marian rivera balota movie

Here’s Why Marian Rivera’s New Movie, Balota, Is More Important Than You Think

Protect the vote fr.

It’s actually a big deal having a superstar like Marian Rivera star in a movie about the realities of elections in this country.

Related: 10 Filipino Movies And Shows That Deserve A Spot On Your 2024 Watchlist

Since its inception, movies have always been used to entertain. But the medium can also be used to educate or raise awareness for social issues. Case in point: Marian Rivera’s newest movie, Balota. Fresh off her return to acting with Rewind, the MMFF 2023 blockbuster that is the highest-grossing Filipino movie ever, Marian is back on the silver screen. This time, she stars in her first-ever Cinemalaya movie, Balota. But more than just an exciting new chapter in Marian’s career, Balota also speaks to a reality faced by many in elections in the country.  


We’ve known for a while that Marian Rivera will star in Balota. And recently, we got our first look at the film with the drop of the teaser trailer. In it, we see the actress, who plays a school teacher named Emmy, looking disheveled as she runs into a forest while holding a yellow ballot box. Balota, which is set to premiere this August at Cinemalaya, puts the focus on elections in the country and the violence that sadly follows it. 

The story centers on a land-grabbing tycoon and a former male sexy actor who are locked in a tight race for mayor of a small town. On election day, the results are extremely close, causing violence to erupt in the town. This causes Emmy, a teacher who serves in the election, to hide in the wilderness with a ballot box that holds the last copy of the election results. Joining Marian Rivera in the cast are stars such as Sassa Gurl and Esnyr Ranollo, with behind-the-scenes pictures showing them participating in protests. The movie, meanwhile, comes from the mind of award-winning director Kip Oebanda, the filmmaker behind Liway and Bar Boys.  


Elections are often a heated time in the Philippines, and sadly, our history has its fair share of stories about election-related violence. In 2023, COMELEC reported that 19 people were killed during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. It’s a reality that elections aren’t always peaceful in the Philippines, and often, it’s teachers who are exposed to these dangers as they are usually assigned to watch over elections in schools around the country. More than 2,500 teachers reportedly refused to serve as poll watchers during the 2023 barangay elections, with many citing shootings, intimidation, and other threats. Teachers sadly bear the brunt of election-related violence and have little in the way of protection. 

Balota isn’t just a movie Filipino cinephiles should have on their radar, but a film highlighting the violence people face during elections, especially in the provinces. It’s a conversation that should happen and one you don’t often see in Philippine media. With Kip Oebanda’s pedigree as a storyteller, with his past movies having poignant messages on issues facing the country, and Marian Rivera’s acting prowess and star power, we might be getting a movie that helps bring the discourse to dirty politics and the need to protect teachers who do so much during elections. 

Balota will screen at the 2024 Cinemalaya Film Festival this August 2 to 11.

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