Manila’s street children, derisively called batang hamog or “children of the haze,” are an inescapable part of the city landscape. It is that same landscape that Ralston Jover takes a camera to in Hamog, a film that finds humanity in the hazy smoke and smog. Part of that clarity of Hamog comes from 16-year-old actress Therese “Teri” Malvar. She’s relatively new to acting, having made her debut only three years ago in Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita (Anita’s Last Cha-Cha), but if her work in Hamog is any indication, we’re bound to see decades of excellent performances from Malvar. She’s already won Best Actress at this year’s Moscow International Film Festival, and she’ll be awarded the Screen International Rising Star Award at the New York Asian Film Festival. I spoke with her on the night of the film’s premiere at NYAFF, and I can honestly say every minute was a delight.
What appealed to you about the role of Jinky? What makes her a strong character?
I love Jinky! She’s so different from who I really am, and that’s what I love about her. She doesn’t feel like she’s a victim of the government or the society, even though people see street children as victims, cause they don’t have a home or money or anything. She’s so confident, and she doesn’t really care about what people think. That makes her strong.
What were the most fulfilling scenes in the film for you to perform? What were the most challenging, and how did you work your way through them?
I like the scene where I [stick a] fork [into] the evil brother dude. That wasn’t part of the plan. The director told me to hit him, but I made tusok (poked him). That was my favourite [scene]. And also the final scene. It was a very, very long take and intense take, cause everyone was silent and everyone was staring at me while I was doing it. And I had goosebumps the entire time. And in the end where I was stealing the phones. That part we didn’t really plan it that much, [the part] when I go back. Cause all Direk [Ralston Jover] said was “go back and get your bag, but can you try to steal one of their items?” I took all of their phones.
You’ve done mostly indie films so far in your career—how do you choose which projects you’d like to work on?
First the director says what the part is and why they want me to take the role. I like indie films, because they raise up issues that aren’t really talked about in the Philippines. Some indie films are culture shock for people, because they’re not used to those issues.
Did you meet street kids in the process of filming or before filming?
Yes, Direk told us we should meet street children, because they’re so different from what we think. They’re kind! And it was interesting, because they were so strong. We talked to them, and we got inspiration for our roles from them.
Were there any particularly interesting stories from the set that you can share with us? Were you close to your co-stars? Did you play pranks on each other?
My co-actors, the four of us, we became very close on set. It was nice, because behind the camera, we were kids. We played a lot and had fun behind the camera, but when we were filming, we were serious.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
I hope they would understand these kids and not be confused. And I hope they love the film and see the film that Direk wants to bring to their minds. And I hope they would be connected while watching the film, that they will be attached to the characters.
Are there any films you’re interesting in seeing at the festival?
Hopefully, I want to watch all of the films. I want to be able to watch Apocalypse Child.
Who would you like to work with in the future? Any dream projects?
I would like to work with veteran actors and actresses, like Nora Aunor or Vilma Santos or Jaclyn Jose.
I saw that you’re a Henry Cavill fan. Would you want to work with him?
[Laughs] If I got to work with Henry Cavill, I would want to work with him forever.
I also saw that you love Harry Potter! Are you excited about the new film?
I am! I really want to watch it. And I want to see Cursed Child too.
Who’s your favourite Harry Potter character?
Luna Lovegood. I really love her. She’s so fun and smart.