Seeing the film poster of both Nora and Vilma’s indie films, we can’t ignore the noticeable similarites. Both seem to be – on the “move,” walking and in deep thoughts. And both were holding a “Bag.” Upon further research, Nora’s bag contained money that she didn’t own. And this is one of the main focus of the film. Will Mabuti, Nora’s character, return the money to the real owner or keep it for herself? Meanwhile, Vilma’s bag contained clothes. Clothes that she uses to several impromptu auditions. Will Loida, Vilma’s character, land that big break she’s been praying all her life, and eventually earn more money for herself and her daughter?
Nora’s Bag – “…Initial reviews of Mabuti were positive. Nora was praised for her quiet and effective performance. She was praised for bringing something new to her long filmography, like her willingness to learn the Ilocano dialect. Her director even admitted wasn’t required when she initially accepted the project. It seems like she was willing to bring something new that even the well-praised Thy Womb didn’t bring out. That “something new,” that we haven’t seen before. Originally written for man, Nora’s character Mabuti, according to writer, Katrina Stuart Santiago, “…this film had technical problems, and I wish it took more care in rendering time and space as important aspects of storytelling. But most this film stands regardless, and that might be because of Aunor. Without her, it’s entirely possible that “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti” wouldn’t survive its own simplicity. Because not much happens in this story, but Aunor takes Mabuti’s character and makes everything happen for her.” The high expectation of “Mabuti” seem to be attributed to the critical success of “Thy Womb.” The later earned Nora several international trophies but the fact is, it failed commercially. Early projections seems to favor Mabuti commercially. The Noranians seems to be in high spirit as they attend the gala premiere of Mabuti and was blessed with the extension of the film’s screening for another week after its first week as part of the CineFilipino Film Festival. The pay out was that Mabuti failed to win Nora the festival’s most expected best actress award. The award went to a new comer, a child protege, named Teri Malvar. Initial prediction from a veteran columnist predicts a tight race for next year acting derby with both Vi and Guy fighting for the trophies with Lorna Tolentino for Burgos and Cherrie Gil for Sonata, all for their performances in indie films.
Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti – “…Mabuti is not a simpleton, but in her world, where words are barely spoken, it is easy to just be. There is want and need, but there is only so much one can do. She is not one to bargain for better, as she is one to try and fix things as much as her abilities allow. She wants to bring the money to the barangay captain, but takes the strange weather as a sign that she shouldn’t; she goes to the military camp to talk to the captain about the money, but the camp is deserted. Mabuti waits for nothing and no one. She seems to always purposefully wait. As she does heartily laugh, in that quiet way that we know the voiceless must. She speaks but doesn’t talk or banter. She is nervous and sad, she is lost and confused, she is happy. And we only know this of Mabuti because she’s got eyes that can pierce through your soul. Which is to say that this is about Aunor, which almost goes without saying, and yet there is something here that she wasn’t able to do in last year’s “Thy Womb.” That is, she learned the language that everybody else in the film was speaking. In this sense Mabuti was more complete as a character than Shaleha; Mabuti was more real. Aunor as such isn’t rendered quiet by the inability to speak in the same way, and Mabuti is allowed to actually be borne of the context that we see is hers in the film. She makes that universe work, and unravel, no matter that it is the tiniest, most removed, universe that many of us cannot fathom. It is a universe of signs. And when Mabuti navigates and negotiates with those signs given her fears and joys, we are allowed to imagine life to be as simple, moral compass and all. Yes, this film had technical problems, and I wish it took more care in rendering time and space as important aspects of storytelling. But most this film stands regardless, and that might be because of Aunor. Without her, it’s entirely possible that “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti” wouldn’t survive its own simplicity. Because not much happens in this story, but Aunor takes Mabuti’s character and makes everything happen for her…” – Katrina Stuart Santiago, GMA News, 23 September 2013 (READ MORE)
Vilma’s Bag – “…Like Nora’s Mabuti, Ektra’s initial reviews were positive. Vilma was praised for her willingness to get demoglarized and her effective take as the an underdog role normally identified with Nora. The initial positive buzz of the film were ignored by Vi’s detractors and even with an unfinished film, early unfavorable articles were published highlighted with the news the films were rejected by the Cannes screening committee. Despite this setback, the film had its gala premiere on July 28 at the CCP, fans and supporters filled the bigger CCP venue. Ekstra went it momentous peak as Cinemalaya top grosser film and after a few weeks went on its commercial screening sponsored by Star Cinema. The film had its successful first week but the film did not sustain its strenght as typhoon hit Metro Manila. It seems like the rain will never stop, the whole country were flooded, and Ekstra despite rumored of being pulled out remained its local exhibition. Ekstra had its world premiere on September 8th at the Toronto International Film Festival. The almost midnight screening were sold out as well as the consecutive screenings. The film were well received and had its limited screenings in North America the following weeks. Ekstra was her follow-up to her commercially successful The Healing. It was clear that Vilma wanted to maintained her bankability but wanted to mix it with the integrity of the indie genre. And Ekstra provided the mixture of both medium, hence the word “maindie” arrived. Ekstra gave Vi her first indie best actress trohphy (Cinemalaya). Like Nora, she is positioned to give anyone a stiff conpetition to next year acting contest.
