By Rica Arevalo
Actress Chai Fonacier is on a roll. After impressive acting stints in Paolo Villaluna’s Pauwi Na and Victor Villanueva’s Patay na si Hesus, she is back in Treb Monteras’ film Respeto showing in commercial cinemas this Wednesday, Sept. 20.
How did she discover her passion for acting? “I was always acting ever since I was a kid. When I was five, my audience was my dogs. They wouldn’t complain,” she laughs. “My dad was my first acting coach. When I was a kid, he would be my coach for elocution contest.”
Born in Cagayan de Oro but relocated to Cebu City for her Mass Communication degree, Fonacier sees herself as a storyteller. “It is important for people to tell a good story,” says the University of the Philippines Cebu graduate.
In Respeto, she plays Betchai, a boyish loyal friend to Hendrix (Abra) and Payaso (Ybes Bagadiong). They attend underground rap battles and experience the thug realities of life. “I prefer the good stories, the better ones. I may prefer roles not necessarily big, but have a clear arch. Something that is solid to work on,” says the Film Academy of the Philippines’ 35th Luna Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Producer Coreen “Monster” Jimenez tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle: “We were looking for a beatboxer. I remembered Chai in Pauwi Na and Patay. She didn’t have to audition. It was one of those magical moments. That’s it, we found her!”
Chai is still adjusting to her newfound “fame.” “After a film or during an event, people recognized me from the films they have seen,” reveals this Womb vocalist. “All of a sudden, there are a lot of people coming to me. I haven’t really gotten used to that. Sometimes, I get anxiety attacks.”
Monster divulges about role of women in their production. “The big issue of this milieu, it is a male-dominated world and you’re looking at it from a man’s perspective,” says the Cinemalaya screenplay winner for Big Time. “There was a lot of dialogue going on about how to be sensitive to those issues. Women shouldn’t be accessories.”
Chai is also into song writing and trip hop music. “Nobody has talked about the hip hop culture that has been very strong for years. You will see the plight of this demographic in our population in light of dangerous times,” she says.
What if one lives dangerously in an environment of violence and hip hop music? Respeto answers this, being the biggest winner in last month’s Cinemalaya, where it garnered Best Picture, NETPAC Jury Prize, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Audience Choice awards.
Why should people see this movie? “We were able to frame what is in people’s minds now,” says Monster. “It’s a sincere and very fresh take on what we are thinking about today.”
Also in the cast are Dido dela Paz, Loonie, and Kate Alejandrino.