How far can a mother go and fight all odds to protect her children? Alessandra de Rossi tries to answer this question in her new movie, “Watch List.”
Directed by American-Indian filmmaker Ben Rekhi from a screenplay he co-wrote with Rona Lean Sales, “Watch List” tells the story of a woman, portrayed by de Rossi, whose husband is killed and must now take on the role of family breadwinner and protector.
Rekhi declared, “It’s a very human story. At its most basic, it’s about the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children.”
The deeply moving film is the result of the partnership of top-caliber artists from the Philippines and from abroad.
“Watch List” stars an all-Filipino cast composed of de Rossi, Jake Macapagal, Art Acuña, Lou Veloso, Jess Mendoza and Angeli Bayani with Timothy Mabalot and young but promising actor Micko Laurente.
The Hollywood-based director reveals he cast actors not only fit their roles but could also carry the depth of emotion.
“For me, filmmaking is 90-percent casting,” Rekhi divulged.
He was very impressed with everyone and singled out Alessandra, Jake, Art and Micko.
“I was very fortunate. Alessandra’s talent is something I’ve never seen before. Jake, who is very well known in Hollywood for his work in ‘Metro Manila,’ brought a level of intensity that is going to surprise people. Art Acuña is also a force of nature. One of the breakout performances is Micko Laurente who plays Alessandra’s teenage son. I think he’s just going to absolutely break people’s hearts.
“Everyone performed at the top of their game!” Rekhi declared.
Rekhi’s collaborators in the project include executive producer Anjay Nagpal, who served as co-executive producer of “Joker,” international cinematographer Daniella Nowitz, and award-winning Filipino production designer Ericson Navarro.
“Watch List” has made the rounds of many international film festivals, namely the Deauville American Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Bahamas International Film Festival, International Film Festival of India, Nashville Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival. It recently won the Most Disturbing Fiction Film Award at the 2020 Tournai Ramdam Festival in Belgium.
At these screenings, viewers were so affected and roused to tears, Rekhi said. He related a Filipina who watched at the world premiere at the Seattle Film Festival.
“She stood up after the screening and started crying. She said, ‘I grew up in these neighborhoods, and I’ve never seen them portrayed like this before. It’s so real’,” the proud director recalled.
“As an outsider, I worked very, very hard to tell an authentic and truthful story. It is my deepest hope that this story resonates with the Filipinos who were so gracious to us,” Rekhi ended.