DIRECTOR Nuel Naval says he enjoyed working with Aga Muhlach in Viva’s Metro-Manila Filmfest entry, “Miracle in Cell No. 7”, that got an A rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board and a general patronage rating from the MTRCB. “He completely trusted me as his director and it helped na nagkatrabaho na kami before in Star Cinema’s ‘Kailangan Kita’ in 2002 where I was the production designer and which we filmed on location in Bicol,” he says.
Since the movie is based on a hit Korean movie, what changes did he and scriptwriter Mel Mendoza-del Rosario make in their own adaptation? “You cannot just make changes in the material without referring it to the Korean producers first,” he says. “We have to explain that we have to give the movie a more Filipino flavor kasi iba yung Korean taste sa mga Pinoy viewers. So there are situations na binago namin to make it more Filipino in treatment and sensibility. Naitawid naman namin but basically, the story about a father and his daughter na nalayo sa kanya, it remains the same. And also the main setting which is inside a prison.”
He says they have to build a special set like a sound stage for the prison setting. “Hindi puede yung usual prison na marumi and dark, kasi the story is told in flashbacks from the point of view of a 7-year old girl, so mas stylized ang presentation namin, mas malinis yung prison. And we’re happy Boss Vic del Rosario agreed to do it kahit mas malaki ang naging gastos sa budget.”
How about the casting? Who chose John Arcilla as the prison director, Tirso Cruz III as the government official who is Aga’s main tormentor, and Joel Torre, JC Santos, Rico Soliman, Mon Confiado and Jojit Lorenzo as Aga’s prison colleagues?
“I handpicked them. When Boss Vic assigned the movie to me, sabi ko, this is the cast I wanted. Mas mahal, pero pumayag din siya. Mga anak ng malalaking artista ang kasama sa cast, Mark Anthony Fernandez (son of Alma Moreno and the late Rudy Fernandez) as another prison inmate, Ian de Leon (son of Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon) as Aga’s lawyer, and Epy Quizon (son of the late Dolphy) as a prosecuting lawyer.”
Direk Nuel also praises child actress Xia Vigor for her excellent portrayal of Yesha, Aga’s daughter. “Napakagaling niya. Kuha agad niya whatever instructions you give her and she has excellent chemistry with Aga as father and daughter.”
Originally, it’s Nadine Lustre who’s to play Yesha as a grownup but she backed out and was replaced by Bela Padilla. We tell Direk Nuel it’s a blessing in disguise that Nadine backed out as Bela is more credible to be the adult Xia as they’re both mestizas.