Vilma Best Actress at Dhaka Filmfest

FUNFARE UPDATE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos was roused from sleep at 1:30 yesterday morning by the incessant ringing of the phone.

“I thought there was an emergency,” she told Funfare Update during a phone interview yesterday afternoon.

Good news was waiting for her from Joji Alonso, who was at the other end of the line.

“You won, you won!” Joji screamed into the phone.

“Saan, sa ano?” the half-asleep Vilma asked.

“Best Actress…at the Dhaka International Film Festival,” said Joji. “Congrats, congrats!”

Vilma went back to sleep with a big smile on her face.

Vilma’s winning film was Ekstra, her first indie starrer produced by Joji’s Quantum Films (and distributed by Star Cinema) and directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, in which she realized her long-time dream of playing a bit player, a constant presence in Philippine movies often cast as a nameless face in the crowd, paid a measly sum per day, and if quite lucky, may graduate to “supporting” roles.

It’s Vilma’s third international Best Actress award. The first was for Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? at the Brussels International Film Festival and the second for Dekada ’70 at Manila-based CineManila International Film festival (spearheaded by director-producer Tikoy Aguiluz). Both films were directed by Chito Roño and produced by Star Cinema. Ekstra also won the same award for Vilma at last year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and recently at the Gawad Tanglaw.

The 13th DIFF was held at the National Museum Auditorium in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Twenty awards were at stake in different categories, with six awards (including Best Director and Best Actor) going to the Iran entry. No award was given for Best Picture since, according to the jurors as quoted in the Dhaka Tribune story, “no film stood out.” Neither was any Bangladeshi film awarded.

Joji is all praises for Vilma who won for her “fabulous acting.”

“Sobrang cooperative,” said Joji. “She’s a huge star and we didn’t know what to expect. She surprised us with her punctuality and professionalism. When she reported to the set, she was all made up, prepared with her lines, ready to shoot. You could feel the passion in her and her sincerity.”

Because of her duties as Batangas governor, Vilma could shoot only one day per week and wrapped her scenes in 12 calendar days.

“We would start shooting at 7 a.m. and pack up at 7 a.m. the next day,” recalled Vilma. “I enjoyed doing the movie because I love the role. Joji and Jeffrey, and everybody involved in the project, were so nice to me so nakakahiya namang bigyan pa sila ng problema.”

Some people were wondering why Ekstra was not entered in other international film festivals.

“Part of Quantum’s agreement with Star Cinema was for the worldwide distribution immediately after the theatrical release in the Philippines,” explained Joji. “Unfortunately, the festivals came one after another from September to December. By then, the film was disqualified from competing because it had already been shown in North America, Middle East, Australia and other places. It had to back out from the Chicago Filmfest and the Tokyo Filmfest.”

Instead, Jun Lana’s Barber’s Tales was shown in Tokyo and won Best Actress for Eugene Domingo.

Ekstra is now in exhibition at the Black Movie International Film Festival in Geneva, represented by Jeffrey.

“I am happy for Ate Vi,” said Jeffrey in his text message to Funfare Update (it’s his “lifetime” dream to direct Vilma in a movie), “because, first, she deserves it; second, this is one way of paying her back for all the sacrifices she has done  while doing the film…hard work, 24-hour shooting sked, token TF (Talent Fee), abonado pa nga siya. Yes, she finished the movie in 12 shooting days within two months, a record for her. She accommodated our shooting sked despite her heavey workload as governor of Batangas, not giving the production any headaches despite her status and stature. She was never late for work. I’m glad she’s reaping all these awards para sulit naman ang kanyang pag-take ng risk na gumawa ng indie film at para umilit uli siya. Congrats and thanks to you, my star!”

The Dhaka Filmfest, with the slogan “Better Film, Better Audience, Better Society,” was organized by Rainbow Fil,m Society, “dedicated to the promotion of a healthy cine culture in Bangladesh and also to celebrate global cinema.” This year’s event featured 150 films from around 50 countries.











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