Ekstra, The Bit Player (2013)

“Ok Lang Po, Maam, Part of the Job.” – Loida Malabanana

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Basic Information: Direction: Jeffrey Jeturian; Writing Credits (story and screenplay): Zig Madamba Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian; Executive Producer: Atty. Joji Alonso; Associate Producer: Ron Capili; Line Producer: Charyl Chan-de Guzman; Executive Producer: Jeffrey Jeturian, Ferdinand Lapuz, Malou N. Santos, Vilma Santos, Charo Santos-Concio, John Victor Tence; Music: Vincent de Jesus, Cinematography: Lee Meily, Lee Briones; Film Editing: Zig Madamba Dulay, Glenn Ituriaga; Production Design: Ericson Navarro, Erwin Sanchez; “Ekstra” – original title; Released: 14 August 2013 (Philippines); Production Co: Cinemalaya Foundation, Quantum Films; Runtime: 111 min

Complete Cast (in order of appearance): Nenita Deanoso, Karen Leslie Dematera, Boobsie Wonderland, Cris Castillo, Cris Ad Castillo, Raymund Ocampo, Abi Niesta, Cherry Pie Picache, Zyrus Imperial, Richard Yap, Ruby Ruiz, Vilma Santos, Ronaline Ronn Enriquez, Rita Rosario G. Carlos, Tart Carlos, Antonette Garcia, Linda Villalobos, Raymond Rinoza, Hazel Faith Dela Cru, Rex Lantano, Martha Comia, Jake Seneres, Ricky Pascua, Zachary Ezekiel Diaz, Angelica Luis, Mhel Seduco, Michael Bayot, Fatima Centena, Almira Alcid, Chris Garrido, Norberto Portales, Marlon Rivera, Sunshine Teodoro, Vincent de Jesus

Louie Kim Sedukis, Miguel Cruz, Bobby Contiga, Piolo Pascual, Orlando Marcos, Paulo Gabriel, Vida Masakayan, Marx Topacio, Marian Rivera, Afi Africa,, Cherie Gil, Nico Antonio, Toni Lopengco, Eula Valdez, Rosejean Sevilla, Salvador Zapanta, Glen Elizalde, Windie Lainie King, Richard Carbajal, Stanley Carvajal, Kerwin Garcia, Albert Lorenzo, Mark Anthony Robrigado, Eden Jaime, Jojo Flores, Pamela Roxas, Pilar Pilapil, Olive Cruz, Tom Rodriguez, Terence Baylon, Red Musni, Alora Mae Sasam, Joy Lomibao, Catherine Reyes, Mae Anne Pineda, John Paul Mendoza , Dyan Mae Mora

Manuel Maputol, Honey Mae Liyagen, Salve Barrientos, Marc Anthony Olata, Jeyean Payawal, Vernadet Fortin, Mico Madrid, Leah Jabonella, Zarah Pagay, Rene Castellano, Liwanag Fortin, Cesar Garbo, Rogelio Itein, Lorevy Paller, Eugine Quijano, Ronald Fortin, Lorna Villanueva, Ivan Gabriel, Willy Concepcion, Jayjay Payawal, Manuel Luis Antonio, Lorraine Anne Caluya, Jack Tan, Anne Mitchelle Utuania, Maricel Gabitanan, Jaime Dyunco, Bambie Apostol, Marie De Guzman, Jayjelon Cruz, Basty Peralta, Maryella Gabitanan, Jerry Pingol, Beau Estera, May Ann Bongearas, Jibb Llansang, Cecille Villar

Melanie Ulang, Jivesh Lansang, Christine Ormilla, Melba Cabaiz, Jhon Fallorina, Evelyn De Guzman, Nancy Villar, Jobie Gregorio, Ever Tan, Nene Felias, John Lloyd Ilagan, Ginelyn Baguturo, Nicah Ariza, John Mark Aqui, Hannah Jessica Amanulla, Nina Bucala, Joren Lansang, Hershey Gregorio, Odette Losing, Ken John Kabayashi, Jamaicca Dayta, Renee Andrea Abuyin, Kershon Bumanlag, Jasmine Abuan, Rio Dela Cruz, Khaled Almohsin, Jenelyn Auste, Roxanne Dela Cruz, Khalil Verzosa, Jessa Bravo, Weng Diaz, Lambert Del Mundo, Jessica Navarro, Aaron Ascano, Lester Paguio, Jonalyn Noleal, Alex Oledan

Loren De Guzman, Judy Ann Noleal, Allaine Garduce, Kaycie Antonio, Andrei Guerrero, Mark Bautista, Kim Villena, Antonio Hernandez, Michael Gillego, Kimberly Alaras, Arjay Abuyin, Nicolas Marquez, Kimberly Ann Baleta, Benjamin Chua, Paul Joseph Emerenciana, Kimberly Cru, Bryan Garduce, Ryan Olayvar, Krizie Peralta, Bryan Perlas, Rey Capaguian, Kylie Dela Cruz, Don Santiago, Rickson Villena, Lesley Anne Datu, Ian Japer Villar, Ruth Villar, Ivan Erazo, Tom Taclindo – IMDB

Plot Description: Ekstra, The Bit Player is a socio-realist drama-comedy film, it follows a seemingly usual day in the life of LOIDA MALABANAN (Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra. As the shoot goes on, we get a glimpse of the truth in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her. – Cinemalaya (READ MORE)

Film Achievement: Official Entry to The 2013 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival: NETPAC Prize, Special Jury Prize, The Audience Choice Award, Best Actress – Vilma Santos, Best Screenplay – Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian, Best Supporting Actress – Ruby Ruiz; 2013 Gawad Tanglaw Best Actress – Vilma Santos; 2013 Gawad Urian: Best Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos, Best Film Nomination – Cinemalaya Foundation and Quantum Films, Best Director Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian, Best Supporting Actress Nomination – Ruby Ruiz, Best Sound Nomination – Addiss Tabong and Wild Sound, Best Production Design Nomination – Ericson Navarro; FAMAS: Best Picture Nomination; Best Screenplay Nomination; Best Editing Nomination; Best Story Nomination; FAP 32nd Luna Awards Outstanding Performance Lead Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos; 11th Golden Screen Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama Nomination – Cinemalaya Foundation & Quantum Films; Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role – Drama – Vilma Santos; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Nominations – Drama, Musical or Comedy – Ruby Ruiz and Tart Carlos; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Nomination – Drama, Musical or Comedy – Marlon Rivera; Best Direction Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian; Best Editing Nominations – Zig Dulay, Glenn Ituriaga; NCCA – Ani ng Dangal; Philippine Cinema Evaluation Board Grade – “A”

International Recognition: Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival®, September 5-15, 2013 – Contemporary World Cinema Programme; Philippine’s Official Entry to The Dhaka International Film Festival – Dhaka, Bangladesh and winner of Best Actress; Special Selection: 2013 NuCinema: NUVALI Outdoor Film Festival; Special Selection: Special Selection: Asia Pop! of The San Diego Asian Film Festival 2013; Special Selection: World Cinema Section of 2013 International Film Festival of India (Goa, India); Official Selection: The 18th International Film Festival of Kerala 2013; Official Selection NETPAC Award Winners: The 2013 Bangalore International Film Festival Bangalore, India; In competition – The Boréal Audience Award 2014 Festival International de Films Independants Geneve – The 15th Black Movie Festival (Geneva, Switzerland); Official Selection – Women of the World/Pacific PearlsThe 38th Cleveland International Film Festival 2014; Official Selection – 40th Seattle International Film FestivalSeattle, USA (May 15 – June 8, 2014); Official Selection – New Filipino Cinema 2014 YBCACalifornia, USA (2014); Official Selection – 15th Rainbow Film FestivalLondon, UK (May 25-June 1); Official Selection – Southeast Asian Film Festival – Singapore 11 April – 4 May 2014; Special Screening – Honolulu Museum of Art – Honolulu, Hawai Apr 4, 9, 15 2014; Official Selection NETPAC Award Winning Films – The International Film Festival of Colombo 2014 (IFFColombo); Special Screening – Mission Valley Library, San Diego, California USA October 22, 2014; Special Screening – Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Contemporary World Film Series; Special Screening – 3rd Hanoi International Film Festival (HIFF); Official Selection International Spotlight – The 23rd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF); The Inquirer Indie Bravo!-Fully Booked Film Festival: The Best of Filipino Films 2013; The IndieFEST Film Awards – Award of Merit Special Mention for Lead Actress; In conpetition feature films – Silk Road Film Festival; 3 Days Box-Office Gross in North America (September 13-15) = $43,000; Official Selection – 2015 Silk Road Film Festival Dublin, Ireland; 48th Worldfest Houston 2015 – Best Foreign Feature Film, Best Comedy Film Remi Award Platinum; New York Festivals – World’s Best TV & Films 2015 Bronze World Medal for Best World Feature Film; 2015 Madrid International Film Festival Best Foreign Language Feature Film Nomination – The Bit Player – Producers: Ferdinand Lapuz, Josabeth Alonso, Jeffrey Jeturian, John Victor Tence, Vilma Santos-Recto; Best Lead Actress in a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Vilma Santos; Best Director of a Foreign Language Feature Film Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian; Best Producer of a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Ferdinand Lapuz; Best Original Screenplay of a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian, Zig Dulay; Official Selection International Spotlight 2015 P-Noise: The Filipino Festival – Copenhagen, Denmark; Total 3 day gross in North America is US$141,000.00 (P5,922,000.00) Source: Leonard Klady, MovieCityNews.com, 13-15 Sep 2013

NETPAC and Special Jury Prize – “…Vilma Santos was named Best Actress for her role in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra in the Directors Showcase. She was cited “for her bold decision to deglamorize herself and take on the lowly role of the TV and movie bit player, for her moving portrayal of the unsung hero of show business, for the polish and aplomb with which she essayed the role, and for her powerful cinematic presence.” Ekstra won the Special Jury Prize “for its poignant take on the lowly bit player, the unheralded hero of show business, whose contributions are often ignored in movie and TV credits, for its bittersweet evocation of the magic of cinema, and for its humor, pathos and sheer humanity.”; the NETPAC Award for its “comedic but insightful and touching treatment of a day-in-the-life of a movie bit player, seamlessly woven in the production of a TV soap opera.”; and the Audience Choice Award. Ekstra also won for Ruby Ruiz the Best Supporting Actress award and for Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone and Jeffrey Jeturian the Best Screenplay award…” – Cinemalaya (READ MORE)

Film Reviews: “…Ang strength ng pelikula ay ang script nito (na nakapangalan sa tatlo: Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone at Jeffrey Jeturian). Kahit na nagpaka-real time ito (upang maramdaman ng audience ang exhaustion na hinihingi ng isang bit player) o tipong nagpapaka-a day in the life of lang, ramdam na ramdam na meron itong script. Nai-shoot nito ang point nang lapat na lapat. Klaro ang motivation ng central character kung bakit ginagawa n’ya ang mga bagay na pinaghihirapan n’ya. Isa rin itong dahilan upang samahan natin si Loida (Vilma Santos) sa kanyang pakikipaglaban sa araw na ‘yun. May tendency na magpaliwanag masyado kung anu-ano ang mga ginagawa sa produksyon pero nasolusyunan naman ito sa paggamit ng isang karakter na baguhang ekstra. Maging ‘yung tanong sa dulo bago matapos ang pelikula, naselyuhan nito ang halaga ng ginagawa natin hindi lang bilang isang taga-film production kung hindi bilang trabahador na rin sa Pilipinas sa pangkalahatang perspektibo. Nakuha rin ako ng humor ni Jeturian dito. Tingin ko, sensibilidad n’ya ang ganitong wit at wala akong makitang direktor ngayon na nasa ganitong level. Ngayon na lang ulit ako natawa sa kanya mula roon sa isang eksena sa “Pila Balde” kung saan kumain ng panis na hopya si Estrella Kuenzler. OK naman si Vilma rito. Masayang makita na ang mga shining moment n’ya rito ay ‘yung mga eksenang tumatawa s’ya. Pero dahil Vilmanian si Jeturian, hindi naman puwedeng walang eksena na aangat si Vilma sa mga nakagamayan na. Gusto ko ‘yung nakikipagpagalingan s’ya para sa isang role bilang katulong. Maliban sa larger than life na presence ng bida, umangat din ang mga suporta rito: Marlon Rivera (bilang soap opera director at so far, s’ya ang aking bet para sa Best Supporting Actor sa Directors Showcase), Tart Carlos (bilang kapwa ekstra at sounding board ng bida) at Ruby Ruiz (bilang Josie). Sa side note, ganito palang manood ng Vi movie na ang katabi mo ay isang ultimate Vilmanian. Bago mag-umpisa, hindi mo mahagilap dahil parang bomb specialist na iniisa-isa ang mga entrance at exit ng Main Theater kung saan papasok ang mga artista. At malakas din ang tawa n’ya r’un sa isang linya na “Eh bakit si Nora Aunor?…” – Manuel Pangaruy Jr., Tagailog Specials Presents, 28 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Not all is grim in Filipino cinema. Romance and satire abound. Jerrold Tarog expertly avoids the syrupy clichés of mainstream rom-com in his absorbing, bittersweet Sana Dati (If Only). Alvin Yapan’s supernaturally seductive Debosyon (Devotion) explores the ardor between a man and a forest spirit at the kooky crossroads of Catholicism and pre-colonial pagan faiths. Jeffrey Jeturian’s witty The Bit Player (Ekstra) pokes fun at the exploitative telenovela industry, with the renowned Vilma Santos in top form as a desperate extra on a soap opera set Tour de force acting comes not only from the legendary Aunor and Santos and other established luminaries like Cherie Gil, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, Irma Adlawan and Ping Medina, but also from complete unknowns like the mischievous gang of young boys in a small provincial town in Keith Deligero’s Iskalawags, who idolize action movie stars and adopt their swashbuckling ways to escape the dreariness and the struggles of their own existence. Far more than a charming coming-of-age tale, Iskalawags slyly deprecates Filipino notions of manhood and alludes to the oppressiveness of Tagalog culture as endured by the restless majority who live outside ‘Imperial Manila…” – Carla Escoda, Huffington Post, 12 June 2014 (READ MORE)

