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Edgar Allan Guzman's unexpected win in "Ligo na u, Lapit na me"

PLUS: Cinemalaya snubs screenwriters

There were pleasant surprises in this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival like the victory of Edgar Allan Guzman who won best actor for the debut film of Erick Salud titled "Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me," based on the novel of Eros Atalia and was produced by talent manager Noel Ferrer.

The jury picked Edgar. His Cinemalaya citation reads: Best Performance by an Actor: For a fresh, youthful, intelligently nuanced and unself-conscious portrayal in a comedy, the award for best performance by an actor is given to Edgar Allan Guzman."

Edgar was in the cast of "Astig," an entry in Cinemalaya two years ago which was directed by GB Sampedro. He also appeared in the movie "Magdamag," an entry in the NETPAC category of the Cinemalaya last year.

"Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me" is his first entry in Cinemalaya as a solo star and although his being the lead star of the film (together with Mercedes Cabral) was thumbed down initially by Cinemalaya, Edgar’s victory as a best actor was a vindication.

"I was too stunned to react. Napasabi ako ng sh**," Edgar remarked in our interview a few hours after the awards night on Sunday. "I didn’t expect to win. Masaya na ako na nakasama ang movie namin tapos kumita naman kami kasi pangalawa raw kami sa box-office."

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Edgar said winning in Cinemalaya had the same feeling when he won in the last Mr. Pogi Contest in Eat Bulaga five years ago. He didn't also expect anything and was surprised when his name was called as winner.

"It was God who decided I win in Cinemalaya as best actor. Hinawakan ko ang dibdib ko when I heard my name. Parang nablangko ang isip ko. Pero lahat naman ng umaarte ay gusto manalo ng award that’s why I am so happy that I won kasi di ako nag-expect," he said.

Edgar says his victory is significant because when he grows old, he can look back and say that he was able to achieve something in his acting career. "Pero hindi naman po dito natatapos ito. I have other dreams. I want to be part of a teleserye, a mainstream movie na ipapalabas sa Metro Manila Film Festival saka I want to work with my idols namely Coco Martin, John Lloyd Cruz and Christopher de Leon. Gusto ko silang makasabay sa mga eksena sa pelikula o sa TV show," he said.

He knows his winning puts pressure on him. But Edgar hopes to join Cinemalaya again next year to prove that his winning is no fluke. "I want to do more movies and better my craft as an actor. Sana magkaroon ako ng entry uli next year," he said.

Incidentally, Edgar is set to sign up with Regal Entertainment as its newest contract star. The contract signing is set to happen next week. Regal Entertainment is also handling the theatrical release of "Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me" on the 17th of August.

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This year’s Cinemalaya was not bereft of controversy. The Jury decided not to give an award for best screenplay in the Directors Showcase category and also didn’t give out a Special Jury Prize.

This promptly got a negative reaction from the screenwriters, notably Jerry Gracio who wrote two entries – "Isda" and "Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me."

We had the chance to talk to Jerry and he didn’t hide his disappointment although at first he said he was not angry.

"The jury should have given an award for best screenplay, kahit na hindi sa akin. Basta sana nagbigay. If they gave an award for best supporting actor, which I feel konti rin lang ang pinagpilian, in the same manner that only four movies competed in the directors showcase, they should have also given an award for best screenplay," said Jerry.

"Parang nakakabastos lang sa mga screenwriters. Feeling ko nabastos ang mga screenwriters. Lagi nga nababastos ang mga screenwriters, tapos nabastos pa ng jury tapos sa Cinemalaya pa. I don’t want to say na I should have won because that would be self-serving pero kung hindi ako sana they gave the award to Paul Sta. Ana (screenwriter of Bisperas)," added Jerry.

What hurt most with the snub for the screenwriters, according to Jerry, is that the basis to be accepted as finalist in Cinemalaya is the script. It’s not a ready-made film that you offer as entry but everything starts with the script.

"Dumadaan sa kanila ang script bago piliin kung alin ang finalist tapos biglang hindi nagbigay ng award for best screenplay. Ibig sabihin lahat ng script doon sa Directors Showcase basura? Eh di sana di na rin sila nagbigay ng award for best film. Basta, I felt bad that no award was given for best screenplay," said Jerry.

We also sought comment from Paul Sta. Ana, the writer of "Bisperas" which won the best picture award. We asked him if he wants the jurors to explain why they didn’t give an award for best screenplay. Here’s his text message:

"I don’t wanna ask them na. The damage has been done. No explanation would do. Nainsulto na ang mga writers na ang kalidad ng kanilang scripts ang pinagbabasehan ng desisyon kung alin ang mga pelikulang ipo-produce in the first place. Kung walang scripts, walang Cinemalaya. Pati ang mga batikang directors di mapipili kung pangit ang scripts na sinubmit nila. Konting respeto lang ang hinihingi ng writers from the jury." 

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