Home Economy Netflix-GMA historical drama tackles World War II

Netflix-GMA historical drama tackles World War II

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DONNING 1940s garb for the biggest Filipino historical series this year are Barbie Forteza, Sanya Lopez, David Licauco, and Alden Richards.

In the upcoming Netflix and GMA show Pulang Araw, they play four friends thrust into the chaos of World War II, a time when Filipinos experienced fleeting joys and harsh realities during the Japanese occupation.

The series will premiere first on Netflix on July 26 and later air on GMA starting July 29 at 8 p.m.

Pulang Araw chronicles the lives of Adelina (Forteza), Teresita (Lopez), Hiroshi (Licauco), and Eduardo (Richards), each with different backgrounds and motivations. The story sees them navigate an intricate web of loyalty, betrayal, and sacrifice amid the backdrop of the war.

While the show has been in the works for 12 years, its release now proves timely with war abrewing in parts of the world and conflicts happening on the sea, according to head writer Suzette Doctolero.

“Ngayon siya mas relevant gawin, para makita natin kung bakit ganito ang history ng Pilipinas na lagi nagiging pawn ng mga dambuhalang bansa na naglalaban-laban (It’s relevant now so that we can see through our history why the Philippines is always a pawn of powerful countries),” she said on the sidelines of the July 9 press launch at The Pensinula Manila in Makati City.

Ms. Forteza and Mr. Licauco, who starred in another historical series together before, Maria Clara at Ibarra (2022), once again play a couple whose lives are fraught with tragedy. The former plays the bubbly Filipino vaudeville dancer Adelina dela Cruz and the latter plays reserved Japanese immigrant Hiroshi Tanaka.

“Bilang Adelina, naramdaman ko iyong sakit na hindi mo alam kung makikita mo pa pamilya mo, pero kailangan mo pa mag-perform (As Adelina, I felt the pain of not knowing whether I’d see my family again, but still had to perform,” Ms. Forteza said. “The show must go on; that’s the essence of vaudeville.”

“As Hiroshi, I played a Japanese character with a lot of internal conflicts. There’s a battle between the head and the heart, kung pipiliin ang mahal niya na si Adelina, o ang bansa niya (if he would choose his love, Adelina, or his country),” Mr. Licauco added.

Taking on the role of Adelina’s half-brother is Mr. Richards, whose character Eduardo is the son of a Filipino woman and an American soldier. He later finds himself at the helm of a guerilla movement against the Japanese.

He told the press that his role was a heavy yet necessary one, showing how his character fights, both on the battlefield and in Japanese torture camps.

“The freedoms that we have now are because of the people who went through hell in World War II,” he said, adding that he considers this “one of his most important projects.”

In preparation for their roles as vaudeville dancers, Ms. Lopez explained that she and Ms. Forteza had to work hard at their tapdance lessons to honor the legacy of prewar and wartime Philippine entertainment.

“Natuto kami kumanta, umarte, at sumayaw nang sabay-sabay (We learned to sing, act, and dance all at the same time),” she said. On her character, Teresita, suffers the fate of a comfort woman, she added: “This show sheds light on our resilience as a people. My character represents women power, how to fight not with a weapon, but with the brain and heart.”

Extensive research was important to bring the show to life. By watching Pulang Araw, Filipinos will get to “discover lesser-known aspects of the national identity,” said veteran and multi-awarded screenwriter Ricky Lee, a consultant on the show.

“It’s important for us to be reminded again on who we are as Filipinos, how we are as Filipinos. This show is definitely a way for us to see that,” he told BusinessWorld after the press event.

Ms. Doctolero explained that, ever since GMA’s first historical drama series, the precolonial 1500s-set Amaya (2011) starring Marian Rivera, there has been a steady market for the genre even among less educated Filipinos.

“The core audience of soap operas are the masses. Alam nila na roots nila ang nasa historical drama (They know that historical dramas portray their roots). It’s emotional for them to see family struggles throughout time, and it’s something that captures the soul of the audience,” she said. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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