One of the Best – “…Character: Loida Malabanan, a single mother who acts as a bit player in TV soaps…“For naysayers who scoff at the actress’ penchant for physical acting, here’s a movie that shows the egoless Vilma—warts, wrinkles, eye bags and all—at her quietly insightful and vulnerable best, as she fights for better roles on the set of a teleserye that must finish 45 sequences overnight. She’ll break your heart especially in scenes that require no dialogue, particularly in the sequence that shows Loida quietly watching her botched scene with Cherie Gil and Pilar Pilapil.” – Rito Asilo; “After a harrowing day on the set where she lost a good role, Loida returns to an empty home. She boils water for a bath, then transfixes her gaze on the table. She starts to eat the leftover food she took home from the set; then eats like there’s no tomorrow, drowning out her frustration and embarrassment. You could see all the pent-up emotions on her face as she masticates and swallows and weeps? The scene is short and line-free, but it packs a wallop. It showcases the emotional power of Vilma Santos as the seasoned and sincere actress that she has become. No lines needed.” – Cathy Peña; “The only way to silence the doubters is to turn in a nuanced, convincing performance. It’s a testament to Santos’ instinct as an actor that she finds the honest core of Loida and operates from there. Everything else follows.” – SCL…” – Pinoy Rebyu, Filipino Film Aggregator, 08 December 2014 (READ MORE)

“…For most of “Ekstra,” I was only vaguely interested in what was happening. A lot of work, a lot of arguments, a lot of ego, went into the creation of something that was not only valueless to the culture but detrimental. Product placement is the least of it; soap operas, like most movies, sell wish fulfillment. They sell the dream of wealth, beauty, and glamor. At the same time, they sell schadenfreude, as the wealthy, beautiful and glamorous feel the heartache implicit in soap opera storylines. I also objected when Loida began to stumble during her big scene. It felt way too cruel to me. It felt sadistic and/or bathetic. But ultimately Santos has a restraint that makes it work. You sense Loida’s world has crumbled but she doesn’t know what to do. There’s doubt and pain in her eyes now. Interestingly, Santos, who looks like the part she plays—someone passed over by life—is in reality a hugely successful actress and politician. She was the Mayor of Lipa City and the Governor of Batangas, a province in the Philippines. There are four major film awards in the Philippines and only 17 times has someone won all four in the same year. It’s called the Philippines Movie Grand Slam, and Santos was the first to do it in 1982. She’s since done it three more times. No one else in Philippines has done it more than twice. She’s basically the Meryl Streep and the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Philippines…” – Erik Lundegaard, May 28, 2014 (READ MORE)

“…It’s not easy being an extra. While vital to the authenticity to a filmed project—be it a movie, TV show, or music video—extras, or bit players, are regularly relegated to the sidelines, where they are subjugated, mistreated, underfed, and disrespected, working long hours without any promises of fame, fortune, or respectable paychecks. Such is the life of middle-aged single mother Loida (Vilma Santos), who has yet to catch her big break. Waking up at the crack of dawn, she and a dozen other extras pack themselves like sardines into a van and head out to a remote location shoot for the nightly TV soap opera “Nauna kang nagging Akin” (or “You Were Mine First”). Upon their arrival, they find the set in complete disarray, a frenzied circus of diva behavior, rain delays, and prop mishaps. Over the course of one very long shooting day, the behind-the-scenes chaos become as dramatic, if not more, than the soap opera unfolding before the cameras, but Loida, ever committed to her craft, discovers what could be a glimmer of hope in the form of a small, available speaking role. Santos, who ironically is a cinema megastar in her home country, gives one of the best performances of the Festival, imbuing Loida with a dogged tenacity lying just beneath the surface of her kind but world-weary visage. The film itself strikes a wonderful balance between a screwball showbiz comedy and a compassionate socio-realist drama about the exploitation of labor, equally harsh and hilarious…” – SIFF 2014 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, the legendary grand dame of Philippine cinema, stars in this bittersweet comedy. A clever satire of the telenovela formula, The Bit Player tells the story of a group of extras on a soap opera, as they patiently wait to be cast as anonymous background actors or in tiny speaking roles. At the very bottom of the showbiz hierarchy (working extremely long hours for very little pay), these extras turn out to be far more dedicated to their work than the egotistical, unreliable stars who are highly paid and constantly fawned over…” – YBCA New Filipino Cinema 2014 (READ MORE)

“…Showbiz royalty Vilma Santos plays a financially challenged bit player named Loida. Strangely, but not surprisingly, the film veteran makes an excellent extra. She is snarky with friends but, ironically, is an awkward mess when put in front of the cameras. Santos is so natural that the lines between acting and reality are blurred. It was no shock that she won this year’s Cinemalaya award for best actress. The film has a star-studded cast consisting of Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera and Cherie Gil. For once, however, they’re the extras in this movie. The fun part about Ekstra is that it’s witty and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The “actors” exchange lines oozing with cheese and villainy, complete with telenovela fanfare. The screenplay, a collaboration among Jeturian, Jadaone and Dulay, is smart but accessible. “Crowd din ako dati,” Loida tells a young extra in a scene. “But look at me now: crowd pa rin…” – Paulina F. Ocampo, Katipunan The Guidon Magazine, 07 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In a way, Santos can be compared to Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange; both thespians employ their entire body to bring out the internal turmoil of their characters if necessary. Santos impassioned performance in classic films such as “Broken Marriage” and “Relasyon” demands certain explosiveness. Santos has always played the fighter, never the silent suffering victim. Even powerless, Santos’ characters have trudged on despite obvious defeat. She has always embodied the ferocious female spirit, which I grew up witnessing from the strong females in my family. Fight, survive at all cost. Similarly, Santos can also quietly stand still and let her face do the exposition, “Sister Stella L.” is a perfect example. In both commercially melodramatic and critically acclaimed films, all of the characters in Santos wide repertoire refused to go without a good fight. I have heard other critics call her the “feminists’ actor,” but do not take our word for it, you need to watch her films to verify that. In her latest movie, “Ekstra” (The Bit Player), Santos is back to form after her commercially successful but critically disappointing horror film, “The Healing.” Santos plays Loida, a bit player dreaming of becoming a star despite working in the industry for so long. At first glance, Santos seemed to be miscast as a bit player because she is too fair and beautiful to stay a bit player that long; however, thanks to Jeffrey Jeturian’s clever direction, Santos transcends the obvious. The Santos celebrity persona disappears and we see the face of a bit player being used as a mere tool by an industry hell bent on producing crap. Loida’s triumph lies in Jeturian’s blatant critique of the industry that exploits people for commercial purposes. Loida is not just a real character, she is a symbol. The delightful irony of “Ekstra” is using one of the biggest stars in the industry to play it small…” – Rob San Miguel, Brun Philippines, 18 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos may have been the film’s initial main attraction, but we can’t deny the fact that this is the best comedy-drama of the year. Santos proved her star-for-all-seasons status was far from waning, but Jeffrey Jeturian’s film itself is a brilliant achievement. Its portrayal of the television industry’s bit players is both honest and hilarious. With its small scale and grand ambitions, Ekstra brings a different flavor to the usual tale of the downtrodden…” – Paul G. Alcantara, Kara B. Chung, The Guidon on line, 30 December 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Even before Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra was released, naysayers doubted that Vilma Santos would ever be credible as a bit player in TV soaps: “she’s too recognizable,” “she won’t be believable,” “she looks too mayaman (rich).” The only way to silence the doubters is to turn in a nuanced, convincing performance as Loida Malabanan, a single mother who continues to toil in substandard working environments just to fulfill her dream of acting. It’s a testament to Santos’s instinct as an actor that she finds the honest core of Loida and operates from there. Everything else follows…” – Skilty Labastilla, Business World Weekender, 09 January 2014 (READ MORE)

“…The International Film Festival in Goa in November 2013 came alive with young audiences from across the country patiently standing in long lines to watch serious world cinema. They were the real stars of this festival. In many shows, disappointed audiences were turned away because every seat was taken. There is a new audience out there, ready for new ideas, new film grammar, and new reflective cinema. The time is long overdue for a publically financed network of art theatres in every city in the country. In my three days in Goa, I spent most time with the Soul of Asia segment, which introduced me to some fine films described in an earlier column. I recall here a few other films which remain with me even as the weeks pass after the festival…Adopting a diametrically opposite idiom of exuberant comic irony is Philippine director Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra (Extra), an affectionate salute to the underdog. It follows one day in the life of a middle-aged woman extra, a bit player in television soap operas, after she is woken in the early hours of the morning one day to drive to a location shoot in the neighbouring countryside. The director subversively casts one of the Philippines’ best-loved actors, Vilma Santos, in the role of the extra. The viewer for once roots for the anonymous crowd — the farmer on the fields, the domestic help patiently waiting, and the guests in the background of a wedding — while the lead players strut and recite their lines. We watch the class system in the enormous gaps in food and lodging between stars and extras. The film mocks the hilarious script trajectories of the soap opera, and the vanity and fragile egos of its lead players. I often felt that if just the names were changed in the film’s script, it could have been located in India with no substantial changes…” – Harsh Mander, The Hindu, 28 Dec 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I am aware of the Filipino culture and their language which could be one of the reasons why I happened to be amused by Jeffrey Jeturian’s “EKSTRA (The Bit Player)” when I caught it at the 6th Bengaluru Film Festival. But, that is not entirely the reason why the movie works big time! The prime reasons in that order would be…Vilma Santos, a sensational performer. She lives the character of an extra artiste in television soaps. Flawless, compelling and award-worthy, is her turn…To sum it up, Ekstra – The Bit Player is a poignant film which is certainly worth your time…” – Tusshar Sasi, Romancing Cinema, 27 Dec 2013 (READ MORE)

“…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…Constant chuckles and a fair supply of big belly laughs are the order of the day as Loida, Venus and a lovable collection of fellow nameless wannabees are herded like cattle by Josie, acid-tongued assistant director Vincent (Vincent de Jesus, hilarious) and the super-stressed-out director (Marlon Rivera) of “You Were Mine First.” As expected, much of the fun derives from scenes being shot for the wildly melodramatic “You Were Mine First.” To that end, Jeturian gets great value from guest appearances by a host of big-name local stars including hunky matinee idol Piolo Pascual as troubled groom-in-waiting Brando, Pilar Pilapil as severe matriarch Dona Esmerelda and a wonderfully over-the-top Cherie Gil as gun-toting super-bitch Dona Beatriz. For all the merriment on display, the screenplay never loses sight of the economic and emotional imperatives propelling Loida’s uncomplaining acceptance of her place at the bottom of the entertainment-industry food chain. It’s no surprise when Loida finally gets a chance to make a mark with big speaking role in “You Were Mine First,” but the manner in which this plays out is surprising and genuinely touching…” – Richard Kuipers, Variety Magazine, 11 Sep 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In “Ekstra,” Jeffrey Jeturian points the cameras to the more unheralded members of the film industry, and zooms in on the marginalized life of extras, on and off-screen. Governor Vilma Santos-Recto plays Loida Malabanan, a veteran bit player who, while “fulfilling” her passion for acting, puts up with the extremes of her occupation. She likewise tries to solely raise her daughter with her meager salary her kind often gets. “Ekstra” basically illustrates a day in the lives of the people who literally are “behind-the-scenes.” For one, the Star for All Seasons was able to mesh well with her co-extras (Tart Carlos, Ruby Ruiz), and was able to achieve a semblance of obscurity despite who she is in real life. Second, Ate Vi also managed not to outshine the film’s supposed “lead characters” (Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual) without sacrificing her acting prowess. Her scenes with Cherie Gil and Pilar Pilapil particularly explore the difficult and precarious reality for minor players (and body doubles, in her case)…” – Pau Aguilera, Manila Bulletin, 02 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Of course, holding up the film together is Vilma Santos in her first indie film. As Loida Malabanan, the extra, she’s there from start to finish. Her character is so well defined. She’s been an extra all of her life. As a young girl, she fell in love with a cameraman, became a single mom and now has a hard time sending her teenage daughter to college. The movie is one day in the life of Loida, showing her preparing breakfast for her sleeping daughter before she leaves for work, how her day goes on the set, until she returns home to her daughter the next day. Throughout the day, we join Loida in her moments of triumph (she bested another extra in an impromptu contest to be chosen to play the role of a housemaid) and humiliation (she doubles for Eula Valdes and gets mauled by Cherie Gil, she fails to deliver her lines properly in the role of a lady lawyer and was insulted by the director in front of everyone else.) Your heart will really go out for Loida. More than anything else, she’s a very caring mother to her child. She’s also very caring to the younger extras, like a teener who’s working as an extra for the first time and who she advises to focus on her career and not on romance. She was also so affected when another extra faints on the set due to hunger and another one is subjected to heavy prosthetic makeup as a zombie and isn’t even allowed to answer the call of nature, only to be told that her scene won’t be shot anymore.

