalaya films. My friends and I from our acting workshop thought: “Let’s try this — give it a go.” On Facebook, I saw them (Del Rosario and Zuñiga), then I saw that the opportunity was for a motion capture actor, which is unheard of here. Sobrang intrigued ako doon, and at the same time, I knew that if I got the part, I’d work well with them, because we’ve worked together before.