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A Filipina music educator in Hong Kong is now a Film Actress

Filipina artist didn’t expect to be given the film role right away but the twists and turns in her acting life were coming from the right directions. No Ceiling Film Production Limited in Hong Kong was looking for a Filipina, preferably with acting experiences, to play a Domestic Helper (DH) in the independent film “Still Human” to be directed by Chan Oliver Siu Kuen, a Chinese filmmaker.

Crisel Consunji

“They just sent me the call slip through Facebook to report to the production office for casting a call right away,” recalled Crisel a music educator based in Hong Kong.

When the director, a lady with a manly name, saw Crisel in person, she was initially impressed by the exotic features of the woman who would easily pass for the DH role.

“They gave me lines and dialogues from the script to throw,” recounted Crisel in our exclusive interview with her a day after the film was shown at the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Crisel Consunji

Right there and then, Consunji bagged the role. It was if served to her on a silver platter. And life on another plane was never the same again for her. Aside from being in the limelight, she is conquering every continent where the film is shown.

Although Crisel had theater stints in the Philippines more than a decade ago, it was her first time to act in a film. When she was still in the Philippines, she was part of Repertory Philippines’ “Into the Woods” and “Fame” and Trumpets’ “Beauty and the Beast.” “Oh! I miss acting onstage. If an opportunity comes along again with the right project, I would easily grab it,” she quipped. In her elementary grade at the St. Paul’s in Pasig City, she was an active campus figure in theater. It was also the same student extra-curricular involvement in her high school in the same exclusive school for girls.

Consunji left the Philippines after she got her college degree and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the Ateneo de Manila University. Crisel eventually landed a theater work at the Disney HK. She was a singer and an actress at the multinational entertainment giant hub. During the post-interview and a merienda sena with Crisel I asked her about Noel Rayos, another Filipino talented and versatile stage, film and television actor in the Philippines prior to his singing and acting in the diaspora, Consunji said yes, she acted with Noel in Disney. “He was with me at the screening of ‘Still Human’ in Anonas (district in Project 2 & 3 in Quezon City because the film is also being shown in micro-cinemas across the nation) a while,” she informed. “We are friends,” she added.

After a few years of immersing herself in the Hong Kong mainstream society, Crisel established and co-founded in the former Crown Colony the Baumhaus Family Centres, a music and arts school which fosters a thriving community of parents, children and educators who share her enthusiasm for creative and developmental-appropriate approaches for early childhood development and made good at it.

Crisel Consunji as Evelyn Santos and Anthony Wong as Cheong-wing in "Still Human"

Meanwhile, during the pre-prod of the film, Crisel was informed that she would be paired off with foreign actor Anthony Wong, she said she just nodded. “I said okay,” she chuckled.

Because she didn’t know from Adam Anthony Wong, a famous Chinese actor known for his memorable roles in the box-office hit “Internal Affairs” and “Hard Boiled,” both action capers. It was only when she met up with him on the set that she realized how popular was her leading man. “People in Hong Kong were following him, asking for his photographs and signature. It was only then that I realized he was a big celebrity in Hong Kong,” she recollected.

Anthony Wong as Cheong-wing in "Still Human"

She was even awed by the sweet person in Anthony. “He would give me some acting tips and he was very encouraging. He would guide me,” Crisel smiled.

“This I have to tell you and I guess I shouldn’t but I couldn’t resist telling everyone his generosity and kindness. Mr. Wong did the film for free. It was awesome,” she declared to one and all inside the CCP guest room.

Crisel Consunji as Evelyn Santos and Anthony Wong as Cheong-wing in "Still Human"

“Still Human,” according to the press briefs, is a story of a paralyzed and hopeless man Cheong-wing (Wong) who meets his new Filipino domestic helper Evelyn Santos (Consunji) who has put her dream on hold to come to Hong Kong to earn a living. Living under the same roof, these two strangers develop an unlikely relationship. As they get to learn more about each other, they also rediscover themselves—Cheong-wing begins to reconnect with his estranged son and Evelyn reignites her dream of being a photographer. Together, they help each other through ups and downs, twists and turns, love and loss and experience the different seasons of life. Just when they think they have lost all hopes, little do they know that life still has a lot of things to offer.

Before it was shown in the Philippines last Friday at the Little Theater of CCP, “Still Human” was shown in various international theater circuits and film festivals including The Udine Far East Film Festival where Wong won the Golden Mulberry Award for Outstanding Achievement. At the 38th Hong Kong Film Awards, HK’s equivalent of the Hollywood’s Oscars, Oliver Chan bagged the Best Director plum and Wong took home the Best Actor trophy while Crisel romped away with the Best New Performer award.

Law Kin-wai, Director-General, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Jakarta

“Still Human” got a tremendous film production support from the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Jakarta, Indonesia, under the helm of Law Kin-wai, the org’s Director-General.

According to Law, his organization was and still is quite happy about the turnout of the production. It was a project worth supporting, he said.

No, HKETO didn’t meddle in the creative aspect of the film but allow the artists to explore possibilities for the good of the project. “We don’t control the material. It’s a free enterprise,” said Mr. Law in gist. As long as the project is in line with the goals of the group, there’s no way it would get in the way of the production.

“One this is clear, though, we don’t interfere in the booking and marketing of the film. Someone does it for the production,” he qualified.

The sad thing is that “Still Human” hasn’t found a commercial screening in the Philippines at the moment whereas it has been shown and scheduled to hit the big screens in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and many other places, key cities in the world. “I’m wondering this is a story about Filipinos, about us overseas, about the lives of most Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, their sacrifices and triumphs but still, it doesn’t get a commercial screening here in the Philippines,” Crisel articulated well.

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