COMING across stories of kidnapping, child prostitution and organ trafficking while doing research in the Philippines for a new script, writer/director Ron Morales was able to come up with a new story which eventually became his latest film, Graceland.
“The real life experience I encountered in researching this world engendered my desire to assemble a cast of flawed and dualistic characters,” said Morales in a press release. For him, it was important to show how powerful and corrupting forces were enacted equally on everyone who experiences them. “I felt I witnessed a very tangible elision in the boundaries between those characters that one might traditionally associate as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ And Graceland is indeed, a story that shows that line between the ‘have’ and ‘have not,’ the good and bad; as well as their choices, moral or not.
Graceland follows the story of Marlon Villar, chauffeur of Filipino politician Manuel Chango, whose car is ambushed while he drives his and the politician’s daughter home from school one afternoon. In the chaos of the kidnapping attempt, things go horribly awry, ending with Marlon’s daughter being taken and held for ransom instead.
Desperate to save his daughter, Marlon must navigate the conflicting motives between the ruthless kidnappers, his untrustworthy boss and determined detectives eager to name him a suspect. As events progress wildly, Marlon, Chango and their families are forced into a spiraling downturn of deceit and betrayal.
Morales has his fair share of successes as a filmmaker, having worked for more than a decade in the film industry. After receiving a degree in photography from The Parson School of Design, he continued on to New York University and graduated with a BFA in film.
As a filmmaker, Morales seeks to create visually compelling projects that pay homage to his artistic forebears without sacrificing an emphasis on naturalism and a focus on the human narrative. At the age of 29, he directed his award-winning debut feature film Santa Mesa (starring Oscar winner Melissa Leo) and has gone on to create a number of short films, commercials, and promotional and music videos.
Graceland prides itself with a talented cast headed by Arnold Reyes playing the role of Marlon Villar, Menggie Cobarrubias as the politician Manuel Changho, Dido dela Paz as Detective Ramos, Leon Miguel as Visel, Ella Guevara as Elvie Villar, Marife Necisito as Mrs. March Changho and Patricia Ona Gayod as Sophia Changho.
A favorite in international film festivals, Graceland was part of the Tribeca Film Festival (2012) where it received critical acclaim and an audience award, Fantasia 2012, Fantastic Fest 2012 and the recent CAAMFest in San Francisco. The film also won Best Narrative Feature at the San Diego Film Festival.
Last February, Drafthouse Films announced that it has acquired the North American distribution rights to the film. On Thursday, March 28, Graceland will be available on VOD platforms everywhere and will open in select theatres in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas on Friday, April 26.
For more information on Graceland and Drafthouse Films: