While everyone is talking about the latest Star Wars installment, The Rise of Skywalker, we still can’t get over the charm of the Filipino-made ad to promote it. (But also, full disclosure: we haven’t seen the movie!) The online advertisement is currently making the rounds of social media feeds.
Two young boys — maybe 6 years of age or 7 — roam around their suburban neighborhood searching for random everyday objects: cellphones, scotch tape, glue, a couch, scrap metal, a worn-out tire, water gun. They are to build what looks like an X-wing starfighter, a fictional spacecraft from the science fiction saga Star Wars.
The two “inventors” knock on doors, explore an empty railway, cross rivers, and ask help from adults—whose faces are left outside the camera’s frame. Finally, when their “invention” is built and complete, a girl visitor arrives at their door. They invite her in and ask her to sit on the couch—which has now become the makeshift cockpit of their plane.
The couch is in front of a big television set, which immediately begins to show the parts of the upcoming movie, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, also known as Star Wars: Episode IX. As the film plays, it is revealed that their invention is a DIY version of a 4DX theater experience: the couch jolts, a toy gun releases water, cellphones ring to create sounds, another contraption blows air, and balloons explode to throw out confetti. When the show ends, one of the boys asks the girl, using sign language, “Did you like it?” The girl, it is finally revealed, is deaf-mute, and is very happy about her friends’ extraordinary present.
The advertisement, produced by telecommunications company Globe, was directed by Lyle Sacris. It runs for a little more than two minutes.
“The idea behind it is that Star Wars is a story of a bunch of strangers coming together to form a family,” Sacris tells ANCX. “It’s one of the underlying things. This is a reinterpretation of that. They are not brothers and sisters. But they wanted the girl to experience the movies just as they would. It is bonding together for a common good—with help of the community.”
A huge Star Wars fan himself, Sacris was tapped by Wunderman Thompson digital marketing agency to put together a story that promotes the latest Star Wars movie, and at the same time focus on inclusivity. In Globe’s website, where the advertisement is embedded, there is an option for visitors to donate to Virtualahan, a virtual school for persons with disabilities (PWD).
Sacris—who had worked as a cinematographer for several movies, such as Transit (2013) and Yanggaw (2008)—took inspiration from classic films and characters to execute his narrative style. The installation, for instance, recalls the ones made by the children in The Little Rascals (1994). He also made sure the story was told in the point of view of the children—thus, the faces of the adults were not included in the film—very much like the narrative style of in the comic books Charlie Brown or the animated television series The Powerpuff Girls.
“Kids these days use a lot of screen-based gadgets, like iPads, iPhones,” Sacris explains. “I tried to bring that idea na kinalakihan ko: building things. The execution was retro. Baka lang merong makapanood na bata ngayon na ma-encourage na maglaro nang gano’n, instead of just relying on iPads.”
It was then pertinent to his team to get good actors. The two boys have already appeared on television before. The girl, whose real name is Alexa, is a student at the Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD), Pasay City. “She actually really delivered,” offers Sacris. “Very emotive ’yong mukha niya. Ang dali niyang makakuha ng instructions.” A teacher from PSD was also there to assist the production team.
Sacris also wanted to make sure that everything looked realistic. The chair project, for instance, functions almost the same way in real life as it does in the commercial. “It had to be believable, in a way that kids could actually assemble that in real life—with the help of adults,” Sacris says. “If you actually are on the chair, kayang mag-operate no’n, and kayang gumana no’n.”
The video has already earned more than 13 million views on Youtube, and it gained praises from no less than Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the last few Star Wars movies, herself. At a media roundtable in Tokyo this month — to promote Episode IX — Kennedy, also Lucasfilm president, was quoted by Rappler as saying, “It’s just so touching and to me, that’s the perfect example where somebody took an interpretation of something that meant something to them and then made this incredible emotional statement that only could have come from the point of view of the filmmaker.”
Sacris and the team who put the ad together were very pleased with the compliment from Kennedy, producer of the last five Star Wars films. “Very flattered kami and very surprised as well na nag-react siya,” says the director. The project was approved by Disney, the studio company that owns the Star Wars franchise
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now showing.