‘Mindanao’ was emotionally draining for Juday

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    JUDY Ann Santos
    JUDY Ann Santos
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    JUDY Ann Santos won best actress for “Mindanao” in the A-lister Cairo International Film Festival so a lot of people are now saying she will also win best actress in the Metro Manila Film Festival where her film is an official entry.

    “Naku, hindi ko iniisip ‘yun. Every actress has a fair chance, but ‘Mindanao’ is special as it’s my first film with internationally acclaimed director, Brillante Mendoza, at doon pa lang, proud na ako,” she said.

    “Physically and emotionally draining ang role ko as Saima Datupalo. Physically, kasi lagi kong buhat-buhat ‘yung batang anak ko, who’s 7 years old, as she’s afflicted with cancer. We really walked long distances na karga-karga ko siya and thankful ako as I lost 10 pounds while doing the movie.”

    How is it emotionally draining? “Emotionally, mahirap ang pinagdaraan ni Saima as a mother with a terminally sick child, tapos, ‘yung husband niya, sundalong nasa digmaan.

    And then, I’m playing a Muslim character so I have to be sensitive to their beliefs and their culture. I have to study how they dress, how they move, how they talk kasi ayokong magkamali and offend them. I put myself in Saima’s position at parang sasabog ang puso ko. Dala ko ang emotions niya hanggang sa bahay ko.”

    She’s grateful that the MMFF chose their movie as an official entry.

    “Now, I pray naman that viewers would support it. Hindi siya feel-good movie because it tackles serious issues, pati problems sa Mindanao. But they’re something we all need to be aware of for a better understanding of our Muslim brothers. It also shows how our kababayans in the remote areas lack access to cancer treatment. Talagang eye-opener din ang ‘Mindanao’.”

    In 2020, she’s facing more good projects. “I have another challenge, the biopic of Mother Lily who handpicked me to play her, I can’t understand it, but siempre, she was the one who gave me a break in the movies in ‘Sana Naman’ with the ‘Mara Clara’ cast, so I cannot say no to her. I love her and maybe she sees something in me that I don’t. But I trust Direk Erik Matti and I know we’ll have fun doing it. Aside from this, I’m supposed to do another movie with him so 2020 will be really busy for me.”

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    Bianca Umali says 2019 is a very good year for her. She had a hit drama show, “Sahaya,” which got rave reviews and she also got to do several movies. Now, more than anything else, she’s going international, playing the lead role of the Chosen One in HBO Asia’s action-fantasy series, “Half Worlds.”

    Then, just last Thursday, she got her own star in GMA’s Walk of Fame, along with other Kapuso stars, like Yasmien Kurdi and Kris Bernal. “Ang dami talagang magandang nangyari for sa taong ito,” she says. “Naging emotional ako when I found out ako ang napili nila sa HBO Asia. I really wasn’t expecting na ako ang makukuha nila kasi, when I was asked to audition, ni hindi ko pa alam what is it for.”

    “Half Worlds” is about local folklore and she will play the role of Alex, a half-human and half-encanto who will be the instrument in finding a special plant that will heal the encanto from their ailment that makes them hungry for human flesh.

    Bianca has also just renewed her contract with GMA. GMA boss Atty. Gozon says he’s impressed with Bianca’s talent. “Bianca is a homegrown Kapuso. Now she’s getting breaks abroad. Hindi balewala ‘yang HBO. Talagang mahusay pumili ‘yan kaya tayo’y hindi nagkakamali sa ating mga pinipiling artista.”

    Bianca admits she’s now also very happy with Ruru Madrid, although they have yet to officially admit their romance. “He’s very supportive at happy siya sa project kong ito with HBO Asia. ‘Yan naman ang maipagmamalaki ko sa kanya, very supportive. Pareho kami, nagsusuportahan kami sa isa’t isa.”

    ***

    Rep. Alfred Vargas couldn’t believe it when he got a phone call a couple of days ago informing him that he was named one of the 2019 TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) awardees. “Akala ko, may nagre-relay sa’kin ng fake news, but it turned out to be true and my hand was shaking as soon as I put the phone down,” he said.

    He was nominated by the Quezon City Jaycees. “But there were 100 of us nominated, so I wasn’t expecting anything. The number was trimmed down to 60, then 15 and finally just the 10 of us winners were left and it’s an honor to be in their company as they’re the movers and shakers of our nation.”

    In a thanksgiving lunch he hosted for the press after he got the award at Manila Hotel last Friday night, he offered the award to his constituents, to his wife Jasmine and their three children and to his late mom, lawyer Susana Dumlao, who really wanted him to be a lawyer like her.

    The TOYM recognized his efforts in providing affordable houses to those living in depressed communities in Quezon City. “The housing problem is no joke especially in Novaliches, my turf, and in QC where about 60 percent of the popular are informal settlers without their own lands,” he said. “I got three death threats from syndicates because of my efforts to find common grounds in having sustainable solutions as I want everyone’s voice to be heard.”

    But of course, he continues to make his presence felt in showbiz. “We have four recess periods in congress and tuwing may recess, sinasamantala ko to accept acting jobs, which is also a passion,” he revealed. “I’ve now just finished two new films, ‘Kaputol’ with Cherie Gil and Angel Aquino, and ‘Tagpuan’ with Iza Calzado and Shaina Magdayao, both written by Ricky Lee and directed by Mac Alejandre. Abangan nyo kasi ipalalabas na namin sila early next year.”

    ***

    Director Jun Lana is one director who can do both commercial movies and award-winning arthouse films with equal ease and competence. He started as a scriptwriter in such films as “Sa Pusod ng Dagat’, “Jose Rizal,” “Muro Ami” and “Bagong Buwan,” all directed by the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya, then he branched out to directing on TV and the big screen.

    His filmography includes such box office blockbusters like the horror film “Haunted Mansion,” the gay comedies “Die Beautiful,” “Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes” and “The Panti Sisters,” as well as award-winning works as “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan,” “Barber’s Tales” and “Bwakaw.”

    He now wins his first international best director award for the black and white advocacy drama, “Kalel 15,” in the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia. This is a socially relevant drama that is definitely eons away from the flippant movie that “Panti Sisters” is.

    Filmed in the central plains of Luzon with Mt. Arayat looming in the background, “Kalel 15” stars teen actor Elijah Canlas (also good in a supporting role in the recent Cinemalaya entry, “Edward”) in the title role. He is the son of a priest, played by the late Eddie Garcia as Fr. George in one his last film appearances, and Jaclyn Jose as Edith, a carinderia owner.

    The film is about the HIV epidemic and this seems to be fast spreading among the youth in our country. These young people can easily indulge in fast sex with the help of social media where they meet, and have sex without protecting themselves. Statistics show our country now has the largest number of HIV positive people in the Asia-Pacific Region. As the movie says in its ending: “There are countless more who refuse to be tested for fear of stigma and discrimination.”

    “Kalel 15” will be shown in limited release starting Dec. 18.

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