Ekstra special

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - One of the more delightful experiences one can hope to enjoy in the Cinemalaya has to be Jeffrey Jeturian’s film about filmmaking, Ekstra, a Quantum Films production. It stars Vilma Santos in one of her rare returns to the big screen, and this is her first venture into the indie film scene. That in itself should mark this as a can’t-miss, but on top of it, we have a film that tugs at heart strings and gives numerous vignettes of enjoyable laughter, via chronicling a day in the life of a film extra here in the Philippines.

What makes the film such a success is the casting coup of having Vilma Santos, one of our true Philippine cinema luminaries, take on the title role of the extra, Loida. Deglamorized to play the role with verisimilitude, Vilma is the centerpiece of a film that realistically shows us the plight of these extras, the people who so often are taken for granted in the industry. It also gives poignant irony when Vilma declaims the lines that critique and poke fun at our star system, and how movies and teleseryes come to life.

With cameos by the likes of Cherie Gil, Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Pilar Pilapil and Tom Rodriguez, there’s so much to relish as the extremely astute screenplay unfolds. Director Marlon Rivera is on hand to play the role of the movie’s teleserye director, so are various stage actors playing the roles of the teleserye’s crew and staff, plus Vilma’s fellow extras. I especially loved the close friend of Loida, who’s there with her as a fellow extra on the teleserye’s shooting day.

Co-writing the screenplay with Jeffrey is Antoinette Jadaone, who wrote the other “cinema verite” gem about film extras and bit players, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. With the two on board, you know there will be so much insider knowledge, anecdotes and vignettes that will evince, knowing laughter and delicious revelations about the working conditions in our film and TV entertainment industry.

There is a rich history both here and abroad of this kind of story — one of my favorites being Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. What’s great about Ekstra is how there is no unreal reversal of fortune. Instead, we get so much humor, while the film ends with poignancy that rings true — how at the end of the day, as Loida ruefully remarks early on in the film, if for years she’s been an extra in crowd scenes, she’s now graduated to be an extra for crowd scenes.

This year, Cinemalaya thankfully extends beyond the CCP, with screenings at Greenbelt 3, Trinoma and Alabang Town Center. I’m not sure about the other two venues, but at Greenbelt, there’s a screening of Ekstra today at 6:30 p.m. On a sidebar note, one of direk Jeffrey’s first exposures to film work was as a production assistant on Baby Tsina, which starred none other than Vilma Santos.


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