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From the Philippines to the World: How Filipino Actors Shine on the Global Stage

By Christine Marie Lim Magpile, LPT

As National Arts Month is observed in the Philippines this February, it is timely to recognize Filipino actors making waves internationally. Aside from Filipino performing artists getting global recognition as talented singers like Lea Salonga, who rendered the singing voice of Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin and Mulan, and Filipino-American musician and rapper of Black-Eyed Peas, Filipino actors are also increasingly gracing Hollywood screens. 

Filipino actors deserve a chance on the global film scene because aside from remarkable talent, Filipinos are known for their hard work, which illuminates Asian representation in cinema. In this article, we look at some notable Filipino stars - veteran and new ones alike.

Veterans Take the Lead

John Arcilla: The First Southeast Asian to Win the Volpi Cup

John Arcilla made history as the first Southeast Asian to win the Volpi Cup for Best Actor in the 78th Venice International Film Festival. He played the journalist Narciso “Sisoy” Salas in Erik Matti’s On the Job: The Missing 8, a crime thriller that exposes the corruption and violence in the Philippine media and politics. Arcilla’s performance was praised by critics and audiences alike for his powerful portrayal of a conflicted character who struggles with his conscience and loyalty.  Before this, Arcilla received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2013 British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) for Sean Ellis’s Metro Manila, a film about a poor family who moves to the city and gets involved in a dangerous scheme. Arcilla also had a minor role in the Bourne Legacy (2012), the fourth installment of the Bourne franchise that was partly filmed in the Philippines.Dolly de Leon: A Golden Globe and BAFTA Nominee

Dolly de Leon: A Golden Globe and BAFTA Nominee

Dolly de Leon is another Filipino actor who received international recognition for her role as Abigail, the toilet cleaner on a cruise ship and became the survivors’ leader because of her survival skills in The Triangle of Sadness (2022). Directed by Ruben Ruben Östlund, the film is a satire on the fashion industry and social class. De Leon received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 80th Golden Globes and 2023 BAFTA for her performance, which was described as “hilarious and heartbreaking” by critics.

De Leon has another international project in Season 2 of Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu Series), based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. She plays one of the guests at a wellness resort run by a mysterious woman, played by Nicole Kidman.

Ruby Ruiz: From Philippine Stage to Amazon Prime

Ruby Ruiz also joins Nicole Kidman, this time in Amazon Prime series, Expats, where she plays a nanny-maid in Hong Kong. The series is based on Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel that follows the lives of three American women who move to the city for different reasons.

Ruby Ruiz won Best Actress at the 2020 Harlem International Film Festival in New York for Theodore Boborol's Iska (2019). In this film, Ruiz plays an indigent grandmother who loves her grandchild with autism.

Soliman Cruz: Local Screen to International Scene    

Soliman Cruz had a crucial role as a seafarer who discovered a stowaway in a cargo ship in the Romanian Film, To the North. Mihai Mincan’s film is a social drama that explores the themes of migration, identity, and human rights.

In 2023, Soliman Cruz received an Annual Achievement Award from the Film Development Council of the Philippines for his breakthrough performance in the film To the North, which won the Premio Bisato D'0ro at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival. The FDCP grants the Annual Achievement Award in recognition of Filipinos who made invaluable contributions to the Philippine film industry.

The Younger Generation of Filipino Actors: Rising Stars Make Their Mark Globally

The future is bright for the younger generation too. Kris Aquino, the daughter of former President Corazon C. Aquino, appeared in Crazy Rich Asians (2018), the blockbuster adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel. Kris Aquino played the role of Princess Intan, a Malay royal who attends the wedding of the century.

Meanwhile, Filipino-American Jo-Koy, a stand-up comedian, recently hosted the Golden Globe Awards. He is known for his jokes about his Filipino heritage and culture, and his Netflix specials, such as Comin’ In Hot and In His Elements.

Filipino-American Liza Soberano steps into Hollywood with Lisa Frankenstein, 1980s-set teen romantic horror comedy where Lisa (Kathryn Newton) reanimates a Victorian-era corpse following Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Soberano plays as Taffy, an outgoing yet kind-hearted stepsister of Lisa.

Chai Fonacier shares the screen with Eva Green in Nocebo (2022), a psychological thriller that explores the power of the mind over the body. She plays the role of Diana, a Filipino caregiver who uses traditional healing methods to help Christine (Green), who suffers from a mysterious illness.

A Celebration of Talent and Dedication

Filipino actors are leaving an indelible mark on the international film industry, showcasing their extraordinary talent and versatility. These talented individuals deserve recognition on the global film scene because of their remarkable talent and unwavering dedication.

They are breaking barriers, defying stereotypes, and enriching the global film landscape with their artistry. Their success is not just a win for Filipinos, but a victory for diverse representation and compelling storytelling. 


About the Writer

Christine Marie Lim Magpile is a Filipino writer and was a fellow at the 2023 DLSU Young Screenwriters Workshop, 2019 Kritika La Salle National Workshop on Art and Cultural Criticism, 2018 Angono Summer Writers Workshop, 2008 UST National Writers Workshop, and 2007 LIRA Poetry Workshop. She won Third Place for Tanaga and Third Place for the Essay of the Year from the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. Magpile was a finalist for the Word of the Year (2010, 2014, and 2016).


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