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GENSAN PUNCH: A Film On Empowerment and Overcoming Adversity

As humans, we are born with limitations. We aren’t perfect. While this may be true, this does not mean that we should not dream or limit ourselves to what society dictates. GENSAN PUNCH tells the story of Tsuchiyama Naozumi (Nao), a man who was denied a professional boxing license in Japan because of a prosthetic leg. He then went to the Philippines to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. It is in the country where he meets his coach Rudy (played by Ronnie Lazaro).  The story goes beyond achieving a dream in sports and tells the tale of a broken man who yearns to fill in the missing pieces in his life.

Nao is played by Shogen, one of Japan’s rising movie actors, known for his roles in Death Note and Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist. In an interview, he shared that he could relate to being rejected as well, being told by Japanese producers that he didn’t look Japanese enough. Shogen approached multi-awarded film director Brillante Mendoza (Mindanao, Thy Womb) to helm the project.


It all started when Shogen actually approached me in Busan. At that time, I wasn’t really sure about the project because first of all, it’s boxing. I am not a boxing fan. I said I’ll think about it and they met with me again in Tokyo. I was the president of the jury then for the Tokyo International Film Festival and they approached me and that’s where I met Kaho Minami, the actress who played Shogen’s mother. She was also a member of the jury.” shares Director Mendoza.

As it turned out, the stars aligned and Director Mendoza and Shogen worked together to bring Nao’s story to life.

Shogen trained for almost a year and immersed himself with actual professionals in General Santos. As an actor, he shares his fight scenes as some of the most memorable experiences in filming the movie.

“I’ve already done a lot of action films, but this time, our fight scenes were not choreographed. We just improvised a sparring against the real fighters. So, you didn’t know what was gonna happen in the ring. Of course, I had a fear before going up to the stage, but the shouts and applause of the audience — because luckily, we could have a hundred people because it was before the pandemic— and their shouts and applause motivated me and made me high.


You know, as  I said earlier, I had a fear, but uh, but at the same time, that made me high. And I thought that maybe that’s why the boxers want to go up in the ring…because they want to feel that moment.”

Director Mendoza shared admiring Shogen’s commitment and ability to even give more than that, “He became Nao, actually,” he shares.

Regarding Nao’s character, Director Mendoza described Nao as someone very ambitious, someone who wanted to prove himself as a professional boxer:

From the very start, I already empowered the character, I already empowered Nao’s Character, who is disabled. So, giving empowerment to Nao is not an issue anymore here. He is already empowered. That’s one point about the film that makes it different from other films that tackle a person with disabilities, He is already empowered,” he explains.

He continues, explaining that aside from empowerment, the film touches on acceptance and thankfulness:


“There are things around us but we don’t acknowledge that—that we are gifted, that we are many things to be thankful for. Just being alive is something to be thankful for. In the film, in the end, he was able to acknowledge and accept that, and I think that’s what makes it different from other sports genres or boxing genre.”

Catch GENSAN PUNCH exclusively on HBO GO from December 6, 2021. The streaming service boasts of a roster of quality entertainment featuring critically acclaimed work including Scenes from a Marriage, Succession, and On the Job. Subscribe to HBO GO via digital subscription vouchers on Lazada and Shopee.

HBO GO is also available on Android TV, Apple TV, LG TV and Samsung Smart TV – and comes with AirPlay and Google Cast functionality.

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