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7 Mainstream Actors Who Crossed Over To Indie Films

John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, and more!
PHOTO: 100 Tula Para Kay Stella/Viva Films

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival has been inviting throngs of viewers to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and partner movie houses for over 10 years. And now, Filipino moviegoers have flocked once again to cinemas in support of a newly-founded independent film festival produced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP).

In its first-ever night of recognition, the PPP awarded the film 100 Tula Para Kay Stella the Audience Choice Award, which goes to show that the film resonated most with the moviegoers, no small thanks to its actors, JC Santos and Bela Padilla.


This is not the first time that familiar mainstream personalities have dipped their toes into the world of independent film. In fact, JC has had a steady indie presence in films like Jay, The Janitor, Esprit de Corps and Sakaling Hindi Makarating, before crossing over to the mainstream scene with his breakout TV performance in the JaDine teleserye, Till I Met You.

Bella, on the other hand, has appeared in mainstream films like Camp Sawi, The Super Parental Guardians, and Luck At First Sight, prior to becoming an independent film actress with I, America and 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. 

Like them, there are a number of mainstream actors who have gone over to the ~indie~ side. Here's a quick rundown:

1 & 2. Alessandra De Rossi and Empoy Marquez

While Alessandra De Rossi has made a balanced body of work of critically-acclaimed independently-produced films and mainstream projects in the past, it was her role as Lea, a chirpy Sapporo, Japan-based tour guide in the recent film Kita Kita that propelled her into a box office indie film star. Together with mainstream TV and film comedic regular, Empoy Marquez, the two struck gold in an unconventional love story that grossed over P300 million in the box office. It surpassed Heneral Luna as the highest-grossing independent film with earnings of over P254 million.

3. Piolo Pascual

Piolo Pascual may very well be the dream boy of the Philippine entertainment scene with his chiseled features, brooding charisma, and on-screen talent. In his line of work, he has collected box office success and critical acclaim in his two decade-old career, which is why he has dabbled not just in appearing in independent films but in producing them as well. In 2009, he acted in and produced the film, Manila, an homage to iconic 1980's cinematic gems of Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka. In 2016, he took on the role of Simoun in the infamous eight-hour Lav Diaz noir, Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis. This year, Piolo was behind the surprise success of the film Kita Kita, where he took on the role as executive producer for the heartwarming romantic dramedy.

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4. Charo Santos

Charo Santos is probably one of the most recognizable TV executives. Not only was she an acclaimed film actress, with notable movies Kisapmata and Kakaba Kaba Ka Ba under her belt, but she is still narrating the longest-running drama anthology on television, Maalaala Mo Kaya. Recently, Charo took her first acting stint after a decades-long hiatus in Lav Diaz's independent film, Ang Babaeng Humayo. In it, Charo played the role of Horacia Somorostro, a former women's correctional inmate who was released after being locked up in prison for a crime she was framed for.

5. John Lloyd Cruz

John Lloyd Cruz, to many, is the ideal guy. Why not? To this day, he remains as the leading man after proving his box office prowess in films like My Amnesia Girl, Just The Three of Us, Miss You Like Crazy, and the iconic One More Chance. In 2016, Cruz took his craft to greater heights with his participation in Lav Diaz's epic black and white masterpiece Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis as Isagani. Shortly after that, he was next seen in another Diaz film, Ang Babaeng Humayo, where he played Hollanda, a trans woman who has given up on life.

6. Judy Ann Santos

Judy Ann Santos remains as the entertainment industry's most reliable and bankable dramatic actress with classics like Till There Was You, Don't Give Up On Us, and Bakit Di Totohanin, cementing her name into young superstar status. In 2008, Santos appeared and produced the quiet drama, Ploning, set in Cuyo, Palawan. The film was multi-awarded and was later on hailed as the official Philippine entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. In 2016, she broke out of her acting hiatus with the film, Kusina, where she played the role of Juanita, a wife and mother whose triumphs and failures were witnessed by her kitchen. The film served as her first-ever entry to the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

7. Sharon Cuneta

Megastar Sharon Cuneta has worn many hats in her long career. She is a grand-slam actress in celebrated films like Madrasta, Bituing Walang Ningning, and Kung Ako Na Lang Sana. She's also a television host and a judge in The Voice Teens. Stepping out of her decade-long break from making films in 2017, Sharon made her presence felt with an independently-produced movie, Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha, her first entry to the Cinelamaya Independent Film Festival. In the dramatic comedy, Sharon played the role of a mother in dire longing for her family's acceptance and affection.

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