There have been many films made about the lives of overseas Filipino worker (OFWs) and most have a common denominator: the plot revolves around their sad experiences working abroad. A new movie, which was partly shot in Dubai early this year, veers away from the sad tales, but rather showcases the success stories of OFWs.
“It’s a very inspiring film for OFWs. It’s a feel good movie and it’s something that shouldn’t be missed if you are an OFW,” says Rafael Rosell, one of the lead actors in ‘OFW The Movie’ in a one-on-one interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
The versatile actor is back in the emirate to grace a special screening of the movie on Friday (October 11) at Reel Cinemas in Al Ghurair Centre. The special one-day screening is distributed by Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Gulf Asia Entertainment.
‘OFW The Movie’ is an advocacy film that centres on the stories of five Filipinos working in different parts of the world and who had been awarded most outstanding OFWs by the Philippine government.
“I play the role of Norman, an OFW, a multi-skilled worker. He had stayed in Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. So he really has the overall OFW experience across Asia,” explains Rosell.
“It’s an interesting journey. Personally, I could relate to it because being away from my family pursuing showbiz in the Philippines while they live in Norway — it was very tough for me growing up. I can relate in a way that I always long to be with my family,” says the 36-year-old actor.
“Of course, if you are an OFW you always long to be with your family, the people that you support. You always want to comeback to your home country. But meanwhile, you are struggling to earn money for them. Just the overall fuel from the family that gives you strength to keep on going — there I can relate with my character in the movie.”
The movie was shot in several locations in Asia like Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and in the Middle East in Dubai and Bahrain. Directed by Neal ‘Buboy’ Tan, the movie’s theatrical release is being set tentatively next year.
Rosell reveals more in this Q&A
Apart from it’s being focused on the success stories of OFWs, what new things can this movie offer to the viewers?
My character here as Norman put up an agency to help other OFWs. That’s another different aspect of the movie compared to other OFW movies — it shows the journey of becoming an OFW. It shows the bigger picture than just earning money for your family — which is [when these OFWs] create businesses, help other people, create a service that will benefit the whole community.
There’s been a lot of OFW issues. People from the Philippines, when they see or hear something about OFWs, it’s usually with a bad connotation. They think it’s a struggle. It’s in the news — mistreatment and harassment. Personally, I don’t think that this helps other OFWs abroad by glorifying the struggle more than showcasing the victories — it can really make a toll on the OFWs abroad. And I think the different take on this movie is that this one shows the success of the OFWs and that it’s not all problems. If you work hard, your victory, you will harvest that eventually. This movie is to encourage OFWs to keep on fighting, keep on going and just look at the positive aspect of the whole struggle if you want to call it that.
What made you decide to play Norman? What attracted you to the role?
First of all, the fact that I could relate to it because my parents left the Philippines to work abroad. Second, it’s an advocacy film and I’m always game to do advocacy films. They showcase the reality of it. There are struggles but there are also victories, they are not only showing the negative side. And I get to visit Dubai. The role was good, the story was good, I was extra excited to shoot here in Dubai. When you get to go abroad, meet new people, work in a different setting and environment. My parents lived in Abu Dhabi for five years. I’m used to going around Abu Dhabi and Dubai (when visiting them). I love seeing new cultures. More than the tourist spots, I love to see different cultures.
How did you prepare for the movie? Did you have any immersion with the OFWs?
I grew up in Norway in Stavanger particularly, in the 90s, with a Filipino community, maybe 300 to 400, which was already big for us there. Most are OFWs. So every Sunday during get together, I always hear the stories of being an OFW in Norway. How the relatives are doing, how the other families are doing. I drew strength from that because, like I said, I experienced leaving my family from Norway at a very young age to pursue showbiz for a career in the Philippines. Just the whole longing for the family — wishing I was with them, wishing I could provide for them, wishing I could spend more time with them. That in itself is a big hugot (inspiration) for me, for the movie. Other than that, I just learnt the basic skills and other advanced skills that OFWs are really learning to do.
How challenging is it for this movie to justify the honest reality of the life of the OFWs and not send the wrong message to the viewers about life as an OFW?
Since this is an advocacy film, we have this wonderful host, his name is Arnel Ignacio (Filipino actor). In the movie, he narrates and explains the culture of other countries. He is basically giving guidance and pointers. There’s a lot of instructions and there’s lots of nuggets of wisdom, which I think also separates this movie from other OFW movies.
After doing the movie, what do you think is the biggest misconception about being an OFW?
In the Philippines, we have that trait that we are so dependent on other people — so if you are an OFW there’s that additional challenge to work hard for your children, your spouse, your relatives. I think the overall struggle or the overall misconception is that if you are an OFW you can easily get rich. There’s a lot of struggles involved and I feel that many people back home don’t know about that. Through this movie, we can see what OFWs go through and there’s insight on what the families go through as well.