The final scene is priceless, the most touching of all. Loida attends a party and she gets to watch the crucial sequence she taped the night before on their neighbor’s TV set. She painfully sees the scene where she was supposed to be playing the lawyer now done by another actress. She was still retained in that scene, but only as part of the crowd. She cannot even tell her friends that she was supposed to play the lawyer part but she was kicked out because she couldn’t deliver her lines persuasively. It’s a wordless scene and you can feel Vilma reliving the embarrassment she went through, but she talks only with her eyes brimming with tears and you just want to hug her and comfort her. It’ll be gross injustice if Ate Vi wouldn’t win as best actress in the Cinemalaya Awards Night this Sunday. Tinulak na siya, tinakluban sa ulo, sinipa, pinaso ng sigarilyo, sinampal, hiniya at ininsulto mula ulo hanggang paa. And she is just consistently awesome through it all. All extras in real life will love Jeturian and Ate Vi for showing in this film the humor and the soul of the experiences they go through in the course of their job. What’s nice about the film is that, as a real homage to extras, they listed down the names of all the extras who were involved in the film at the end credits…” – Mario Escobar Bautista, Showbiz Portal, 31 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“… As Loida Malabanan, Ate Vi shines even in anonymity. She is supposed to fade into the background, not outshine the “stars” and just do what is assigned her- to be a bit player. But even in the crowd, Ate Vi makes Loida stand out. She gives Loida the bit player enough motivation, and a poignant love for the acting craft that she has forever changed the image of the bit player, in the same way that she redefined the term “mistress” when she did Ishmael Bernal’s RELASYON way back. For the director, the staff and the big stars, Loida is a nobody. But for us, the audience, we recognize Loida’s magnanimity. Watch out for that pivotal scene in the third act where Loida, and us the audience learns the true meaning of ingratitude in the media. Ekstra is Vilma’s movie. We cannot imagine any other actress for her role. At the end of the day, as Loida descends from the jeepney, and prepares to go to bed just about when everyone is supposed to go to work, we feel exhausted. It’s not the physical work that made us tired, but the system of a dog eat dog society. Filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian, through Loida exposes the hypocrisy of the thankless and unjust world of entertainment, and after that whole bout of laughing and laughing and crying afterwards, we are forever changed. Yeah right, like you didn’t already know you were gonna cry after seeing the trailer…” – Macky Macarayan, Death of Traditional Cinema, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, as always, exceptionally played the role to a hilt. The world bit players live in is all too jarring, more so because Vilma Santos—THE Vilma Santos—convincingly plays the role of a lowly talent. That might be too hard to accept in real life, but Ate Vi did a great job in fleshing out a character who’s equal parts funny, hopeful, and tragic…The movie features a witty and hilarious script, which is further bolstered by Ate Vi’s great comedic timing. There were no lapses in timing and delivery, and there was a stark contrast between the realistic portrayal of the “normal” characters as opposed to the over-the-top acting featured in their teleserye project…Vilma is at her best at the final scene, where she’s subjected to painfully watch the very episode they just shot. She’s embarrassed and frustrated, and we watch in horror as her eyes well up while she tries to hold everything in. We’ve seen that look several times in Ate Vi’s previous movies, but it still haunts us just the same…” – Myra Grace Calulo, PEP, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Ekstra” is a very entertaining film that brings us into the world of a bit player or “ekstra” in the punishing world of television soap operas, where hectic daily shooting deadlines are the norm. This was not only a glimpse for the audience, but more of an immersion. We get an in-depth, no-holds-barred, brutally frank expose on how bit players are treated on and off the set of a location shoot. Loida Malabanan has been a bit player for many years already. This job, however unstable, had enabled her to get her daughter through college even as a single mother, albeit barely…Ms. Vilma Santos is the heart and soul of this film, and she was such a paradox in this role. She portrays her role in the most natural and realistic way, yet we know the character was so NOT her. Ms. Vilma was already the lead star in her very first film, “Trudis Liit”! Incredibly, she was able to successfully dim her megawatt star power to appear inferior in stature to stars like Marian Rivera and Piolo Pascual who were the lead stars of the soap being shot, yet Ms. Vilma still manages to outshine them all. Her most effective scenes had no spoken lines at all. Ms. Cherie Gil was so deliciously campy good in her villainous Doña Beatriz character. Tart Carlos, more popularly known for her role as the ditsy maid Doris on TV’s “Be Careful With My Heart,” has a marked role playing Loida’s friend and co-extra, where her skills in comedy shone. Musical director Vincent de Jesus was very effective as the harried assistant director, scrambling to accomplish all the orders of the impatient director….” – Fred Hawson, ABS-CBN News, 29 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…From my perspective, I’m not sure if I can now consider this film the parody it’s meant to be, or more of an “exposé” into our real world of soap operas. It reflects many truths of what these extras, or talents, face. I myself, despite my ranting, have softened up to their plight. On one taping day, lo and behold, the first sight that greeted me were some 20 talents sitting on cardboard on the ground, in the heat of the sun, right in front of the main actors’ air conditioned tent. Talk about rubbing the point in. All this for P1,000 a day or P1,500 if you had speaking lines, or if you played a nurse, police or doctor, you get P2,000 because you have to bring your own uniform. A day may mean 28 to 36 hours straight for many of them. I’m fortunate that after decades in the business, I’ve earned a cut-off time of 2 am (which in effect actually helps talents go home earlier, if they’re in my scenes). I realize minimum wage stands at under P500, but these seemingly good talent fees don’t go straight into their pockets. They too have agents or talent suppliers who whittle away their earnings. (Just like we do.) I could be putting myself on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway: isn’t it high time we make the working environment in the soap opera world better for all to enjoy the work and find dignity in our choice of profession?…” – Cherie Gil, Rappler 30 March 2013 (READ MORE)

“…the biggest box office hit among the entries is not any of these sex movies but the entry of Gov. Vilma Santos, “Ekstra, The Bit Player”. She didn’t show anything but her acting talent and yet Gov. Vi proves she’s still a top box office drawer. At Trinoma, all the ticket sellers say all of “Ekstra’s” screenings this weekend are sold out in advance. Way to go, Ate Vi! This is not surprising as “Ekstra” is also the best movie she has done in years…” – Showbiz Portal (READ MORE)

“…The irony of Santos, Philippine media’s “Star for All Seasons,” playing a bit player adds to both the film’s hilarity and meaning. It’s almost as if the film is asking this: if seeing someone as respected as Vilma Santos marginalized could only elicit sympathy, what can the people sans Santos’ credentials possibly do to invite empathic thought? The film ended with a question: “Sinong namatay?” It was addressed to Loida but it could possibly be for the audience. It is easy to know who literally dies in a teleserye because it shows it. In real life, those figuratively murdered is silenced to anonymity. What socio-realist films like Ekstra thrive in is lending voice to people and realities made silent. What these films need and have always needed is an audience that will listen. Their taking action is the next best thing.” – Chryssa Celestino, The Lasallian, 4 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Sa simula pa lang, naipakita na ni Ate Vi ang husay niya sa pag-arte. Pinatawa niya ang audience. Nakiluha rin sa kanya ang mga manonood nang tarayan at pagmumurahin siya ng direktor ng soap sa pelikula (played by Marlon Rivera, last year’s Cinemalaya Best Director for Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank), at nakisimpatiya rin sa kanya ang audience sa eksenang tinadyakan at tinotoo ni Cherie Gil ang pananakit sa kanya. Hindi rin nagpahuli sa akting ang best friend ni Loida (Vilma) na si Venus (played by Tart Carlos na madalas mapanood sa Be Careful with My Heart as yaya). Aliw na aliw ang viewers sa mga punchline na binitiwan niya. Muhusay din ang talent coordinator ng mga ekstra. Magaling din si Vincent de Jesus (bilang AD), Cherie, Pilar Pilapil at iba pang `ekstrang’ katulad nina Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual at marami pang iba. In short, isa itong ensemble acting. Maganda at maayos ang pagkakasulat ng script na tumuon sa kuwento ng mga taong umeekstraekstra sa mga teleserye. Ang husay ng direksyon ni Direk Jeffrey. Panalo rin ang musical scoring na ginawa rin ni Vincent, nakadadagdag ito sa ganda ng bawat eksena…” – Lito T. Mañago, Balita, 31 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…What makes the film such a success is the casting coup of having Vilma Santos, one of our true Philippine cinema luminaries, take on the title role of the extra, Loida. Deglamorized to play the role with verisimilitude, Vilma is the centerpiece of a film that realistically shows us the plight of these extras, the people who so often are taken for granted in the industry. It also gives poignant irony when Vilma declaims the lines that critique and poke fun at our star system, and how movies and teleseryes come to life…Co-writing the screenplay with Jeffrey is Antoinette Jadaone, who wrote the other “cinema verite” gem about film extras and bit players, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. With the two on board, you know there will be so much insider knowledge, anecdotes and vignettes that will evince, knowing laughter and delicious revelations about the working conditions in our film and TV entertainment industry. There is a rich history both here and abroad of this kind of story — one of my favorites being Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. What’s great about Ekstra is how there is no unreal reversal of fortune. Instead, we get so much humor, while the film ends with poignancy that rings true — how at the end of the day, as Loida ruefully remarks early on in the film, if for years she’s been an extra in crowd scenes, she’s now graduated to be an extra for crowd scenes…” – The Philippine Star (READ MORE)

“…Eh talagang hindi dahil karamihan naman sa mga indie film ay puro kahalayan lang ang ipi­nakikita eh. Tingnan na nga lang ninyo diyan sa ka­ta­tapos na Cinemalaya kung ano ang usapan? Hindi ba ang pinag-uusapan ay kung ilang artistang lalaki ang ipi­­nakitang nagpapakaligayang mag-isa o may kasama at kung ilang artistang babae ang walang takot ding nag­hubad? Pero tingnan ninyo, ang sinasabing kumita ay ang Ekstra ni Ate Vi na wala namang ipinakitang kabastusan. Hindi naman kasi gusto ng karamihan sa publiko ang mga pelikulang bastos. Hindi naman likas na bastos ang mga Pilipino. Isa pang sinabi sa amin ni Ate Vi, tinanggap niya ang pelikula dahil naniniwala siya na ang mga pelikulang indepen­dent ay kulang nga sa mga star. Umaasa siya noon na kung gagawa nga siya ng isang pelikulang indie, ma­ku­kumbinsi na rin ang iba pang malalaking artista (iyong kumikita ang mga pelikula ha?) na gumawa na rin ng indie movie para makalaban naman iyon sa mga tunay na pelikula…” – Ed de Leon, Pang-Masa, 6 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I was worried coming in that Ekstra was just going to be a less interesting version of 2011’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. It turns out that the fears were unwarranted. The film takes a fairly different approach, following one extra (played by the inimitable Vilma Santos) as she goes through one whole day of being a talent on the set of a popular soap opera. The film is as much about the absurdities that go into the production of one of these shows as it is about its titular subject, spending a good chunk of its time railing against the rampant disregard for any sort of quality on these productions. The film ends up depicting a hierarchy of suffering, with the extras at the bottom rung of a seemingly endless ladder to an unknowable top. The film could probably stand to be a little shorter, perhaps a little more economical in its criticism of the industry. But it’s hard to complain when Jeturian’s satirical instincts are so on point, and Vilma Santos is so affecting…” – Philbert Ortiz Dy, Click The City, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…It’s a strong theme that is thankfully not spray-painted on the script of Ekstra, but is unmistakably there. Whether we notice it or not, this becomes the overlooked crowd in the background. But if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s Santos’ performance. Regardless of your opinion of her as a celebrity or as a politician, Santos remains to be one of the most talented actors in the industry. Ekstra is the kind of Philippine comedy that all other comedies should aspire to be, harnessing great talent with a story that is both thoughtful and entertaining. Hopefully, that kind of sentiment doesn’t fade into the background. The Verdict: Ekstra is an effective Philippine comedy that is not only worthy of the Star for All Seasons, but deserving of movie audiences who want more from their usual slapstick Filipino punchlines…” – Zig Marasigan, Kristn, 14 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Jeturian effectively keeps the film worth watching from start to end. The witty script features an wide variety of characters that are dedicated, hardworking, diva-ish or self-absorbed. As a film and TV director, he knows his material very well and he does well in presenting the harsh realities of production work in a hilariously dramatic form. His honest depiction of different behind-the-scene situations is both striking and entertaining. He also has tremendous on-screen talents at his disposal. Vilma Santos in the lead makes a great impression, fleshing out an unsung heroine in the very industry where she is now considered a living legend. She succeeds in dimming her megawatt star power to appear properly inferior to the big stars in the story. Interestingly, she manages to outshine them as a lowly main character with great comedic timing and without lapses in pacing and delivery. From energy and excitement to pain and frustration, a gamut of emotions stream across her face…” – Rianne Hill Soriano, Business World, 15 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Unknown to many, there was a time when Jeturian visited the office of an ad agency to pitch the unpolished gem that was Angel Aquino at the time. Jeturian and Aquino were shown the door. The agency preferred American- and European-looking Filipinas for its beauty product commercials. With the script written by Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, and Jeturian himself, the director sweetly took his revenge by putting at the center the marginalized bit players and the exploited laborers of the industry. In bravely deglamorizing herself, Santos showed the audience once again what she can accomplish as one of the Philippine’s finest talents, while Ruby Ruiz convincingly and adeptly essayed the role of a talent coordinator, who acts as a “shock absorber” of all harshness inflicted by the studio system on the hapless bit players…” – Ibarra C. Mateo, GMA News, 16 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…We laughed and guffawed at such acting antics, scenes both startling and familiar, stereotypical of TV soaps, with lines we have even come to memorize. But watch out for sly, self-referential moments. When Doris tries to discourage Loida from nursing dreams of eventual stardom, she makes mention of the “typical” talents who make it big in the biz: tall, fair with sharp noses. “But what about Nora Aunor?” asks Loida, to which Doris grants grudging assent. That the line is uttered by Vilma Santos, who for decades has been forced into a running competition against the “Superstar,” is all the more delicious. In fact, Jeturian, in an interview, admits that “Ekstra” could kick-start once more the legendary rivalry between the two. If so, I as a fan of both welcome such a development. As movie audiences we could be in for a rich and satisfying round of out-of-the-box roles for the still-reigning queens of local cinema…” – Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Watching the movie will be like being there on the set as well, feeling the pain and fatigue of the bit player but also enjoying the laughter and the sense of camaraderie that the behind the scenes closeness fosters. Focal to the telling of the story, of course, is none other but Ate Vi. She probably does not give as swashbuckling a performance as she did in, say, ‘Anak.’ That said, Ate Vi is Ate Vi. She is a master in the craft of acting without acting which, in my opinion, makes her among the most gifted and convincing actors in the country…” – Rex Torrecampo Life So Mundane, 16 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Told with an eye for the ludicrous excesses and stresses of TV work (one director is tasked with shooting forty set-ups in two days) and the inherently existential comedy of being a stand-in, Jeturian’s film never misses a target. One overly nervous extra loses her dentures during shooting; a neophyte shows up to play a peasant wearing enough makeup to shame RuPaul. At the same time, the film is buoyed with ample affection for the characters’ dreams. After working all day and into the night, the inevitably cheerful Loida is capable of pontificating about the important role the extras play. Skilfully directed by Jeturian, and driven by Santos’ courageous performance and peerless comic timing, The Bit Player is also a kind of tribute to Loida. Even at her lowest point, she never gives up…” – Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF (READ MORE)

“…Those who have been rooting for indie films are hard pressed to find an answer for the dismal box office performance of Ekstra. Indie films are considered the last hope of the dying movie industry and Ekstra was supposed to help catapult them into the mainstream…It must have been the timing. The film was released right on the heels of the Habagat flooding and people probably still didn’t feel like having a great time and splurging on a film while hundreds of thousands of fellow Filipinos were still figuring out how to survive another week of being submerged in floodwaters…I am not a great fan of Vilma Santos but I must concede that she is brilliant in this film. It’s difficult to imagine Santos as an ordinary person but five minutes into the film she is able to successfully make people forget that she is one of the most glamorous actresses of the local entertainment industry and the governor of a province. She is particularly riveting in the final scene where she silently breaks down in shame, regret, and a host of other emotions that are impossible to enumerate…” – Bong Austero, Manila Standard Today, 01 Sep 2013 (READ MORE)

