Chai Fonacier literally levitates and tries to heal Eva Green in psychological horror Nocebo.
Over the past couple of years, Filipinos have been making a name for themselves in international movies. And another Filipino talent is set to do just that in the world stage of cinema. Cebuano actress Chai Fonacier stars alongside Bond girl Eva Green and BAFTA-nominated Mark Strong in the new hair-raising trailer of Lorcan Finnegan’s psychological thriller, Nocebo.
THE NOCEBO EFFECT
Set between London and Manila, Nocebo follows the story of a fashion designer (Green) suffering from a mysterious illness that confuses her doctors and frustrates her husband (Strong). She hires a Filipino caregiver (Fonacier) who then helps her through traditional Filipino folk healing but in the process also reveals a horrifying truth. Filipino readers might recall the local albularyos or faith healers and barang which is a form of sorcery or witchcraft.
The film’s title is the opposite of placebo and refers to the ‘Nocebo Effect,’ which entails that a patient’s negative thinking can lead to a more negative outcome. This is felt in the trailer as Green’s character descends into madness which has seemingly been caused by the folk remedies. “If her problems are in her head, I will find them and chase them out,” said ominously by Fonacier’s character.
It is also reported that Nocebo will tackle the themes of “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.”
A SPECIAL COLLABORATION
Nocebo marks Fonacier’s first foray into international roles. She recently starred in local projects like Born Beautiful, Pauwi Na, Write About Love, and Patay na si Hesus, where she won the Luna Award for Best Supporting Actress. “I was excited to see the culture I come from featured here. It’s not all the time one gets to speak in Cebuano in an international film. I appreciate the amount of research they’ve done for this script, and they have on board some great local writers to flesh out the local scenes,” the proud bisdak said in an interview with NYLON Manila.
In an Instagram post, Fonacier also expressed her gratitude towards Green. “She is among the best, kindest, most talented people I have ever worked with,” Chai said, “Thank you, [Eva Green], for gracing us with your presence, your intensity, passion, your art, and the beauty of your being. Grateful to be a witness to this awesomeness.”
This comes a month after Green praised Fonacier’s performance in the film. “Chai is truly a great actress with extraordinary depth and sensitivity and she was an incredible partner – she blew me away!” she said.
Nocebo, which is Finnegan’s third feature film following the suburban horror Vivarium, is also the first co-production effort between the Philippines and Ireland. The project received PHP 6.5 million from the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) incentive program FilmPhilippines. It also received a grant from Screen Ireland and is co-produced by Ireland’s Lovely Productions, Filipino outfit Epicmedia Productions, and UK’s Wild Swim Films.
“I never thought this day would happen — the Philippines as a co-financer of major international projects. The seeds we planted in the last four years are finally bearing fruits for the Filipino film industry. I am just humbled to see this happening as envisioned, for more overseas audiences to witness the artistry of Filipinos,” then FDCP Chairperson Liza Diño remarked.
Nocebo will have its world premiere at Los Angeles’ BeyondFest on October 2 and its European premiere at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia on October 14. Meanwhile, Nocebo’s US theatrical release is slated for November and is followed by a digital release the same month. It will be available on demand on the streaming platform Shudder next year.