JJ: From Sana to Ekstra

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

In 1999, we recall watching a film that touched us as nothing had at the time. Titled Sana Pag-ibig Na (Enter Love), it was the first directorial assignment of Jeffrey Jeturian. The movie tells of the youngest son of his father who had just died. His mother discovers that her husband has a mistress before his death and the son goes off to confront the woman and finds himself falling in love with her. Starring Nida Blanca, Gerald Madrid and Angel Aquino, the story appears simple but “as the carefully crafted and psychologically nuanced screenplay by William Lao unfolds the narrative, it turns out to be a complex love story as has seldom been told by Filipino filmmakers” wrote National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera. 

Pila-Balde (Fetch A Pail of Water) in 2000 was another film from Jeturian starring Ana Capri, Marcus Madrigal and Harold Pineda. A socio-realist look into the plight of slum dwellers in Manila, it follows Gina, a poor, honest girl selling banana slices to support the family. She lives with her grandmother, younger brother and sister. Her father is in jail, and Gina acts as surrogate mother to her siblings. Water Boy Nonoy is in love with Gina, but she desires her classmate Jimboy, son of the rich Mrs. Alano and a handsome flirt.

It was an auspicious beginning for Jeturian who had worked his way up in film production as PA (Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Alyas Baby Tsina), script continuity, art director, production designer, to assistant director over a 15-year period. Sana Pag-ibig Na bombed at the box-office but reaped acclaim from the local critics.

Pila Balde was both a critical and commercial success, winning the NETPAC Jury Prize at the first CineManila International Film Festival in 1999, and a Gold Award at the 2000 Worldfest International Film Festival in Houston, Texas.

Following were Tuhog, Bridal Shower, Minsan Pa and Kubrador where Jeturian was once again thrust into the public eye. The movie, so far, has won international prizes: 2006 FIPRESCI Prize; 2006 Moscow International Film Festival Best Picture; Best Actress (Gina Pareño) and FIPRESCI Prize; eighth Osian-Cinefan International Film Festival (New Delhi, India). The movie has been accepted by a total of 16 international film festivals.

Jeturian’s works are similar to the genre Brocka is most known for. He may not yet be Brocka, but he is on his way there. Kubrador (The Bet Collector) in 2006, features Gina as Amy, a bet collector for illegal numbers game that had caused the overthrow of a president and is always linked to Philippine politics. Because of this, Kubrador could be misread as having political motivations, but outside the opening establishing scene, the film is clearly humanist. Jeturian ends with Amy’s realization that she is traversing a dangerous road which could mean her life. But there are other more important issues for Amy which is why the bitin (hanging) end is left to the viewer.

Reviewer Oggs feels that rather than opt to change, “Amy will shrug off and merely continue her pathetic existence as the bottom dweller, a mere bet collector who earns P52 ($1) per day. Kubrador is not a film of sudden miracles and instantaneous changes, but of grim realism.”

After several years of absence from the cinematic arena, Jeturian made a surprise reappearance at Cinemalaya 2013, competing in the Directors Showcase of veteran directors with the socio-realistic drama-comedy Ekstra (The Bit Player). The film attracted much attention for having convinced the star actress and governor of Batangas province to accept the role of one of the most exploited members in the film entertainment sector. Vilma won Best Actress for her role as Loida Malabanan, and the film clinched several major awards. Ekstra will also have its international premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival from Sept. 5 to 15, under the Contemporary World Cinema section.

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