“…At the sold-out premiere in Toronto, many in the long lineup awaiting the film’s start were excited to watch it given the critical acclaim at Cinemalaya. Arnold Manalac, a big Santos fan, organized about 20 of his friends to come watch the film. “These are all my college friends, friends here in Toronto, some of my relatives,” he said while pointing out the smiling faces with him, “so we organized and came up with a small group to support this film. The crowd of mostly Filipino-Canadians was abuzz with anticipation, including the very first people in the line, Danny Ong and Ricardo Obusan, who came to support independent Filipino films. Jeturian signed autographs before and after the film’s screening and took questions from the audience. The final showing of Ekstra at TIFF is Sept. 15, but the movie will have a theatrical release in eight Canadian cities including Mississauga and Scarborough from Sept. 13 to 26…” – Dyan Ruiz, The Philippine Reporter, 13 Sept 2013 (READ MORE)

“…The film captures a day in the life of a movies/television soap bit player, Loida Malabanan (played by Santos). It takes off as Loida wakes up early dawn to prepare for another out-of-town shooting for a television drama series as an extra. The film therefore provides a behind-the-scenes look at the travails and the simple joys of Loida and her fellow bit players. Working in an industry dominated by the glamorous and famous, it would seem that bit players have their fair bit of small luxuries, fame and glamour. The movie shatters that impression as it focuses on the sufferings and indignities interspersed with the laughter and friendships of the bit players. In one scene, the bit players have to look for a place to rest in a sun-soaked shooting location and eventually had to share a resting space with a carabao. In another, they literally have to beg for food from a member of the catering crew. The movie is pretty straightforward with no complex subplots, so there were times when I yearned for a sudden twist. I didn’t get what I wanted…Ekstra is really a tribute to the bit players and scoffs at the “system” in the local showbiz industry wherein “star” talents are treated like royalty, while bit players (including those working off-camera such as technicians, custodians, etc) are exploited to the hilt…” – Irish Eden Belleza, Gulf News, 21 September 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In the Directors’ Showcase, Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati (literal translation is “Wish It Were Like Before”), swept eight awards, including Best Film and Best Director. Set during a wedding ceremony, a bride disappears to meet her previous true love. Although well crafted and having an interesting premise, I do not think it deserved that many awards. The other real contender in the section was Jeffrey Jeturian’s new film, Ekstra (Bit player), an enjoyable comedy, which paid a sympathetic homage to the shadow “bit players” (or extras) in TV soaps. The film was lifted by the emphatic character of Loida, which was nicely acted by super star Vilma Santos (now Governor of the Batangas province!). Ekstra grabbed the Special Jury prize, Best Actress (Vilma Santos, known as “Ate Vi”), Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Ruiz), and also the Netpac award for that section. The main Jury (Peque Gallaga, Carlitos Siguion Reyna, Ditsi Carolino from the Philippines, Maggie Lee from Hong Kong and Bastian Meiresonne from France) decided not to award the Best Actor prize this year…I have mixed feelings for this edition of Cinemalaya: films were of uneven quality; jury awards were not well distributed. I am glad the Audience awards were given to Ekstra (Directors’ Showcase), Transit (New Breed) and Taya (Shorts). Whatever may happen, Cinemalaya remains the most important cinematic event in the Philippines and all other subsequent festivals are only variations on the format (whether it be Cinema One, Sineng Pambansa, and now Cine Filipino, in September). Let’s just hope that Cinemalaya’s budget will not be shrinking further, as it is the case for many festivals in the world. That would endanger its very existence…” – Max Tessier, NETPAC Bureau, 01 September 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos in her long and illustrious career in cinema has her playing a stripper (BURLESK QUEEN), a dying woman (DAHIL MAHAL KITA, PAHIRAM NG ISANG UMAGA), the other woman (RELASYON), a superhero (DARNA), a freedom fighter (SISTER STELLA L), countless mothers (ANAK, BATA BATA PAANO KA GINAWA, DEKADA ’70, IN MY LIFE) and sometimes even a tormentor (SINASAMBA KITA) yet what Ekstra, her new indie film offers is something we have never seen Vilma do- underacting. The role demands it, and Vilma more than handsomely gives her finest performance as a bit player…As Loida Malabanan, Ate Vi shines even in anonymity. She is supposed to fade into the background, not outshine the “stars” and just do what is assigned her- to be a bit player. But even in the crowd, Ate Vi makes Loida stand out. She gives Loida the bit player enough motivation, and a poignant love for the acting craft that she has forever changed the image of the bit player, in the same way that she redefined the term “mistress” when she did Ishmael Bernal’s Relasyon way back. For the director, the staff and the big stars, Loida is a nobody. But for us, the audience, we recognize Loida’s magnanimity. Watch out for that pivotal scene in the third act where Loida, and us the audience learns the true meaning of ingratitude in the media. Ekstra is Vilma’s movie. We cannot imagine any other actress for her role. At the end of the day, as Loida descends from the jeepney, and prepares to go to bed just about when everyone is supposed to go to work, we feel exhausted. It’s not the physical work that made us tired, but the system of a dog eat dog society…” – Macky Macarayan, Pelikula Pamantasan – PLM Film Society (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, whose star’s premise encompasses age, climate,even time itself, portrays this “extra.” It is time to report that the brilliance has failed. The consistency of her light years has been credited to a vigor whose basis is melodramatic competence. With the genre demolished at primetime, every night of our lives, the actress looks dissipated in the rehearsal, and what she can afford to muster is a middling energy. There was a time when her powers largely depended on this “extra,” which can be derived from the “over-” in her “overacting.” Even without training from the Peking Opera, Santos repeated this shrill technique from one project to another, for the manner somehow worked at the box office. Manner became the mannerism that launched a star most distantiated from the repertoire of an ensemble and the theater of an environment. Ekstra ultimately fails in Santos’s inability to inhabit the supplementation that she has triumphantly supplanted, with total industrial patronage, all these absolutely industrious years. Her “extra” is a “surplus”: a defective product that deserves to be remaindeered. The catatonic performance in last year’s The Healing should have warned us of the affliction in Ekstra. She is never “Loida”; she doesn’t possess the sentimental history to locate the interiority of such victimage. Frame after frame, “Vilma” remains the star who became an actress, by aspiration, then capitalist scheme, and, perhaps, through bureaucratic accident. The only feeling Vilma understands from Loida is despair, having realized that the industry has lost its charms to restore whatever has remained of recognizable talent. We can only hope Santos has known the extent of such violation, with those final eyes of a rather infinite regret…” – J. Pilapil Jacobo, Young Critics Circle Film Desk (READ MORE)

“…In Ekstra, Loida Malabanan, a certified dreamer, makes a living as television extra in Filipino telenovelas. Portrayed by Vilma Santos, the bit player may take the limelight in terms of story focus but it’s a very dimmed one. The first half of the film engages the uninitiated to the backstage world of the shoot where directors spew expletives as often as they command “action!” or “cut!” and relay orders down the TV production chain. Loida is positive but also probably naïve as she advices a young hopeful to be proud of the bit player’s marginal existence, “balang araw sisikat din tayo! (Someday we’ll land on major roles!), an empty musing that only serves to highlight the sad reality of one-in-a-million chances in a world that has evolved into one that favors the superficial and banal. Loida finally inches closer to her own limelight when offered to replace a supporting role, which requires her to deliver lines beside her own “idol” played by Pilar Pilapil. But awed by this sudden turn of events and overwhelmed by her nerves, Loida botches her dialogue and receives the most hurtful tirade uttered during the entire film. With measly pay (from 1,000 to 3,000 pesos) and no benefits (even least prioritized during meals), Loida and his fellow “professional” bit players are pitted against the unforgiving mechanics of commercial TV networks, a system that sways to the push and pull of the ratings game. As I wrote in a previous review on the film, the bit players in Ekstra are within and among us, in the low rungs of the ladder toward fame, success and dreams that are shattered in an instant…” – Jay Rosas, Davao Today, 14 July 2014 (READ MORE)

“…Gov. Santos of Batangas province, who stars in Jeffrey Jeturian’s movie Ekstra, won the Best Actress award in the Directors Showcase at the 9th Cinemalaya Awards night held Sunday night. Surprisingly though, no Best Actor Award winner was named. Ekstra also won three other awards including the Best Supporting Actress award for Ruby Ruiz, the Audience Choice award, and the Special Jury Prize. The movie is a socio-realist drama-comedy that follows a seemingly usual day in the life of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra. As the shoot goes on, viewers get a glimpse of the truth in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her…” – Ed Uy, Manila Times, 05 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Long vocal about her hesitation to star in an indie movie, Santos had always said she would conquer her fears of trying out the genre given the right script. And yes, Esktra truly got it right. Not only was the Star for All Seasons highly entertained by the amusing yet touching storyline about the travails of a bit player for television—an “ekstra” in showbiz jargon—she was also extremely challenged as an actor to portray the role of Loida Malabanan, and on a much higher level, inspired to pay tribute to the countless and nameless faces she has worked with in the last five decades as a movie star. “Ang pinakamalaking challenge ng role ni Loida Malabanan ay kung kaya ko bang magmukhang at maging isang ekstra sa pelikula,” Santos explained her approach on the Jeffrey Jeturian gem of an indie. “Yun bang hindi ako puwedeng umangat; yung ma-de-glamorize ka na magulo ang buhok mo, ang lalaki ng suot mo; at yung hindi si Vilma Santos ang makita mo kundi isang ekstra…” – Tessa Mauricio-Arriola, Sunday Times Magazine, 10 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“… Anchored by stunning performances from Vilma Santos, Ruby Ruiz, and Marlon Rivera, as well as Jeffrey Jeturian’s compassionate direction, EKSTRA meshes drama and comedy with panache. Vilma Santos always manages to get a very realistic tone to her character, which is quite refreshing. It follows the story of a day in a life of a bit player, Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) during the shooting of a popular soap opera. As the shoot progresses, we get a glimpse of how production works, the people ruling it, and how the extras are treated on the set. There are parts that are pretty cliché, but there are also scenes that are fucking flawless. The supporting cast around Santos is amazing including Ruby Ruiz who gives one of her best performances in this film. It has moments of laughter coupled in with drama that explores hope, love and passion, & the hardships of climbing the mountain of both show business & a relationship in a cynical world. The script written by Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, & Jeffrey Jeturian is absolutely wonderful…” – Chikkaness Avenue, 12 Agosto 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I haven’t come close to seeing everything playing at the St. Louis International Film Festival, but I have seen enough to recommend a few films you might otherwise overlook. One is the Filipino comedy-drama The Bit Player (11/18 Frontenac 4:30 p.m.; 11/20 Frontenac 2:15 p.m.); in fact, the performance of Vilma Santos-Recto alone is reason enough to see this film. Even better, it’s a backstager, offering a look at television production from the point of view of the many underpaid, underappreciated extras who play a vital role in making the programs happen. Santos-Recto is a huge star in her native country (fun fact: she’s also the governor of Batangas province) but perfectly inhabits the life of a middle-aged single mother whose best efforts are required just to stay employed and keep her family afloat…” – Sarah Boslaugh, Playbackstl, 09 Nov 2014 (READ MORE)

“…The TV screening of “Ekstra” heartened Vilma’s fans because it was a bracing departure from her usual starrers. It was strikingly simple and acutely realistic, “daring” to cast her, not as a star, but as a lowly, faceless bit player in the movies. Jeffrey Jeturian’s indie surprised fans with its gutsy decision to cast Vilma in an “everywoman” role that they could fully empathize with. And it delighted TV-film industry insiders even more with its spot-on and satirically “knowing” details about the un-glamorous side of the biz—where extras work for a pittance while waiting for hours and hours for spoiled and overpayed stars to finally deign to show up for their shooting or taping schedules!…It was also such great fun for “real” stars like Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Cherie Gil and Pilar Pilapil to candidly and even ruthlessly spoof themselves and their stellar colleagues, the better to drive home the key and telling point that show biz can be a vicious den of harsh and cruel inequality. “Ekstra” is precisely the kind of film that Vilma should be making at this time in her life, when she’s so busy with other, more political concerns. This way, she can continue to act in at least one significant movie a year, even as she focuses on more nationally “important” pursuits!…” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 April 2015 (READ MORE)

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Pilar Pilapil in EKSTRA, The Bit Player – 2013 Cinemalaya Jul 26 – Aug 4

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Armpit Hair and Drug Overdose – “…Dolphy was all set to marry Pilar, but her father intervened. Worldly-wise himself, Carlos Pilapil didn’t exactly welcome the idea of having another Lothario for a son-in-law. She had his daughter guarded by older siblings until she had shaken Dolphy out of her system and out of her heart and life…Later, Pilar would plunge into a more serious romantic affair & this time with a famous politician who would be the father of only daughter Pia, who is now married to former model Gerry Gonzalo. (Pilar is fondly called Lola Pretty by Gerry and Pia’s kids.) The 1970s was the peak of Pilar Pilapil’s career. She had a Thursday night drama anthology for ABS-CBN Channel 4 called Ala-ala which was cut short by the proclamation of Martial Law in 1972. On the big screen, she was paired with some of the country’s top leading men…Around this time, she also became quite controversial because she was the first & and so far the only & actress to have grown hair in her armpits. Back then, whenever she was interviewed on television about her armpit hair, she would say that she forgot to shave them one day and decided to just let it all grow. But now, she openly admits that she did it to accede to the strange fetish of the man in her life then. In 1977, she hit the headlines after figuring in a drug overdose. She was suffering from insomnia then and had to take Semicon. One day, she swallowed one too many pills after she had trouble getting to sleep and “maybe because I wanted to make an exit because of what was going on in my life then…” – Butch Francisco, The Philippine Star, 13 October 2001 (READ MORE)

Regaining Identity – “…Life’s journey is never easy. There are certain circumstances beyond our control that allow one to falter, thus losing face, if not lose personal identity along the way. This book is not merely about me baring my soul to everyone but, more importantly, it’s how I rose to the occasion and conquered myself. Regaining my identity, my true self with the guidance of the Divine…”Love answers all behavior” and it all starts in the family. Growing up with an abusive father and a submissive mother was a little too difficult to bear for a young girl but, in retrospect and speaking now as a parent, I understood everything. It made me a person, a better mom to Pia. And yes, all the characters you meet in the book are for real. My beloved aunt Filomena who raised me for the most part was such a character. She was very religious, always dragged me to church. Ironic, I grew up with somebody who died a virgin and I turned out the exact opposite. I love my hometown! Nowadays, I visit friends and relatives as much as I possibly can…The Pilar Pilapil Foundation was conceived in 1997. We minister mainly to unwed mothers, abused women and children, substance addicts and more. We have had several programs since we started, like medical and dental missions, gift giving and community outreach. Our Ministry house in Apas, Lahug, houses our Praise Church and a school for street children. We aim to help communities and households through faith and the love of God. Currently, we do not have that much supporters. Hopefully, with this book out we would be able to gain more friends and generous souls so that we can continue our noble mission. In fact, all the proceeds of this book go to the Foundation…” – J.P. Laza and Rycky Pilapil, The Freeman, 13 July 2006 (READ MORE)

