As the 10th year of the prestigious Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival goes on into the new week, The Manila Times continues to run features on must-see entries and interesting tidbits on the films’ stars, which together bring indie movies closer to the Filipino masses.
Aiko Melendez in ‘Asintado’
Aiko Melendez returns to the big screen and makes her Cinemalaya debut this year in Asintado—a film about a mother forced to make one of the biggest and most difficult decisions of her life for the sake of her child.
Directed by Louie Ignacio, Asintado (Between the Eyes) is competing in Cinemalaya’s Directors’ Showcase. Produced by Ferdinand Lapuz and Dennis Evangelista, with a story and screenplay by Soccorro Villanueva, it also Gabby Eigenmann, Miggs Cuaderno, Rochelle Pangilinan, Jake Vargas, Benjie Felipe, Madz Nicholas, Maita Ejercito and Jak Roberto.
Set against the backdrop of the Taong Putik festival of the farming community of Bibiclat, Nueva Ecija, Asintado is about a mother of two boys. When Julia’s (Aiko) son (Jake Vargas) gets involved with a drug ring and botches a job, he brings down on himself and their town the wrath of drug ring boss Carias (Gabby Eigenmann).
To escape Carias’s wrath, Julia is forced to turn to her autistic younger son (Miggs Cuaderno) who has an unimaginable talent as a skilled marksman. He can shoot right between the eyes, hence the title of the film. The question is, should Julia risk her younger son’s safety and life to save the other?
Asintado is Aiko’s first movie in five years, as well as her very first indie. According to her, the script was the main reason why she accepted it, plus the fact that she was handpicked by Direk Louie for the role of Julia.
Both as a mother and as an actress, Aiko found the story extremely compelling so far as the moral dilemma it presents to viewers. “Yung moral issue here is bakit in-allow ni Julia na turuan ang isang anak niya ng isang crime, pero lalabas din dito yung love of a mother for her children. So the argument will start paglabas sa sinehan na you’re thinking, would you be on Julia’s side or sa isang side. It will make you think.”
The message of the film, she continued, “is that the love of a mother is unconditional. Ang ina, magagawa ang mga bagay na di pa nya nagagawa para sa mga anak nya. Kahit ang mga bagay na ayaw nyang gawin basta para sa mga anak nya gagawin nya lahat lahat.”
Aiko turns in a brilliant performance as Julia, and already, is being talked about as a contender for Cinemalaya Best Actress honors alongside Nora Aunor.
At a pocket press conference on Thursday, she admitted that to be part of a Cinemalaya entry and pitted against the Superstar for an award at the same time brings her extreme pressure.
“Hanggang dito!” she exclaimed, bringing up her hand to her head. “Sabi kasi nila, yung entries lang namin ni Ate Guy ang may strong female leads kaya napag-uusapan yung award. But just to be in the same category as her is such an honor. Siya nalang ang hindi ko nakakasama sa pelikula sa mga big stars sa showbiz kaya dream ko pa rin na mangyari yon.”
But whether Aiko wins or not is immaterial. What is important for her is that she gave the role her all.
“When I accepted Asintado, I knew it was a big responsibility because I’m playing lead again and that comes with a big responsibility. I needed to really study my lines and was open to almost all suggestions just to make a particular scene perfect. So whether I win or not, OK lang. An award is just a bonus and an affirmation of one’s hard work. At ayokong mag-expect,” she concluded.
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Dennis Trillo in ‘The Janitor’
In the morning of July 21, 2011, 10 bank employees were found dead inside Mabuhay Savings Bank in San Pedro, Laguna. Considered to be the bloodiest heist in the country, people shouted justice for the victims forcing the authorities to step-up on the case. They turn to Crisanto Espina, a cop who was suspended from the force and seeks to redeem himself, to secretly hunt down the suspects. He is focused to complete the mission assigned to him by his superiors. But as he pursues each suspect, Crisanto discovers the corruption hidden within the system that he once believed in.
This is the story of The Janitor, an entry in Cinemalaya’s Director’s Showcase category by Michael Tuviera. Written by Aloy Adlawan the film is produced by APT Entertainment, and will have its gala tomorrow, August 4 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Theater.
Playing the role of Crisanto Espina is award-winning actor, Dennis Trillo. To prepare for this very challenging role, Dennis underwent MMA training weeks before the shoot. He also interviewed actual modern day hit men to help him understand his character better.
He related, “The assassins were just normal people; you wouldn’t have known that they kill for a living. It was chilling meeting people like them, but I realized they were just as human as myself.”
Joining him in this movie are a star-studded cast led by Richard Gomez as Rudy, Crisanto’s boss and mentor; LJ Reyes as Melba, the loving wife of Crisanto; and Derek Ramsay, as SPO3 Dindo Marasigan, one of the suspects that Crisanto needs to hunt down. Providing remarkable acting support to the film are Irma Adlawan, Alex Medina, Nico Manalo, Gerald Napoles, Raymond Bagatsing, Dante Rivero and Ricky Davao.