Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ekstra (Jeffrey Jeturian, Cinemalaya 2013 NETPAC Winner)

When my sisters asked me to buy two passes for Vilma Santos’ first indie film Ekstra, I thought to myself, 'Cinemalaya has made a mark on my siblings.' They are no longer contented to wait for commercial runs of Cinemalaya films. They also know what films to watch on their initial day-long Cinemalaya experience at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Their feedback on Ekstra was positive. They had a blast laughing and one sibling thought it the best of the three feature length films they saw that day, 27 July. The two other films were Instant Mommy (their choice because it’s a Eugene Domingo starrer) and Debosyon, which was my blind recommendation to them. It is worthwhile to note that Ekstra and Instant Mommy were box-office hits, which suggest that most Cinemalaya viewers still prefer films with big names.

The next day, I watched Ekstra (aka The Bit Player) during its star-studded gala premiere. Sure enough, there was boisterous laughter all over the fully-packed Main Theater at CCP. But, how come I barely find anything funny with the film? After much rumination, I recalled producer Joji Alonso’s request to people who dislike the film to be fair. She usually is upbeat and confident with her Cinemalaya films, most of which are award winners and audience favorites. So when Alonso made the unusual plea, I thought it was a red flag.

On the last day of Cinemalaya 2013, I reluctantly gave the box-office champ Ekstra a second chance. I’m glad I did because it was a much better film experience for me. I’d zoned out on the clunky jokes and focused on the story. Boy, the film’s satiric barbs really, really stings. I laud the film's courageous, no-holds-barred depiction of ruthlessness in the telenovela industry.

Ekstra does a decent job of showing the hardships faced by an extra like Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos). The life of a bit player is not a bed of roses. Movie and television extras are subjected to various types of abuse. They belong to the lowest stratum in the hostile showbiz jungle. Loida and her colleagues were shooed away by various groups while in search of a place to rest and put their things.

The film's scriptwriters, Jeturian, Zig Dulay, and Antoinette Jadaone, won an award for their poignant take on those unheralded heroes of the film and TV industry. 

Jadaone, however, has written and directed a better, funnier film on a lowly bit player. Feeling sorry for Loida at the end of Ekstra? The film Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay has a more poignant scene. Horror film fixture Lilia Cuntapay, along with her neighbors and friends, huddle in front of the television waiting for her interview by the TV Patrol news program. She waits and waits...

Bit players yearn for a place on the screen, big or small. Loida dreams of breaking out from being a mere part of a crowd. Lilia prepares a speech in case she nabs the best supporting actress award. They patiently wait for their big break. In case they fall, they will wait for their next booking.

As Lilia bluntly observes, 'patience is a must for bit players. Otherwise, they ought to kill themselves.'

1 comment:

  1. i dont know but ekstra is good entertainment. that is all. not outstanding or not mediocre either.