Cinderella and Prince Charming – “…The youngest of six girls (with four brothers after her) recalled that childhood, spent with a spinster aunt since age five, with an overtone of bitterness toward a father who, she insists, didn’t love her, citing an incident when she was 14 and starting to be “mischievous” with the guys: She obeyed terrified when her father, depressed after losing his job at a tire company, summoned her to his room and, she narrated, “shut the door behind me and I learned just how very cruel my father could be.” What that “cruelty” was she didn’t elaborate. But after that incident, she says, “My life was never again the same”….And she fell in love with, you guessed it, older men, first with Dolphy (who, according to some sources, she almost married) and then with a man whom she identifies only as Doy, father of her only child Pia who married a handsome blind model. Pilar recalled that on their first meeting, the man Doy tried to seduce her (“…the fact that he was proposing sex without romance was a big turn-off to me…”), so she ran out of the back entrance and down the stairs because the elevator of the apartment building was out of order, much like “Cinderella running away from my Prince Charming.” Well, to make a long story short, Pilar fell deeply in love with the man Doy, “even though he was married with several children,” convinced that “I believed I learned to love him, and I believed that he loved me,” foolishly desiring that they would be together forever even if she knew that could never happen. One of Pilar’s poignant recollections of the man Doy was when he fought with his wife (unidentified in the book) and he stayed with Pilar for one week: Midnight came and my helper used the intercom and told me that Doy’s two daughters were downstairs. I went down to see them while Pia (then only about three years old) and her dad were fast asleep. As we talked, his daughter told me, “You finally found what you wanted.” I replied, “It’s not a matter of what I want, it’s a matter of how many people get hurt in the process. There are eight of you, nine including your mother. There are only two of us.” They both became quiet and asked if they could see their father. I led the elder daughter to our bedroom upstairs and she woke her dad, saying, “Dad, mom is already home.” He woke up and told me, “Mama (our term of endearment), I’ll go home first.” I guess you and I have an idea what happened to that “affair to remember…” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Philippine Star, 27 February 2006 (READ MORE)

Thinking vs Talking – “…Looking at Pilar these days one wonders why she has not aged at all. The years have given her face something that wasn’t there before, a strength that is the definition of classic beauty…”Oh, but I’ve changed,” she exclaimed. “Life has turned for the better for me, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I am more settled now. I think it’s not good to look back at the past. I think I am better person in spite of my marriage having failed. I’m in the process of having that annulled…Happiness is relative. It only helps if you can be with someone who loves you and who can be good to you. At present there’s no one whom I can call my own but there are several people around wanting to have relationships but I’m still somehow in the process of seeing who is the bests…there’s a saying that when you think positively of something. It will come true. Yes, but there’s a difference between thinking and talking. I do think about them, but I don’t to talk about my plans. If its meant to happen, it will happen. It’s funny because in life whenever you’re ready to give up, something good happens to you, something good for you. God is really ever watching us, giving us both emotional and physical strength to bounce again. So I take one day at a time. There are many things that I would want to happen…” – Nena Z. Villanueva, Manila Standard, 17 Oct 1991, p17 (READ MORE)

Ekstra, The Bit Player (2013) – “…We screened the edited materials of the film yesterday (without the ending) and the performance of the entire cast is something we are so proud of. Nobody was trying to upstage anyone. It was team work – pure and simple. A brilliant cast!!! I ended up with tears on my eyes – because I could not stop laughing and laughing with how the story was unfolding, with so many hilarious real life incidents that an ekstra has to go through. Then again, without knowing it, I found myself in tears, and this time for a different reason – because of the atrocities that TV production people have to face due to the economics of the industry, the people at the bottom of the line like the extras often end up having to bear the brunt. Time for a wake up call maybe?…” – Mario Bautista, Showbiz Portal, 18 Mar 2013 (READ MORE)

Pilar Pilapil (born October 12, 1950), is an award-winning actress in the Philippines. She won as Bb. Pilipinas-Universe in 1967. She represented the country in the Miss Universe 1967 pageant. After winning the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant in 1967, Pilapil was swamped with offers to join the movies. Her first film was the action picture El Nino (1968) with Andy Poe as her leading man, directed by Fernando Poe, Jr. She did movies with Dolphy such as Dolpe De Gulat (1969) and El Pinoy Matador (1970), among others. She won two best actress awards, one for the movie Imelda, Ang Uliran (1970) at the Manila Film Festival and another for the film Napakasakit Kuya Eddie (1986) for Gawad Urian Award 1987. She also dabbed in politics when she ran for senator in 2004 as an independent candidate but she lost. In 2006, she released an autobiography entitled The Woman Without A Face, chronicling her life in show business and in private life after she went on semi-retirement. Pilapil continues to entertain viewers via ABS-CBN’s primetime drama series Ina, Kapatid, Anak premiered on October 8, 2012. Pilar Delilah Pilapil, was born on October 12, 1950 in Liloan, Cebu. The youngest of six girls with four brothers after her. She has a daughter, also an actress Pia Pilapil, to Doy Laurel. She married to Spanish journalist Michel Ponti on October 12, 1986 at the Manila Cathedral, but they divorced after. She became a born-again Christian in 1995, and married Pastor Bernie Penas on May 18, 2002. Pilapil has a foundation named Pilar Pilapil Foundation, which helps battered and abused women, among others. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

FILMS - Ekstra The Bit Player poster 3ARelated Reading:

Cherie Gil in EKSTRA, The Bit Player – 2013 Cinemalaya Jul 26 – Aug 4

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Perspective and Attitude – “…t seems these past months have been all about making movies! I’ve really missed that. After all, I began my career as a film actress during the turn of the second golden era of films. That was around the early ’80’s to early ’90’s. Then we hit a slump after the Marcos regime, but now it seems to have bounced back – baby steps, yes, but watch out for the indie generation. It has grown so fast and given fresh takes on story concepts and execution, and we’ve gotten global recognition. It’s just as exciting even if some purists say that we don’t make films like we used to. Well, that’s partly true. But why stick to what we used to do? Isn’t growth all about innovation especially in this fast evolving digital age?…I was all of 19 when I was tapped by Peque Gallaga to do the film. Then working on the comedy TV show “Champoy” together, he purposely mentioned that he wrote the role for me. Worried then that I was too in love (with a cute doctor) that I might not take the project seriously, I promised I would give it my all if he would just trust me. (I think he wanted to make sure so he cast the mother of my boyfriend! I won’t say who, ok?) Never having lived nor experienced much less to imagine being in the midst of war, I had no sort of personal contribution to the role and to the film itself in its entirety. Needless to say, my life’s journey in the film was in Peque’s hands. Watching it again made me realize that it was no small feat for the acclaimed director. Every scene involved teamwork and ensemble choreography captured by complicated camera shots, more often done in just one take, capturing only sheer truth and believability. I marvel now at how he was able to achieve all that unfailingly…I spent two months straight in the deepest jungles of Negros, and my perspective of and attitude towards my work was never the same after. “Oro, Plata, Mata” set high standards and great expectations which were hard to meet in other projects…” – Cherie Gil, Rappler, 08 March 2013 (READ MORE)

Favorite Roles – “…Kung sino man, sana ako na habang puwede pa! That’s one of my favorite roles, e. Kaiba-iba. I don’t mind playing it again. I played Kano. I was a drug addict, pusher/lesbian…Ang ganda-ganda! I think it’s still being credited in many film festivals internationally. If I speak to people from Israel Film Festival or people in that circle, if I mention Oro Plata Mata and Manila By Night, they remember. They remember Manila By Night as City After Dark. So they know these movies. Kahit nga daw si Quentin Tarantino, alam niya ‘yong City After Dark,” she says with gusto…Kasi nabitin ako doon, e. I have a lot of angst about that role because it was a very strong chance for me to get into the Urian league, and I was first nominated with that movie. Kabataan ko pa, [I was just] 17. Everybody clamors for this award-giving body, especially as respectable as Urian. ‘Yon [Urian] ang isang award na hindi ko pa nalalagay sa aking mantel. At that time, I was doing movies. Uso noon ang lagare. Konti lang kaming mga artista noon. We were doing four, five, six films at the same time. Ang daming pelikula rin noon, 100 films a year. I was doing lagare, so to the point na hindi pa ako nakapag-dubbing. Si Louella [Albornos, fomer charactress actress], she dubbed for me. To give her credit, she really did a great job kasi nga tomboy, e, so bumagay ‘yong boses niya na mababa. Pero ano na ‘yon, parang point against me na ‘yon na hindi ko nabuo ang trabaho…” – Candace Lim, PEP, 13 September 2007 (READ MORE)

Process of the work and Self-discovery – “…It was a perfect time two years ago because it was when I was going through a certain crisis, which I wasn’t secretive about. Two years after that, so many things, so many changes happened. I have done four soap operas, but I’ve never known where I have probably gotten the energy to do all that…I guess once you’re out there, you’re out there; there’s no way that you can correct [a mistake] and do it all over again. It’s the process of the work. And, ‘ika nga, theater is really a medium for actors…Dad is doing okay, he’s in the States with my mom, who is still very active in the church…we all do need inspiration, we all do need motivation, don’t we? But sometimes, you just don’t find it externally; we all just have to continuously dig down deep inside of us. Kasi minsan, may mga ginagawa tayo na nakakawalang-gana rin… I’ve been in the industry for 37 years, way too long. And this is a good transition time in my life because for the first time, for two years, I’ve been on my own. There’s a lot of self-discovery for me…” – Leo Laparan, PEP, 08 July 2010 (READ MORE)

Respect and Humane – “…From my perspective, I’m not sure if I can now consider this film the parody it’s meant to be, or more of an “exposé” into our real world of soap operas. It reflects many truths of what these extras, or talents, face. I myself, despite my ranting, have softened up to their plight. On one taping day, lo and behold, the first sight that greeted me were some 20 talents sitting on cardboard on the ground, in the heat of the sun, right in front of the main actors’ air conditioned tent. Talk about rubbing the point in. All this for P1,000 a day or P1,500 if you had speaking lines, or if you played a nurse, police or doctor, you get P2,000 because you have to bring your own uniform. A day may mean 28 to 36 hours straight for many of them. I’m fortunate that after decades in the business, I’ve earned a cut-off time of 2 am (which in effect actually helps talents go home earlier, if they’re in my scenes). I realize minimum wage stands at under P500, but these seemingly good talent fees don’t go straight into their pockets. They too have agents or talent suppliers who whittle away their earnings. (Just like we do.) I could be putting myself on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway: isn’t it high time we make the working environment in the soap opera world better for all to enjoy the work and find dignity in our choice of profession? Isn’t it time to raise the standards and expectations for the betterment of our teleseryes; from better story material, evolving from formulaic recipes. From more comfortable stand-by areas, to better and more respectful organization of everyone’s time, to humane working hours, and even maybe to plates and utensils (instead of styrofoam and plastics) for everyone?…” – Cherie Gil, Rappler, 30 March 2013 (READ MORE)

Cherie Gil and Vilma Santos – Mother and Daughter, Rosemarie and Cherie Gil both won a best supporting actress awards in a Vilma Santos films. Rosemarie was recognized in her heartfelt performance in Celso Ad Castillo’s “Burlesk Queen,” a best picture winner in 1977 Metro Manila Film Festival. Meanwhile, Cherie, won her best supporting actress via Eddie Garcia’s 1989 Metro Manila Film Festival best picture winner, “Imortal.” Both Imortal and Burlesk also won best actress awards for Vilma Santos. Vilma and Cherie did three films together before reuniting again in this year indie film, “Ekstra: The Bit Player.” Some highlights, both Cherie and Vi are regular staple in National Artist Ishmael Bernal’s filmography. Cherie’s most memorable Bernal film was “City After Dark” where she portrayed a lesbian drug pusher who’s in love with blind masseuse, Rio Locsin. Vi’s most recognizable Bernal film was “The Affair” or locally titled “Relasyon” where she played a sympathetic mistress of a chauvinistic teacher, Christopher de Leon. While Vi started her career as a child star, her relaunch into a mature actress was via Celso Ad Castillo’s “Burlesk Queen,” a period movie filled with sexual innuendo while Cherie Gil’s launching movie was Elwood Perez’s “Problem Child,” a modern movie filled with blatant sexual scenarios. Cherie’s other notable films were: Oro Plata Mata; Taga sa Panahon; Ito Ba Ang Ating Mga Anak; and Rosenda. Although Gil is no longer commands leading role status in films she ventured successfully into television and in recent years in stage acting, more notably in “The Graduate” and “Master Class.” Like Vi’s most memorable movie line: “Para kang karinderyang bukas sa lahat Kumain! (“You’re like a 24 hour take out restaurant, open whoever wants to eat!”), Cherie has her share of most memorable movie lines. Confronting the uprising singer in the movie “Bituing Walang Ningning,” Cherie uttered the lines to an equally combative Sharon Cuneta: “You’re nothing but a second rate, trying hard, copy cat!” Cherie is indeed someone to be cherish.

