Before and after the screening of Ma’ Rosa, the Philippines’ official entry to the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France last week, actress Jaclyn Jose (together with the rest of the contingent, filmmaker Brillante Ma. Mendoza and his ensemble Andi Eigenmann, Neil Ryan Sese, Jomari Angeles, Ruby Ruiz and Maria Isabel Lopez) was applauded not only by the few Filipino members of the audience but also the multinationals who swarmed the huge Festival de Palais venue.
Ma’Rosa, which was the 14th selection in the main competition, was indeed one of the most anticipated films in the 12-day event as the venue was filled to the rafters.
Jaclyn was a hit in the photocall, the presscon (albeit on Cannes video the press corps was rather timid), and of course, the red carpet premiere, although it can be noted that Maria Isabel in her resplendent Albert Andrada gown and Andi in her cool baby pink tube were media delights too.
It must have been Jaclyn’s second coming at the French Riviera that caught the fancy of the crowd. All eyes tuned to her when she entered the hall. It was a déjà vu of her maiden appearance in the prestigious world fest during the 2008 screening of Serbis.
Australian filmmaker George Miller, who headed this year’s jury in the main tilt, was seated at the back as if to tell the whole world that he was just an omniscient man in the corner to watch on Jaclyn and company until it was dark all over and the dark Philippine social reality lighted up the screen, the eyes and minds not only of the jurors but ordinary viewers as well.
As the credits rolled up and faded and the lights turned on, there was a deafening applause which according to Mendoza’s publicist Rene Durian lasted about 10 minutes until the director and the cast were already outside the palace screening. It was a testament of the actors led by Jaclyn’s thespic intensity. As Rene said in an interview, a French film distributor had predicted Jaclyn a win in the best actress plum. But for Jane, the actress’ real name, it was already a big win for her to be part of the country’s representation in the once in a lifetime chance of participating in the most credible award body on earth.
In the Palm d’Or Best Actress, Jaclyn was pitted against illustrious international luminaries in the A-list tag as Charlize Theron in Sean Penn’s The Last Face, popular Brazilian actress Sonia Braga in Kleber Mendonca Filhos’ Aquarius, Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, Marion Cotillard in Xavier Dolan’s Juste La Fin Du Monde and Nicole Garcia’s Mal de Pierres, Juliette Binoche in Bruno Dumont’s Ma Loute, and Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper.
Mendoza was teary-eyed, he was infectious as Jaclyn emotionally held his hands almost tightly and half embraced him. Andi was beaming with pride as Maribel documented the dramatic yet triumphant scenes on her cellphone camera.
Behind the stunning presence of the local film artists in this year’s Cannes is a story of austerity and prudence with matching rigorous passion for stamping in anew Philippine cinema in the world map. No one was given free airfare and accommodation and the entire group had to resort to their own resourcefulness and ingenuity.
Hopefully, the government could in time support wholly the logistics requirements of our delegates to international film festivals although it’s a known fact that the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and other agencies have been helping out if only vented on the right track.
We’ve been following the Ma’ Rosa team since the official announcement of their inclusion in the Cannes main derby. The Philippine delegation travelled in piecemeal to France. Brillante, Ruby, Jomari, newbie John Paul Duray and screenwriter Troy Espiritu were the advance party five days before the scheduled gala of their film. Lopez planed in alone where she had to drop by Paris and later proceeded to Provence. The last batch, producer Larry Castillo, mom and daughter Jaclyn and Andi, came to Cannes one day before their project’s premiere night. In the video, it was still daylight during the event. This is so because according to controversial Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel, who has been shuttling from France to London, it’s springtime in Europe and so eight at night has still day effect.
Meanwhile, Mendoza at the press meet said that he is hopeful about the incoming Duterte administration in dealing with arts and culture and especially with social problems such as the drug menace which is the core theme of Ma’ Rosa. “But I am apolitical,” he stressed.
Even in our talk with the director, he emphasized that he just presents social issues and let the characters in his films resolve the cases. “I don’t chart their destinies. They make their own lives. I just mirror them up,” he exclaimed.
It is interesting to note that most of the members of the cast of the film have one way or the other been involved openly in drug issues in real life.
In the past, Maribel, who plays cousin and succor to jail off narcotics dealer Rosa (Jaclyn) during her heyday as sexy actress, was nabbed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the late ‘80s for possession of an excessive quantity of Mogadon. Mark Anthony Fernandez and Baron Geisler who play drug suppliers in the film had been admitted to rehab centers because of drug use. Julio Diaz who portrays Rosa’s husband was always in the headline, named or unnamed, apparently for drug fascination. Even Jaclyn got in an alcohol imbroglio. Of course, they are now renewed men and women.
Was the casting coup incidental or intentional?
Mendoza is quiet about the process and Durian has a vague answer. “Ma’ Rosa is a found story and characters in this type of narrative should at least have such experience,” Rene chuckled.
Would this casting type truly squeeze out the best acting out of experience, it being the best teacher?
In shooting the film, according a daughter of the late cameo performer Rose Arella, everything was extemporaneous with no script at hand but of course, there was a ready completely written script but the actors were just given a situation to act and react to situations.
Andi, who is trained in the big studio acting type, had to adjust to the Mendoza brand of acting, which is raw and unconscious. In the end, Jaclyn had to leave her daughter at the hands of the director to draw more the brilliance in her.