In this upcoming int’l film, Cebuano culture gets seen thanks to Chai Fonacier

If her exceptional performance in “Patay na si Hesus” is any indication, it’s that Chai Fonacier is now primed to make waves in the international movie scene.

READ: How Netflix gave “Patay Na Si Hesus” a second chance at life

As first broken by VarietyChai Fonacier gets her biggest break yet as she takes on the lead role in the upcoming psychological thriller film, “Nocebo.” The Cebuana actress-musician will act alongside Hollywood stars Mark Strong and Eva Green.


The film is set between London and Manila and follows Green as a fashion designer afflicted by an unknown illness. Strong, who plays her husband, runs out of options, and this cues Fonacier’s character. Her role is a Filipino caregiver who resorts to folk medicine and occult practices to heal Green, but such methods always come at a terrible price.

The term “nocebo” is the opposite of placebo and refers to any negative effect resulting from negative expectations of treatment.

Directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Vivarium; Foxes), it’s also the first film to be co-produced by the Philippines and Ireland through Manila-based producers Bianca Balbuena and Bradley Liew. The movie is currently under production in Ireland, with Fonacier having left the country last February to join the film’s crew in Dublin.

According to an e-mail interview with Philippine Star, Fonacier shared that the project first seemed “interesting” to her, as most of her previous works saw her act in comedic roles. 

“It’s also my first time to be part of a psycho-thriller, so this experience is interesting, especially that most of the projects I’ve done have been comedies, and for those that aren’t, my characters have been that of comic relief,” Fonacier bared.

As for her companions on set, she said that she had a hard time keeping her excitement to herself, and that she found it “enriching and a joy” to see them execute their craft in front of her very eyes.

“I’ve yet to film scenes with Mark, but rehearsing with them has made me even more excited to see how they would do the scenes during filming,” she said.

“As for Eva, she’s absolutely divine to work with. They both have such great energy that I enjoy playing off of, and I only hope I’m giving that same energy back. Because they’re so good at what they do, it’s been great to take on the challenge of rising to their level,” she added.

Ultimately, Fonacier’s pride stems from the potential to highlight Cebuano culture. “I was excited to see the culture I come from featured in this film. 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 onboard some great local writers to flesh out the local scenes,” Fonacier shared.

Chai Fonacier starred in the hit Pinoy film 'Patay Na Si Hesus'.
(Image: T-Rex Entertainment Productions)

Fonacier has earned plenty of nods for her work in various independent films. She won a Best Supporting Actress praise for her part in 2015’s Miss Bulalacao during that year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival, and a Luna Award for her portrayal of Jude in 2017’s hit dark comedy film, Patay na si Hesus. She has also received a handful of Best Supporting Actress nominations from FAMAS, Gawad Urian, and Cinema One for her role in 2018’s Asuang and Respeto.

Golden Globe-nominated Green first broke into mainstream movies as a Bond girl in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale and more recently as the titular role in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Strong also has a handful of awards under his belt, most of which came by way of his performance in 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2014’s The Imitation Game, and 2016’s drama play A View from the Bridge, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor. His most notable roles in recent years include Merlin in the Kingsman franchise and Dr. Thaddeus Sivana in the 2019 DCEU superhero movie Shazam!.

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