  • Palimos ng pag-ibig (1986) – “…The year was 1986. Palimos Ng Pag-ibig directed by Eddie Garcia was a smashed hit. Vilma co-starred with her soon to be ex husband Edu Manzano and Dina Bonnevie. Despite the mixed reviews from the critics, the film gave us, arguably, one of the most memorable lines in Philippine movie history. The scene was, Vilma, playing Fina was about to leave the house when Ditas, (Edu’s mistress and baby maker) knocked on the door, with her was her husband’s child. She forced herself in. Confronting Ditas, Fina: “Ilang gabi kang binili ni Rodel?” Ditas (Dina): “Isang Gabi lang, malakas ang kanyang punla at nangangailangan lang ng matabang lupa!” Fina: “Okey! So you’re fertile and I’m barren…pero sa mga pangyayari, para kang karinderyang bukas sa lahat ng gustong kumain! Paano mong mapapatunayang ang asawa ko nga ang ama ng batang iyan at wala siyang kasosyong iba?…” – RV (READ MORE)
  • Saan nagtatago ang pag-ibig? (1987) – “…For sure, the film has been well-acted. Vilma, once again awes us with her astringent putdowns in her familiar facial expressions and pertinent body language. That long monologue in front of the dying Tonton is an eloquent testimony to her acting talent. Tonton is worthy of notice as the retardate but we have to be assured that he is capable of doing the things he does in the film. Can he really remember the past with such clarity despite his brain damage? Nevertheless, he has captured the mannerisms and speech of the character he portrays. Alicia Vergel comes on too strong as the aristocratic Nyora Pacing who wears an eyepatch and walks with a cane. Ricky Davao vies for attection in his anti-hero role. Cherie Gil as Ricky’s flighty sister is less fierry but more believable. Gloria Romero delivers a sensitive portrayal of the weak mother with a dark past while Alicia Alonzo plays her sister who is privy to the family’s secrets. Eddie Garcia should be commended for toning down his confrontation scenes. His familiarity with this film genre shows in the way he manipulates the characters and builds up the scene. Still, one cannot help but questions the logic behind that sham marriage…” – Luciano E. Soriano, Manila Standard – Sep 5, 1987 (READ MORE)
  • Imortal (1989) – “…There are other laughable scenes. Vilma says, “My husband is (music rises ominously) — my husband is (music again) Impotent (music rises to a climax)!” You’d think the husband just contracted the AIDS virus or got castrated by Sparrow units! Shucks, I know several husbands who just can’t do it anymore, and I hear no heavy music when their wives complain. As a matter of fact, wives prefer their husbands to be impotent, rather than be sexually active with other women. Another terrible scene. The car ridden by Christopher and wife Cherie Gil falls off a cliff. Cherie who is pregnant is mortally wounded and dies. And Christopher looks at his dead wife, and holds aloft a new born baby complete with umbilical cord. This is absurd without a caesarian operation by a doctor. The worst scene is when Christopher digs up the corpse of Vilma at the cemetery, amidst thunder, lightning, wind and rain, and embraces her passionately, while she exhibits no rigor mortis, and apparently no smell of formalin. You don’t find this kind of idiocy in a television commercial. Most of my grandchildren, including Angeli who is only four months of age, enjoy commercials more than dramas…” – Hilarion& M. Henares Jr., January 14, 1990, Philippine Daily Inquirer (READ MORE)
  • Ekstra, The Bit Player (2013) – “…We screened the edited materials of the film yesterday (without the ending) and the performance of the entire cast is something we are so proud of. Nobody was trying to upstage anyone. It was team work – pure and simple. A brilliant cast!!! I ended up with tears on my eyes – because I could not stop laughing and laughing with how the story was unfolding, with so many hilarious real life incidents that an ekstra has to go through. Then again, without knowing it, I found myself in tears, and this time for a different reason — because of the atrocities that TV production people have to face due to the economics of the industry, the people at the bottom of the line like the extras often end up having to bear the brunt. Time for a wake up call maybe?…” – Mario Bautista, Showbiz Portal, 18 Mar 2013 (READ MORE)

Evangeline Rose De Mesa Eigenmann (born May 12, 1965) is a Filipino actress of Swiss German American, Spanish, and Filipino descent. Cherie Gil is the daughter of Filipino actors Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil and sister to actors Mark Gil and Michael de Mesa. She was formerly married to Rony Rogoff, an internationally-renowned violinist. Together they have two children, Bianca and Raphael, in addition to her first child Jay…Cherie Gil is the daughter of Filipino actors Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil and sister to actors Mark Gil and Michael de Mesa. She was formerly married to Rony Rogoff, an internationally-renowned violinist. Together they have two children, Bianca and Raphael, in addition to her first child Jay. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

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Ekstra, The Bit Player (2013)

“Ok Lang Po, Maam, Part of the Job.” – Loida Malabanana

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Basic Information: Direction: Jeffrey Jeturian; Writing Credits (story and screenplay): Zig Madamba Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian; Executive Producer: Atty. Joji Alonso; Associate Producer: Ron Capili; Line Producer: Charyl Chan-de Guzman; Executive Producer: Jeffrey Jeturian, Ferdinand Lapuz, Malou N. Santos, Vilma Santos, Charo Santos-Concio, John Victor Tence; Music: Vincent de Jesus, Cinematography: Lee Meily, Lee Briones; Film Editing: Zig Madamba Dulay, Glenn Ituriaga; Production Design: Ericson Navarro, Erwin Sanchez; “Ekstra” – original title; Released: 14 August 2013 (Philippines); Production Co: Cinemalaya Foundation, Quantum Films; Runtime: 111 min

Complete Cast (in order of appearance): Nenita Deanoso, Karen Leslie Dematera, Boobsie Wonderland, Cris Castillo, Cris Ad Castillo, Raymund Ocampo, Abi Niesta, Cherry Pie Picache, Zyrus Imperial, Richard Yap, Ruby Ruiz, Vilma Santos, Ronaline Ronn Enriquez, Rita Rosario G. Carlos, Tart Carlos, Antonette Garcia, Linda Villalobos, Raymond Rinoza, Hazel Faith Dela Cru, Rex Lantano, Martha Comia, Jake Seneres, Ricky Pascua, Zachary Ezekiel Diaz, Angelica Luis, Mhel Seduco, Michael Bayot, Fatima Centena, Almira Alcid, Chris Garrido, Norberto Portales, Marlon Rivera, Sunshine Teodoro, Vincent de Jesus

Louie Kim Sedukis, Miguel Cruz, Bobby Contiga, Piolo Pascual, Orlando Marcos, Paulo Gabriel, Vida Masakayan, Marx Topacio, Marian Rivera, Afi Africa,, Cherie Gil, Nico Antonio, Toni Lopengco, Eula Valdez, Rosejean Sevilla, Salvador Zapanta, Glen Elizalde, Windie Lainie King, Richard Carbajal, Stanley Carvajal, Kerwin Garcia, Albert Lorenzo, Mark Anthony Robrigado, Eden Jaime, Jojo Flores, Pamela Roxas, Pilar Pilapil, Olive Cruz, Tom Rodriguez, Terence Baylon, Red Musni, Alora Mae Sasam, Joy Lomibao, Catherine Reyes, Mae Anne Pineda, John Paul Mendoza , Dyan Mae Mora

Manuel Maputol, Honey Mae Liyagen, Salve Barrientos, Marc Anthony Olata, Jeyean Payawal, Vernadet Fortin, Mico Madrid, Leah Jabonella, Zarah Pagay, Rene Castellano, Liwanag Fortin, Cesar Garbo, Rogelio Itein, Lorevy Paller, Eugine Quijano, Ronald Fortin, Lorna Villanueva, Ivan Gabriel, Willy Concepcion, Jayjay Payawal, Manuel Luis Antonio, Lorraine Anne Caluya, Jack Tan, Anne Mitchelle Utuania, Maricel Gabitanan, Jaime Dyunco, Bambie Apostol, Marie De Guzman, Jayjelon Cruz, Basty Peralta, Maryella Gabitanan, Jerry Pingol, Beau Estera, May Ann Bongearas, Jibb Llansang, Cecille Villar

Melanie Ulang, Jivesh Lansang, Christine Ormilla, Melba Cabaiz, Jhon Fallorina, Evelyn De Guzman, Nancy Villar, Jobie Gregorio, Ever Tan, Nene Felias, John Lloyd Ilagan, Ginelyn Baguturo, Nicah Ariza, John Mark Aqui, Hannah Jessica Amanulla, Nina Bucala, Joren Lansang, Hershey Gregorio, Odette Losing, Ken John Kabayashi, Jamaicca Dayta, Renee Andrea Abuyin, Kershon Bumanlag, Jasmine Abuan, Rio Dela Cruz, Khaled Almohsin, Jenelyn Auste, Roxanne Dela Cruz, Khalil Verzosa, Jessa Bravo, Weng Diaz, Lambert Del Mundo, Jessica Navarro, Aaron Ascano, Lester Paguio, Jonalyn Noleal, Alex Oledan

Loren De Guzman, Judy Ann Noleal, Allaine Garduce, Kaycie Antonio, Andrei Guerrero, Mark Bautista, Kim Villena, Antonio Hernandez, Michael Gillego, Kimberly Alaras, Arjay Abuyin, Nicolas Marquez, Kimberly Ann Baleta, Benjamin Chua, Paul Joseph Emerenciana, Kimberly Cru, Bryan Garduce, Ryan Olayvar, Krizie Peralta, Bryan Perlas, Rey Capaguian, Kylie Dela Cruz, Don Santiago, Rickson Villena, Lesley Anne Datu, Ian Japer Villar, Ruth Villar, Ivan Erazo, Tom Taclindo – IMDB

Plot Description: Ekstra, The Bit Player is a socio-realist drama-comedy film, it follows a seemingly usual day in the life of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra. As the shoot goes on, we get a glimpse of the truth in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her. – Cinemalaya (READ MORE)

Film Achievement: Official Entry to The 2013 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival: NETPAC Prize, Special Jury Prize, The Audience Choice Award, Best Actress – Vilma Santos, Best Screenplay – Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian, Best Supporting Actress – Ruby Ruiz; 2013 Gawad Tanglaw Best Actress – Vilma Santos; 2013 Gawad Urian: Best Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos, Best Film Nomination – Cinemalaya Foundation and Quantum Films, Best Director Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian, Best Supporting Actress Nomination – Ruby Ruiz, Best Sound Nomination – Addiss Tabong and Wild Sound, Best Production Design Nomination – Ericson Navarro; FAMAS: Best Picture Nomination; Best Screenplay Nomination; Best Editing Nomination; Best Story Nomination; 11th Golden Screen Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama Nomination – Cinemalaya Foundation & Quantum Films; Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role – Drama – Vilma Santos; Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Nominations – Drama, Musical or Comedy – Ruby Ruiz and Tart Carlos; Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Nomination – Drama, Musical or Comedy – Marlon Rivera; Best Direction Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian; Best Editing Nominations – Zig Dulay, Glenn Ituriaga; FAP 32nd Luna Awards Outstanding Performance Lead Actress Nomination – Vilma Santos; Philippine Cinema Evaluation Board Grade – “A”; NCCA – Ani ng Dangal

International Recognition: Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival®, September 5-15, 2013 – Contemporary World Cinema Programme; Philippine’s Official Entry to The Dhaka International Film Festival – Dhaka, Bangladesh and winner of Best Actress; Special Selection: 2013 NuCinema: NUVALI Outdoor Film Festival; Special Selection: Special Selection: Asia Pop! of The San Diego Asian Film Festival 2013; Special Selection: World Cinema Section of 2013 International Film Festival of India (Goa, India); Official Selection: The 18th International Film Festival of Kerala 2013; Official Selection NETPAC Award Winners: The 2013 Bangalore International Film Festival Bangalore, India; In competition – The Boréal Audience Award 2014 Festival International de Films Independants Geneve – The 15th Black Movie Festival (Geneva, Switzerland); Official Selection – Women of the World/Pacific PearlsThe 38th Cleveland International Film Festival 2014; Official Selection – 40th Seattle International Film FestivalSeattle, USA (May 15 – June 8, 2014); Official Selection – New Filipino Cinema 2014 YBCACalifornia, USA (2014); Official Selection – 15th Rainbow Film FestivalLondon, UK (May 25-June 1); Official Selection – Southeast Asian Film Festival – Singapore 11 April – 4 May 2014; Special Screening – Honolulu Museum of Art – Honolulu, Hawai Apr 4, 9, 15 2014; Official Selection NETPAC Award Winning Films – The International Film Festival of Colombo 2014 (IFFColombo); Special Screening – Mission Valley Library, San Diego, California USA October 22, 2014; Special Screening – Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Contemporary World Film Series; Special Screening – 3rd Hanoi International Film Festival (HIFF); Official Selection International Spotlight – The 23rd Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF); The Inquirer Indie Bravo!-Fully Booked Film Festival: The Best of Filipino Films 2013; Official Selection – 2015 Silk Road Film Festival Dublin, Ireland; 48th Worldfest Houston 2015 – Best Foreign Feature Film, Best Comedy Film Remi Award Platinum; New York Festivals – World’s Best TV & Films 2015 Bronze World Medal for Best World Feature Film; 2015 Madrid International Film Festival Best Foreign Language Feature Film Nomination – The Bit Player – Producers: Ferdinand Lapuz, Josabeth Alonso, Jeffrey Jeturian, John Victor Tence, Vilma Santos-Recto; Best Lead Actress in a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Vilma Santos; Best Director of a Foreign Language Feature Film Nomination – Jeffrey Jeturian; Best Producer of a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Ferdinand Lapuz; Best Original Screenplay of a Foreign Language Film Nomination – Antoinette Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian, Zig Dulay; The IndieFEST Film Awards – Award of Merit Special Mention for Lead Actress; In conpetition feature films – Silk Road Film Festival; Official Selection – 2015 P-Noise: The Filipino Festival Copenhagen, Denmark; 3 Days Box-Office Gross in North America (September 13-15) = $43,000; Total 3 day gross in North America is US$141,000.00 (P5,922,000.00) Source: Leonard Klady, MovieCityNews.com, 13-15 Sep 2013

NETPAC and Special Jury Prize – “…Vilma Santos was named Best Actress for her role in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra in the Directors Showcase. She was cited “for her bold decision to deglamorize herself and take on the lowly role of the TV and movie bit player, for her moving portrayal of the unsung hero of show business, for the polish and aplomb with which she essayed the role, and for her powerful cinematic presence.” Ekstra won the Special Jury Prize “for its poignant take on the lowly bit player, the unheralded hero of show business, whose contributions are often ignored in movie and TV credits, for its bittersweet evocation of the magic of cinema, and for its humor, pathos and sheer humanity.”; the NETPAC Award for its “comedic but insightful and touching treatment of a day-in-the-life of a movie bit player, seamlessly woven in the production of a TV soap opera.”; and the Audience Choice Award. Ekstra also won for Ruby Ruiz the Best Supporting Actress award and for Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone and Jeffrey Jeturian the Best Screenplay award…” – Cinemalaya (READ MORE)

