Fresh from the success of the dramedy Camp Sawi, Bela Padilla gets her biggest break yet as a solo artist in I AMERICA, a film about a half-Filipino, half-American woman whose challenging life gets more complicated by a surprising revelation about her identity.
Bela plays the title role of Erica, an aspiring model/actress from Olongapo who finally finds her long lost father John Berry through the internet. John proves to be very welcoming, even coming to town to personally meet her, and inviting her to live with him in America. In the process of applying for a passport and the much coveted US visa, Erica discovers her registered name is not Erica Berry, but “Perry”. Demanding an explanation from her estranged mother (Elizabeth Oropesa) about her real last name, she gets an unsatisfactory response from her and is left with the mystery of her real origin. Still, she continues to let John Berry believe that she is his daughter. But how long will her American Dream get the better of her?
The actress also shares that she has learned to empathize more with the characters she plays because of this movie. She says that viewers may readily perceive Erica’s excuses as not valid, but if you get into her head, you’ll see why her issues are real.
Director Ivan Andrew Payawal believes that everyone can relate with stories about self-discovery, which is what this movie is about. “It’s an everyday struggle to know who we really are, but a fulfilling journey nonetheless. In I AMERICA, it definitely explores the lives of our Amerasian brothers and sisters and how they cope living without knowing who their fathers are. I arrived with a realization that somehow, regardless of gender, race, skin color…as long as you know who you are and learn to accept yourself, then life would be so much easier to endure,” he expounds. He also wrote the screenplay.
I AMERICA is the first movie by Payawal to have been featured in Cinemalaya Film Festival last August. It was also Bela’s first time to be part of the said prestigious independent film festival. Aside from Bela and Ms. Oropesa, the cast includes Rob Rownd as John Berry, Matt Evans, Thou Reyes, Sheena Ramos, Joe Vargas, Raflesia Bravo, with Lui Manansala, and introducing Kate Bautista and Rhyzza Kafilas.
I AMERICA opens in cinemas on September 21, 2016. Produced by The Ideafirst Company and Eight Films, and distributed by VIVA Films.