Ekstra The Bit Player – “…The unshakable optimism of a middle-aged extra is the warm heart driving “The Bit Player,” an appealing dramedy that pokes plenty of good-natured fun at TV soap operas. Anchored by a glowing central performance by Filipino screen queen Vilma Santos as the single mother who smiles her way through work-related indignities in order to pay for her daughter’s education, the pic reps a fine feather in the cap of veteran helmer Jeffrey Jeturian. Winner of the audience award for best film in its category at Cinemalaya and a hit in domestic release in August, this crowdpleaser launches on limited North American screens on Sept. 13…The wise and witty screenplay by Jeturian, Zigcarlo Dulay and Antoinette Jadaone hits the right mix of humor and compassion from the outset. In a funny pre-credits sequence showing an exasperated production crew hiring and firing a succession of extras for the tiny speaking role of a housemaid, eager-to-please hopeful Loida Malabanan (Santos) is pipped for the job at the last moment. Very much a modern incarnation of heroines from classic Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s, Loida only strengthens her resolve in the face of such setbacks. Fiercely determined to not ask her (unseen) ex-husband for financial assistance, Loida is driven to survive and succeed because of her adult daughter, Joyce (Ronaline Enriquez), also a divorcee and a college student whose tuition fees are due. Unhurried opening segments paint a lovely picture of a selfless mother undaunted by being lumped into the category of “nameless wannabees” by fast-talking casting director Josie (Ruby Ruiz, terrific). Loida’s belief that it’s never too late to become a star is one of many character traits that will have audiences rooting for her all the way. With this critical factor firmly in place and Santos in supreme form, Jeturian steers a more overtly comedic path once Loida and her spunky best pal, Venus (Tart Carlos), find work on the set of a soap opera regaling with the title of “You Were Mine First…” – Richard Kuipers, Variety, 11 September 2013 (READ MORE)
2014 Award Prediction and Outcome
- Luna Awards – Vilma Santos, FAP voting members went for Nora’s Thy Womb the previous year, although they have given Nora their awards three years consecutively, Noranians have enraged some FAP members by complaining too much about Thy Womb not getting the country’s representative to OSCAR, but just based on Vilma’s performance and FAP’s choices in the past, I believe it will be Vilma next year. Despite some critics indicating some disappointments on how her film, Burgos ends -like a “TV drama,” Lorna Tolentino’s performance, was the film’s redeeming value, hence she can be the spoiler between Vi and Guy (As of Feb 2015, FAP announced that they will combined 2014 and 2015 awards into one ceremony this year. No press release yet if this event will actually happened. In lighter note, Vi was cited for her movie Ekstra. – RV).
- Gawad Urian – Tie: Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. The Filipino critics are undoubtedly the most credible award giving bodies and they all love indie films. With both Nora and Vilma’s films they would have a hard time deciding which to give their trophies. There is a sure chance that they will just give the honor to both actresses but since Nora received her seventh Urian last year, it would be fair to give it to Vi this year. But a spoiler alert comes to mind, They also love Irma Adlawan for Transit (As of Oct, Vi and Guy lost the Gawad Urian Best Actress to the surprising winner, Angeli Bayani for Oscar bound, “Norte.” There are some back luck for Nora, she lost the National Artist title and her movie “Whistleblower” was not selected to compete for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. On positive side, Nora won the best actress at the Cinemalaya for “Justice” locally titled “Hustisya” and she also received Gawad Plaridel award, following the footstep of her rival, Vilma who received both recognition few years earlier. Nora’s follow-up indie film after Hustisya was the indie/horror, Dementia who got a commercial release but according to some press release got a lukewarm reception. – RV).
- PMPC Star Awards – Vilma Santos. The PMPC has some questionable winners in the last few years and in recent years they became more clearer that they are more likely to vote for Vi (KC Concepcion upset both Nora and Vilma, she won for her performance in “Boy Golden” – RV).
- Golden Screen Awards – The Golden Screen members are trying to imitate the early years of Star Awards and with a new format of dividing their categories into drama and comedy, there is big chance that both Nora and Vilma will end up winning. Ofcourse Vi can be nominated into both categories but it will not be practical if they will not use the opportunity to give Nora and Vilma trophies at the same time. Both of their fans would be happy with Aunor getting the trophy for Drama and Vilma for Comedy (As of Oct, Vilma received a nomination from EnPress’ Golden Screen for best performance in dramatic role while Nora missed the cut – RV).
- CMMA Awards – Nora Aunor’s film has CMMA written all over it. It is hands down Nora. But Lorna Tolentino’s Burgos, all for its activism that many church followers loves, may give her a stiff fight. Also, Irma’s role in Transit with its Israel as its back drop will also play the role of predicting who will CMMA proclaim their best (As of Oct, no official statement has been release but the official ceremony is scheduled on Oct 29th. – RV).
- Gawad Tanglaw and Gawad Pasado – These academics turned film critics honored Nora the previous year for Thy Womb. Tanglaw like Vilma more and Pasado according to most fans favored Nora. Vi will win Tanlaw and Nora Pasado (Correct predictions! – RV).
- FAMAS Awards – Both Vi and Guy are no longer eligible due to their Hall of Famer status. Lorna Tolentino, Cherie Gil and Irma Adlawan will fight for it’s honor with Lorna on top and Cherie as spoiler (KC Concepcion won the best actress, Irma Adlawan was ignored by the oldest group of award entrepreneurs! – RV).
- Strong contenders
- Newcomer beats Nora Aunor as Best Actress in CineFilipino
- Cinemalaya 2013: Many films called, few chosen…
- Gala Screenings of Nora Aunor’s “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti” (Video)
- Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, dumalo sa gala night ng indie film niya sa Cinemalaya (Video)