Film Reviews: “…Ang strength ng pelikula ay ang script nito (na nakapangalan sa tatlo: Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone at Jeffrey Jeturian). Kahit na nagpaka-real time ito (upang maramdaman ng audience ang exhaustion na hinihingi ng isang bit player) o tipong nagpapaka-a day in the life of lang, ramdam na ramdam na meron itong script. Nai-shoot nito ang point nang lapat na lapat. Klaro ang motivation ng central character kung bakit ginagawa n’ya ang mga bagay na pinaghihirapan n’ya. Isa rin itong dahilan upang samahan natin si Loida (Vilma Santos) sa kanyang pakikipaglaban sa araw na ‘yun. May tendency na magpaliwanag masyado kung anu-ano ang mga ginagawa sa produksyon pero nasolusyunan naman ito sa paggamit ng isang karakter na baguhang ekstra. Maging ‘yung tanong sa dulo bago matapos ang pelikula, naselyuhan nito ang halaga ng ginagawa natin hindi lang bilang isang taga-film production kung hindi bilang trabahador na rin sa Pilipinas sa pangkalahatang perspektibo. Nakuha rin ako ng humor ni Jeturian dito. Tingin ko, sensibilidad n’ya ang ganitong wit at wala akong makitang direktor ngayon na nasa ganitong level. Ngayon na lang ulit ako natawa sa kanya mula roon sa isang eksena sa “Pila Balde” kung saan kumain ng panis na hopya si Estrella Kuenzler. OK naman si Vilma rito. Masayang makita na ang mga shining moment n’ya rito ay ‘yung mga eksenang tumatawa s’ya. Pero dahil Vilmanian si Jeturian, hindi naman puwedeng walang eksena na aangat si Vilma sa mga nakagamayan na. Gusto ko ‘yung nakikipagpagalingan s’ya para sa isang role bilang katulong. Maliban sa larger than life na presence ng bida, umangat din ang mga suporta rito: Marlon Rivera (bilang soap opera director at so far, s’ya ang aking bet para sa Best Supporting Actor sa Directors Showcase), Tart Carlos (bilang kapwa ekstra at sounding board ng bida) at Ruby Ruiz (bilang Josie). Sa side note, ganito palang manood ng Vi movie na ang katabi mo ay isang ultimate Vilmanian. Bago mag-umpisa, hindi mo mahagilap dahil parang bomb specialist na iniisa-isa ang mga entrance at exit ng Main Theater kung saan papasok ang mga artista. At malakas din ang tawa n’ya r’un sa isang linya na “Eh bakit si Nora Aunor?…” – Manuel Pangaruy Jr., Tagailog Specials Presents, 28 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Not all is grim in Filipino cinema. Romance and satire abound. Jerrold Tarog expertly avoids the syrupy clichés of mainstream rom-com in his absorbing, bittersweet Sana Dati (If Only). Alvin Yapan’s supernaturally seductive Debosyon (Devotion) explores the ardor between a man and a forest spirit at the kooky crossroads of Catholicism and pre-colonial pagan faiths. Jeffrey Jeturian’s witty The Bit Player (Ekstra) pokes fun at the exploitative telenovela industry, with the renowned Vilma Santos in top form as a desperate extra on a soap opera set Tour de force acting comes not only from the legendary Aunor and Santos and other established luminaries like Cherie Gil, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, Irma Adlawan and Ping Medina, but also from complete unknowns like the mischievous gang of young boys in a small provincial town in Keith Deligero’s Iskalawags, who idolize action movie stars and adopt their swashbuckling ways to escape the dreariness and the struggles of their own existence. Far more than a charming coming-of-age tale, Iskalawags slyly deprecates Filipino notions of manhood and alludes to the oppressiveness of Tagalog culture as endured by the restless majority who live outside ‘Imperial Manila…” – Carla Escoda, Huffington Post, 12 June 2014 (READ MORE)

“…For most of “Ekstra,” I was only vaguely interested in what was happening. A lot of work, a lot of arguments, a lot of ego, went into the creation of something that was not only valueless to the culture but detrimental. Product placement is the least of it; soap operas, like most movies, sell wish fulfillment. They sell the dream of wealth, beauty, and glamor. At the same time, they sell schadenfreude, as the wealthy, beautiful and glamorous feel the heartache implicit in soap opera storylines. I also objected when Loida began to stumble during her big scene. It felt way too cruel to me. It felt sadistic and/or bathetic. But ultimately Santos has a restraint that makes it work. You sense Loida’s world has crumbled but she doesn’t know what to do. There’s doubt and pain in her eyes now. Interestingly, Santos, who looks like the part she plays—someone passed over by life—is in reality a hugely successful actress and politician. She was the Mayor of Lipa City and the Governor of Batangas, a province in the Philippines. There are four major film awards in the Philippines and only 17 times has someone won all four in the same year. It’s called the Philippines Movie Grand Slam, and Santos was the first to do it in 1982. She’s since done it three more times. No one else in Philippines has done it more than twice. She’s basically the Meryl Streep and the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Philippines…” – Erik Lundegaard, May 28, 2014 (READ MORE)

“…It’s not easy being an extra. While vital to the authenticity to a filmed project—be it a movie, TV show, or music video—extras, or bit players, are regularly relegated to the sidelines, where they are subjugated, mistreated, underfed, and disrespected, working long hours without any promises of fame, fortune, or respectable paychecks. Such is the life of middle-aged single mother Loida (Vilma Santos), who has yet to catch her big break. Waking up at the crack of dawn, she and a dozen other extras pack themselves like sardines into a van and head out to a remote location shoot for the nightly TV soap opera “Nauna kang nagging Akin” (or “You Were Mine First”). Upon their arrival, they find the set in complete disarray, a frenzied circus of diva behavior, rain delays, and prop mishaps. Over the course of one very long shooting day, the behind-the-scenes chaos become as dramatic, if not more, than the soap opera unfolding before the cameras, but Loida, ever committed to her craft, discovers what could be a glimmer of hope in the form of a small, available speaking role. Santos, who ironically is a cinema megastar in her home country, gives one of the best performances of the Festival, imbuing Loida with a dogged tenacity lying just beneath the surface of her kind but world-weary visage. The film itself strikes a wonderful balance between a screwball showbiz comedy and a compassionate socio-realist drama about the exploitation of labor, equally harsh and hilarious…” – SIFF 2014 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, the legendary grand dame of Philippine cinema, stars in this bittersweet comedy. A clever satire of the telenovela formula, The Bit Player tells the story of a group of extras on a soap opera, as they patiently wait to be cast as anonymous background actors or in tiny speaking roles. At the very bottom of the showbiz hierarchy (working extremely long hours for very little pay), these extras turn out to be far more dedicated to their work than the egotistical, unreliable stars who are highly paid and constantly fawned over…” – YBCA New Filipino Cinema 2014 (READ MORE)

“…Showbiz royalty Vilma Santos plays a financially challenged bit player named Loida. Strangely, but not surprisingly, the film veteran makes an excellent extra. She is snarky with friends but, ironically, is an awkward mess when put in front of the cameras. Santos is so natural that the lines between acting and reality are blurred. It was no shock that she won this year’s Cinemalaya award for best actress. The film has a star-studded cast consisting of Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera and Cherie Gil. For once, however, they’re the extras in this movie. The fun part about Ekstra is that it’s witty and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The “actors” exchange lines oozing with cheese and villainy, complete with telenovela fanfare. The screenplay, a collaboration among Jeturian, Jadaone and Dulay, is smart but accessible. “Crowd din ako dati,” Loida tells a young extra in a scene. “But look at me now: crowd pa rin…” – Paulina F. Ocampo, Katipunan The Guidon Magazine, 07 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In a way, Santos can be compared to Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange; both thespians employ their entire body to bring out the internal turmoil of their characters if necessary. Santos impassioned performance in classic films such as “Broken Marriage” and “Relasyon” demands certain explosiveness. Santos has always played the fighter, never the silent suffering victim. Even powerless, Santos’ characters have trudged on despite obvious defeat. She has always embodied the ferocious female spirit, which I grew up witnessing from the strong females in my family. Fight, survive at all cost. Similarly, Santos can also quietly stand still and let her face do the exposition, “Sister Stella L.” is a perfect example. In both commercially melodramatic and critically acclaimed films, all of the characters in Santos wide repertoire refused to go without a good fight. I have heard other critics call her the “feminists’ actor,” but do not take our word for it, you need to watch her films to verify that. In her latest movie, “Ekstra” (The Bit Player), Santos is back to form after her commercially successful but critically disappointing horror film, “The Healing.” Santos plays Loida, a bit player dreaming of becoming a star despite working in the industry for so long. At first glance, Santos seemed to be miscast as a bit player because she is too fair and beautiful to stay a bit player that long; however, thanks to Jeffrey Jeturian’s clever direction, Santos transcends the obvious. The Santos celebrity persona disappears and we see the face of a bit player being used as a mere tool by an industry hell bent on producing crap. Loida’s triumph lies in Jeturian’s blatant critique of the industry that exploits people for commercial purposes. Loida is not just a real character, she is a symbol. The delightful irony of “Ekstra” is using one of the biggest stars in the industry to play it small…” – Rob San Miguel, Brun Philippines, 18 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos may have been the film’s initial main attraction, but we can’t deny the fact that this is the best comedy-drama of the year. Santos proved her star-for-all-seasons status was far from waning, but Jeffrey Jeturian’s film itself is a brilliant achievement. Its portrayal of the television industry’s bit players is both honest and hilarious. With its small scale and grand ambitions, Ekstra brings a different flavor to the usual tale of the downtrodden…” – Paul G. Alcantara, Kara B. Chung, The Guidon on line, 30 December 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Even before Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra was released, naysayers doubted that Vilma Santos would ever be credible as a bit player in TV soaps: “she’s too recognizable,” “she won’t be believable,” “she looks too mayaman (rich).” The only way to silence the doubters is to turn in a nuanced, convincing performance as Loida Malabanan, a single mother who continues to toil in substandard working environments just to fulfill her dream of acting. It’s a testament to Santos’s instinct as an actor that she finds the honest core of Loida and operates from there. Everything else follows…” – Skilty Labastilla, Business World Weekender, 09 January 2014 (READ MORE)

“…The International Film Festival in Goa in November 2013 came alive with young audiences from across the country patiently standing in long lines to watch serious world cinema. They were the real stars of this festival. In many shows, disappointed audiences were turned away because every seat was taken. There is a new audience out there, ready for new ideas, new film grammar, and new reflective cinema. The time is long overdue for a publically financed network of art theatres in every city in the country. In my three days in Goa, I spent most time with the Soul of Asia segment, which introduced me to some fine films described in an earlier column. I recall here a few other films which remain with me even as the weeks pass after the festival…Adopting a diametrically opposite idiom of exuberant comic irony is Philippine director Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra (Extra), an affectionate salute to the underdog. It follows one day in the life of a middle-aged woman extra, a bit player in television soap operas, after she is woken in the early hours of the morning one day to drive to a location shoot in the neighbouring countryside. The director subversively casts one of the Philippines’ best-loved actors, Vilma Santos, in the role of the extra. The viewer for once roots for the anonymous crowd — the farmer on the fields, the domestic help patiently waiting, and the guests in the background of a wedding — while the lead players strut and recite their lines. We watch the class system in the enormous gaps in food and lodging between stars and extras. The film mocks the hilarious script trajectories of the soap opera, and the vanity and fragile egos of its lead players. I often felt that if just the names were changed in the film’s script, it could have been located in India with no substantial changes…” – Harsh Mander, The Hindu, 28 Dec 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I am aware of the Filipino culture and their language which could be one of the reasons why I happened to be amused by Jeffrey Jeturian’s “EKSTRA (The Bit Player)” when I caught it at the 6th Bengaluru Film Festival. But, that is not entirely the reason why the movie works big time! The prime reasons in that order would be…Vilma Santos, a sensational performer. She lives the character of an extra artiste in television soaps. Flawless, compelling and award-worthy, is her turn…To sum it up, Ekstra – The Bit Player is a poignant film which is certainly worth your time…” – Tusshar Sasi, Romancing Cinema, 27 Dec 2013 (READ MORE)

“…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…Constant chuckles and a fair supply of big belly laughs are the order of the day as Loida, Venus and a lovable collection of fellow nameless wannabees are herded like cattle by Josie, acid-tongued assistant director Vincent (Vincent de Jesus, hilarious) and the super-stressed-out director (Marlon Rivera) of “You Were Mine First.” As expected, much of the fun derives from scenes being shot for the wildly melodramatic “You Were Mine First.” To that end, Jeturian gets great value from guest appearances by a host of big-name local stars including hunky matinee idol Piolo Pascual as troubled groom-in-waiting Brando, Pilar Pilapil as severe matriarch Dona Esmerelda and a wonderfully over-the-top Cherie Gil as gun-toting super-bitch Dona Beatriz. For all the merriment on display, the screenplay never loses sight of the economic and emotional imperatives propelling Loida’s uncomplaining acceptance of her place at the bottom of the entertainment-industry food chain. It’s no surprise when Loida finally gets a chance to make a mark with big speaking role in “You Were Mine First,” but the manner in which this plays out is surprising and genuinely touching…” – Richard Kuipers, Variety Magazine, 11 Sep 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In “Ekstra,” Jeffrey Jeturian points the cameras to the more unheralded members of the film industry, and zooms in on the marginalized life of extras, on and off-screen. Governor Vilma Santos-Recto plays Loida Malabanan, a veteran bit player who, while “fulfilling” her passion for acting, puts up with the extremes of her occupation. She likewise tries to solely raise her daughter with her meager salary her kind often gets. “Ekstra” basically illustrates a day in the lives of the people who literally are “behind-the-scenes.” For one, the Star for All Seasons was able to mesh well with her co-extras (Tart Carlos, Ruby Ruiz), and was able to achieve a semblance of obscurity despite who she is in real life. Second, Ate Vi also managed not to outshine the film’s supposed “lead characters” (Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual) without sacrificing her acting prowess. Her scenes with Cherie Gil and Pilar Pilapil particularly explore the difficult and precarious reality for minor players (and body doubles, in her case)…” – Pau Aguilera, Manila Bulletin, 02 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Of course, holding up the film together is Vilma Santos in her first indie film. As Loida Malabanan, the extra, she’s there from start to finish. Her character is so well defined. She’s been an extra all of her life. As a young girl, she fell in love with a cameraman, became a single mom and now has a hard time sending her teenage daughter to college. The movie is one day in the life of Loida, showing her preparing breakfast for her sleeping daughter before she leaves for work, how her day goes on the set, until she returns home to her daughter the next day. Throughout the day, we join Loida in her moments of triumph (she bested another extra in an impromptu contest to be chosen to play the role of a housemaid) and humiliation (she doubles for Eula Valdes and gets mauled by Cherie Gil, she fails to deliver her lines properly in the role of a lady lawyer and was insulted by the director in front of everyone else.) Your heart will really go out for Loida. More than anything else, she’s a very caring mother to her child. She’s also very caring to the younger extras, like a teener who’s working as an extra for the first time and who she advises to focus on her career and not on romance. She was also so affected when another extra faints on the set due to hunger and another one is subjected to heavy prosthetic makeup as a zombie and isn’t even allowed to answer the call of nature, only to be told that her scene won’t be shot anymore.

