Chai Fonacier in quarantine in Dublin, Ireland, prior to shooting a movie with Eva Green and Mark Strong. Photo courtesy of Bianca Balbuena Liew

 ‘Nocebo’ is a Philippine-Ireland co-production

Award-winning Filipina actor Chai Fonacier is now in Ireland shooting with French actor Eva Green in director Lorcan Finnegan’s psychological thriller “Nocebo”. 

The project, which will also star another Hollywood A-lister in Mark Strong, marks the first co-production between Ireland and the Philippines. 

The film is about a fashion designer (Green) with a mysterious illness who meets a Filipino caregiver who uses folk healing on her. 

Philippines co-producer Bianca Balbuena-Liew told ABS-CBN News Saturday that several local actresses auditioned for the role but Fonacier was the “perfect fit”. 

Fonacier is best remembered for her award-winning performances in “Miss Bulalacao” and “Patay na si Hesus”. 

“So yeah, a Cebuana actress is the co-lead of Eva Green and Mark Strong in this film involving Filipino occultism,” Balbuena proudly said of her bisdak. 

“First five shooting days are done already. Chai and Eva have started shooting. Mark Strong just arrived.” 

Balbuena used “buckets of tears” as a metaphor in her team’s struggle to complete the requirements for the “Nocebo” shoot. 

“The whole visa and foreign employment processing was very exhausting and took a long time and that’s the only thing we want to somehow point out,” she said. 

“Because we’re encouraging a lot of foreign shoots to come to the Philippines but the whole red tape process makes it so difficult. I hope we are all working towards the same goal.”

Balbuena also acknowledged the support of the Film Philippines and Film Development Council of the Philippines, as well as Screen Ireland, XYZ Film Sales and Universal Pictures UK. 

“Nocebo” germinated in 2019 at the project market of the Macao International Film Festival & Awards where Balbuena and Epicmedia presented their own film project in development. 

“We met the Irish director Lorcan Finnegan and producer Brunella Cocchigglia who were pitching ‘Nocebo’ and it involved a backstory in Cebu and a Filipino co-lead female character. We got involved early and helped in the script and financing, although the director had visited Cebu for research already,” Balbuena recalled.

Also on board in the “Nocebo” cast is Filipino actor Anthony Falcon, who will portray the husband of Fonacier’s character. Falcon won the Young Critics Circle award for Best Performance in 2018 for his portrayal of a transwoman in “Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko”. 

Balbuena also disclosed that “Nocebo” script writer Garret Shanley and Finnegan had script and additional scene consultations with Filipino writer-directors Ara Chawdhury (“Miss Bulalacao), Rae Red (2020 Gawad Urian best director for “Babae at Baril) and emerging horror director Eve Baswel (“Tia Madre”). 

Filipino production designer Ben Padero, and art director Kitch Napigkit were also involved in pre-production on how to use the occult props with Fonacier. 

The Philippine production leg is targeted to be shot in April. 

In its write-up this week, the Hollywood trade publication Variety cited the film’s themes that “explore consumerism, human exploitation and the fast fashion industry, as well as the brain’s power in deciding whether to harm or cure the physical body. 

Nocebo is the antonym of placebo, and refers to the effect in which negative thinking on the part of a patient results in a more negative outcome. 

Related video: