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Would Alfred like the idea of playing Bonifacio again?
Says Quezon City (5th District) Rep. Alfred Vargas, ‘Playing the Supremo was a milestone in my acting career’.

Would Alfred like the idea of playing Bonifacio again?

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2021 - 12:00am

Not sure if Reality Entertainment’s Dondon Monteverde and Erik Matti have already negotiated with any of the seven men (among them Mayors Vico Sotto of Pasig and Isko “Yorme” Moreno of Manila) being eyed for the titular role of what they described as the (multi-million) “ultimate Bonifacio film” they are producing for Regal Entertainment.

Some Funfare readers have suggested two more names to the “probables,” Daniel Padilla and Quezon City (5th District) Rep. Alfred Vargas who played Bonifacio in Supremo which he himself produced (under his own company Alternative Vision Cinema) as a nod to the hero’s 149th birth anniversary on Nov. 30, 2012. Directed by Richard Somes, Supremo was shown at the 14th Cinemanila International Film Festival (CIFF).

Alfred as Andres Bonifacio in the 2012 film Supremo

Out of curiosity, I asked Alfred how he liked playing Bonifacio again. He texted back from Caliraya, Laguna, where he was locked in for five days on the set as guest of the GMA soap Legal Wives (with Dennis Trillo, Andrea Torres, Bianca Umali and Alice Dixson), “Doing Supremo was a milestone in my acting career. Playing Bonifacio again would be interesting, especially if the screenplay presents more perspectives from what we have done.”

Dondon and Erik promised to present more intriguing aspects of Bonifacio’s life and that’s something to look forward to.

Supremo covered Bonifacio’s early days as an actor until the forming of the Katipunan, the revolution and his violent death. I was not the first actor to play Bonifacio nor should I be the last.”

According to Alfred, historical biopics are important and should be always welcomed.

“Yes, any window that may open up new avenues for this generation to better understand our present and may help them have a clearer perspective of our future. It will also help ignite a certain degree of patriotism and that should always be encouraged.”

For Alfred, producing movies is a mission and not just a hobby.

“I need to breathe,” he said in an interview. “Producing worthwhile films and acting in some of them is an exercise that keeps me inspired to render good work in public service.” (In 2013, Alfred received a Gintong Palad Award for good governance.).

Speaking of awards, Alfred has just recently got one from the Sixth Chauri Chaura International Film Festival (CCIFF) in Uttar Pradesh, India, for Tagpuan which is about finding one’s roots and home in places one can never call his own. Directed by Mac Alejandre from a screenplay by Ricky Lee, Tagpuan won Third Best Picture in the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) and Best Supporting Actress for Shaina Magdayao. Shot in Manila, Hong Kong and New York, it also stars Iza Calzado.

Alfred with co-stars Iza Calzado and Shaina Magdayao in the poster of Tagpuan which won Best Picture at the just-concluded Chauri Chaura International Film Festival (CCIFF) in India.

“It was direk Mac who messaged me about the award as soon as he received the news from Ferdy Lapuz (an indie producer). I was here in Manila busy with district work as the new chairperson of the Committee on Social Services.” According to its website, CCIFF aims “to showcase the beauty of Gorakhpur and Uttar Pradesh to film industries across the world...and to create awareness of an incident that happened on Feb. 4, 1922, when a large group of political protesters clashed with police who opened fire on them, killing many.”

How does this award differ from his past awards and what does it mean to him?

“I’ve received two Best Actor awards for my films Teoriya and Supremo, Breakthrough Performance by an Actor for Bridal Shower, and three nominations from Gawad Urian for other films. But this one is extra special.

“Last year, our film Kaputol won Best Performance (given to the entire acting ensemble) at the Innuendo International Film Festival (IIFF) in Italy. As an actor, that was a great honor. Winning Best Feature Film for Tagpuan in an international film festival makes me proud not only as an actor but also as a producer. That is the highest award in any competition.

“More than an honor, it is a validation of our film’s message and purpose. It is also a recognition of what AV Cinema, my production company, stands for. We are committed to producing films for Filipinos, about Filipinos, that are highly competitive when placed on a global stage not only because of masterful technical craftsmanship but because our films aim to be truly reflective of the Filipino identity, experience, realities and spirit.”

Moreover, Alfred said that it encouraged him to produce more movies despite the continuing pandemic.

“We are very encouraged. Filmmaking is a passion that needs to be fed. But it is a passion that is restricted by financial resources, among many other things. The pandemic has compounded the restrictions not only in terms of cost but of safety, which is a prime consideration. But the drive to produce is ever present. Sadly, we are far from recovering from our investment. The pandemic has created a new paradigm in terms of film distribution and exhibition. New platforms and avenues are being developed. Hopefully, soon, we can move on to our next film adventure.”

During the presscon for Tagpuan with director Mac Alejandre, Iza, Shaina and scriptwriter Ricky Lee.

What were the hardships and challenges in producing and acting in Tagpuan (especially in New York and Hong Kong)?

“From a logistical perspective, it is always more difficult and expensive to shoot in a foreign land. In the case of Tagpuan, we shot in two other cities (aside from Manila), Hong Kong and New York, very expensive places to work in.

“We shot in Hong Kong at the height of their protest movement. Though we were not directly affected, except in one scene where our location was blocked off due to the protest, we had to reschedule and change locations. That mattered in terms of time and cost.

“Our New York shoot was smooth because we had secured all necessary permits and locations before production in the city commenced. As an actor, for me, the material itself was challenging. The film progresses from the point of view of Allan, the character I play. The emotional and economic deprivation he experienced as a child has compelled him to develop defense mechanisms that had made him cold and inept in relating to people he loves who are expecting a more conventional expression of affection from him.”

Asked what he liked about his character Allan, Alfred described him as a man full of love yet incapable of expressing his love. In the story, he is trapped between a past love (Agnes, played by Iza) and a developing affection for a mysterious woman (Tanya, played by Shaina).

“Allan is very internal. He keeps his confusion and suffering to himself. I have very few scenes with lines. More than Allan’s physical presence, it is Allan’s consciousness that is very alert. All these make portraying Allan challenging. I’m thankful to Ricky Lee who crafted a different and captivating narration of three characters trapped in the complicated journey and adventure of love traversing three countries, told from the point of view of Allan.”

In the Christmas 2020 family picture with wife Yasmine Espiritu-Vargas and their children Alexandra Milan, Aryana Cassandra and Alfredo Cristiano
Photos courtesy of Alfred Vargas

Aside from Bonifacio, any other real-life person he would like to portray?

“Yes, Edgar Jopson, Raja Soliman, Wenceslao Vinzons and many more.” (Aside: Jopson was a labor-rights activist, the son of a grocery owner. He was killed at age 34 during the Martial Law days. On the other hand, Vinzons was a Filipino politician and a leader of the armed resistance against the Japanese occupying forces during World War II and the youngest delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention.)

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

ALFRED VARGAS
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