The final scene is priceless, the most touching of all. Loida attends a party and she gets to watch the crucial sequence she taped the night before on their neighbor’s TV set. She painfully sees the scene where she was supposed to be playing the lawyer now done by another actress. She was still retained in that scene, but only as part of the crowd. She cannot even tell her friends that she was supposed to play the lawyer part but she was kicked out because she couldn’t deliver her lines persuasively. It’s a wordless scene and you can feel Vilma reliving the embarrassment she went through, but she talks only with her eyes brimming with tears and you just want to hug her and comfort her. It’ll be gross injustice if Ate Vi wouldn’t win as best actress in the Cinemalaya Awards Night this Sunday. Tinulak na siya, tinakluban sa ulo, sinipa, pinaso ng sigarilyo, sinampal, hiniya at ininsulto mula ulo hanggang paa. And she is just consistently awesome through it all. All extras in real life will love Jeturian and Ate Vi for showing in this film the humor and the soul of the experiences they go through in the course of their job. What’s nice about the film is that, as a real homage to extras, they listed down the names of all the extras who were involved in the film at the end credits…” – Mario Escobar Bautista, Showbiz Portal, 31 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“… As Loida Malabanan, Ate Vi shines even in anonymity. She is supposed to fade into the background, not outshine the “stars” and just do what is assigned her- to be a bit player. But even in the crowd, Ate Vi makes Loida stand out. She gives Loida the bit player enough motivation, and a poignant love for the acting craft that she has forever changed the image of the bit player, in the same way that she redefined the term “mistress” when she did Ishmael Bernal’s RELASYON way back. For the director, the staff and the big stars, Loida is a nobody. But for us, the audience, we recognize Loida’s magnanimity. Watch out for that pivotal scene in the third act where Loida, and us the audience learns the true meaning of ingratitude in the media. Ekstra is Vilma’s movie. We cannot imagine any other actress for her role. At the end of the day, as Loida descends from the jeepney, and prepares to go to bed just about when everyone is supposed to go to work, we feel exhausted. It’s not the physical work that made us tired, but the system of a dog eat dog society. Filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian, through Loida exposes the hypocrisy of the thankless and unjust world of entertainment, and after that whole bout of laughing and laughing and crying afterwards, we are forever changed. Yeah right, like you didn’t already know you were gonna cry after seeing the trailer…” – Macky Macarayan, Death of Traditional Cinema, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, as always, exceptionally played the role to a hilt. The world bit players live in is all too jarring, more so because Vilma Santos—THE Vilma Santos—convincingly plays the role of a lowly talent. That might be too hard to accept in real life, but Ate Vi did a great job in fleshing out a character who’s equal parts funny, hopeful, and tragic…The movie features a witty and hilarious script, which is further bolstered by Ate Vi’s great comedic timing. There were no lapses in timing and delivery, and there was a stark contrast between the realistic portrayal of the “normal” characters as opposed to the over-the-top acting featured in their teleserye project…Vilma is at her best at the final scene, where she’s subjected to painfully watch the very episode they just shot. She’s embarrassed and frustrated, and we watch in horror as her eyes well up while she tries to hold everything in. We’ve seen that look several times in Ate Vi’s previous movies, but it still haunts us just the same…” – Myra Grace Calulo, PEP, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Ekstra” is a very entertaining film that brings us into the world of a bit player or “ekstra” in the punishing world of television soap operas, where hectic daily shooting deadlines are the norm. This was not only a glimpse for the audience, but more of an immersion. We get an in-depth, no-holds-barred, brutally frank expose on how bit players are treated on and off the set of a location shoot. Loida Malabanan has been a bit player for many years already. This job, however unstable, had enabled her to get her daughter through college even as a single mother, albeit barely…Ms. Vilma Santos is the heart and soul of this film, and she was such a paradox in this role. She portrays her role in the most natural and realistic way, yet we know the character was so NOT her. Ms. Vilma was already the lead star in her very first film, “Trudis Liit”! Incredibly, she was able to successfully dim her megawatt star power to appear inferior in stature to stars like Marian Rivera and Piolo Pascual who were the lead stars of the soap being shot, yet Ms. Vilma still manages to outshine them all. Her most effective scenes had no spoken lines at all. Ms. Cherie Gil was so deliciously campy good in her villainous Doña Beatriz character. Tart Carlos, more popularly known for her role as the ditsy maid Doris on TV’s “Be Careful With My Heart,” has a marked role playing Loida’s friend and co-extra, where her skills in comedy shone. Musical director Vincent de Jesus was very effective as the harried assistant director, scrambling to accomplish all the orders of the impatient director….” – Fred Hawson, ABS-CBN News, 29 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…From my perspective, I’m not sure if I can now consider this film the parody it’s meant to be, or more of an “exposé” into our real world of soap operas. It reflects many truths of what these extras, or talents, face. I myself, despite my ranting, have softened up to their plight. On one taping day, lo and behold, the first sight that greeted me were some 20 talents sitting on cardboard on the ground, in the heat of the sun, right in front of the main actors’ air conditioned tent. Talk about rubbing the point in. All this for P1,000 a day or P1,500 if you had speaking lines, or if you played a nurse, police or doctor, you get P2,000 because you have to bring your own uniform. A day may mean 28 to 36 hours straight for many of them. I’m fortunate that after decades in the business, I’ve earned a cut-off time of 2 am (which in effect actually helps talents go home earlier, if they’re in my scenes). I realize minimum wage stands at under P500, but these seemingly good talent fees don’t go straight into their pockets. They too have agents or talent suppliers who whittle away their earnings. (Just like we do.) I could be putting myself on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway: isn’t it high time we make the working environment in the soap opera world better for all to enjoy the work and find dignity in our choice of profession?…” – Cherie Gil, Rappler 30 March 2013 (READ MORE)

“…the biggest box office hit among the entries is not any of these sex movies but the entry of Gov. Vilma Santos, “Ekstra, The Bit Player”. She didn’t show anything but her acting talent and yet Gov. Vi proves she’s still a top box office drawer. At Trinoma, all the ticket sellers say all of “Ekstra’s” screenings this weekend are sold out in advance. Way to go, Ate Vi! This is not surprising as “Ekstra” is also the best movie she has done in years…” – Showbiz Portal (READ MORE)

“…The irony of Santos, Philippine media’s “Star for All Seasons,” playing a bit player adds to both the film’s hilarity and meaning. It’s almost as if the film is asking this: if seeing someone as respected as Vilma Santos marginalized could only elicit sympathy, what can the people sans Santos’ credentials possibly do to invite empathic thought? The film ended with a question: “Sinong namatay?” It was addressed to Loida but it could possibly be for the audience. It is easy to know who literally dies in a teleserye because it shows it. In real life, those figuratively murdered is silenced to anonymity. What socio-realist films like Ekstra thrive in is lending voice to people and realities made silent. What these films need and have always needed is an audience that will listen. Their taking action is the next best thing.” – Chryssa Celestino, The Lasallian, 4 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Sa simula pa lang, naipakita na ni Ate Vi ang husay niya sa pag-arte. Pinatawa niya ang audience. Nakiluha rin sa kanya ang mga manonood nang tarayan at pagmumurahin siya ng direktor ng soap sa pelikula (played by Marlon Rivera, last year’s Cinemalaya Best Director for Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank), at nakisimpatiya rin sa kanya ang audience sa eksenang tinadyakan at tinotoo ni Cherie Gil ang pananakit sa kanya. Hindi rin nagpahuli sa akting ang best friend ni Loida (Vilma) na si Venus (played by Tart Carlos na madalas mapanood sa Be Careful with My Heart as yaya). Aliw na aliw ang viewers sa mga punchline na binitiwan niya. Muhusay din ang talent coordinator ng mga ekstra. Magaling din si Vincent de Jesus (bilang AD), Cherie, Pilar Pilapil at iba pang `ekstrang’ katulad nina Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual at marami pang iba. In short, isa itong ensemble acting. Maganda at maayos ang pagkakasulat ng script na tumuon sa kuwento ng mga taong umeekstraekstra sa mga teleserye. Ang husay ng direksyon ni Direk Jeffrey. Panalo rin ang musical scoring na ginawa rin ni Vincent, nakadadagdag ito sa ganda ng bawat eksena…” – Lito T. Mañago, Balita, 31 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…What makes the film such a success is the casting coup of having Vilma Santos, one of our true Philippine cinema luminaries, take on the title role of the extra, Loida. Deglamorized to play the role with verisimilitude, Vilma is the centerpiece of a film that realistically shows us the plight of these extras, the people who so often are taken for granted in the industry. It also gives poignant irony when Vilma declaims the lines that critique and poke fun at our star system, and how movies and teleseryes come to life…Co-writing the screenplay with Jeffrey is Antoinette Jadaone, who wrote the other “cinema verite” gem about film extras and bit players, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. With the two on board, you know there will be so much insider knowledge, anecdotes and vignettes that will evince, knowing laughter and delicious revelations about the working conditions in our film and TV entertainment industry. There is a rich history both here and abroad of this kind of story — one of my favorites being Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. What’s great about Ekstra is how there is no unreal reversal of fortune. Instead, we get so much humor, while the film ends with poignancy that rings true — how at the end of the day, as Loida ruefully remarks early on in the film, if for years she’s been an extra in crowd scenes, she’s now graduated to be an extra for crowd scenes…” – The Philippine Star (READ MORE)

“…Eh talagang hindi dahil karamihan naman sa mga indie film ay puro kahalayan lang ang ipi­nakikita eh. Tingnan na nga lang ninyo diyan sa ka­ta­tapos na Cinemalaya kung ano ang usapan? Hindi ba ang pinag-uusapan ay kung ilang artistang lalaki ang ipi­­nakitang nagpapakaligayang mag-isa o may kasama at kung ilang artistang babae ang walang takot ding nag­hubad? Pero tingnan ninyo, ang sinasabing kumita ay ang Ekstra ni Ate Vi na wala namang ipinakitang kabastusan. Hindi naman kasi gusto ng karamihan sa publiko ang mga pelikulang bastos. Hindi naman likas na bastos ang mga Pilipino. Isa pang sinabi sa amin ni Ate Vi, tinanggap niya ang pelikula dahil naniniwala siya na ang mga pelikulang indepen­dent ay kulang nga sa mga star. Umaasa siya noon na kung gagawa nga siya ng isang pelikulang indie, ma­ku­kumbinsi na rin ang iba pang malalaking artista (iyong kumikita ang mga pelikula ha?) na gumawa na rin ng indie movie para makalaban naman iyon sa mga tunay na pelikula…” – Ed de Leon, Pang-Masa, 6 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I was worried coming in that Ekstra was just going to be a less interesting version of 2011’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. It turns out that the fears were unwarranted. The film takes a fairly different approach, following one extra (played by the inimitable Vilma Santos) as she goes through one whole day of being a talent on the set of a popular soap opera. The film is as much about the absurdities that go into the production of one of these shows as it is about its titular subject, spending a good chunk of its time railing against the rampant disregard for any sort of quality on these productions. The film ends up depicting a hierarchy of suffering, with the extras at the bottom rung of a seemingly endless ladder to an unknowable top. The film could probably stand to be a little shorter, perhaps a little more economical in its criticism of the industry. But it’s hard to complain when Jeturian’s satirical instincts are so on point, and Vilma Santos is so affecting…” – Philbert Ortiz Dy, Click The City, 30 July 2013 (READ MORE)

“…It’s a strong theme that is thankfully not spray-painted on the script of Ekstra, but is unmistakably there. Whether we notice it or not, this becomes the overlooked crowd in the background. But if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s Santos’ performance. Regardless of your opinion of her as a celebrity or as a politician, Santos remains to be one of the most talented actors in the industry. Ekstra is the kind of Philippine comedy that all other comedies should aspire to be, harnessing great talent with a story that is both thoughtful and entertaining. Hopefully, that kind of sentiment doesn’t fade into the background. The Verdict: Ekstra is an effective Philippine comedy that is not only worthy of the Star for All Seasons, but deserving of movie audiences who want more from their usual slapstick Filipino punchlines…” – Zig Marasigan, Kristn, 14 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Jeturian effectively keeps the film worth watching from start to end. The witty script features an wide variety of characters that are dedicated, hardworking, diva-ish or self-absorbed. As a film and TV director, he knows his material very well and he does well in presenting the harsh realities of production work in a hilariously dramatic form. His honest depiction of different behind-the-scene situations is both striking and entertaining. He also has tremendous on-screen talents at his disposal. Vilma Santos in the lead makes a great impression, fleshing out an unsung heroine in the very industry where she is now considered a living legend. She succeeds in dimming her megawatt star power to appear properly inferior to the big stars in the story. Interestingly, she manages to outshine them as a lowly main character with great comedic timing and without lapses in pacing and delivery. From energy and excitement to pain and frustration, a gamut of emotions stream across her face…” – Rianne Hill Soriano, Business World, 15 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Unknown to many, there was a time when Jeturian visited the office of an ad agency to pitch the unpolished gem that was Angel Aquino at the time. Jeturian and Aquino were shown the door. The agency preferred American- and European-looking Filipinas for its beauty product commercials. With the script written by Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, and Jeturian himself, the director sweetly took his revenge by putting at the center the marginalized bit players and the exploited laborers of the industry. In bravely deglamorizing herself, Santos showed the audience once again what she can accomplish as one of the Philippine’s finest talents, while Ruby Ruiz convincingly and adeptly essayed the role of a talent coordinator, who acts as a “shock absorber” of all harshness inflicted by the studio system on the hapless bit players…” – Ibarra C. Mateo, GMA News, 16 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…We laughed and guffawed at such acting antics, scenes both startling and familiar, stereotypical of TV soaps, with lines we have even come to memorize. But watch out for sly, self-referential moments. When Doris tries to discourage Loida from nursing dreams of eventual stardom, she makes mention of the “typical” talents who make it big in the biz: tall, fair with sharp noses. “But what about Nora Aunor?” asks Loida, to which Doris grants grudging assent. That the line is uttered by Vilma Santos, who for decades has been forced into a running competition against the “Superstar,” is all the more delicious. In fact, Jeturian, in an interview, admits that “Ekstra” could kick-start once more the legendary rivalry between the two. If so, I as a fan of both welcome such a development. As movie audiences we could be in for a rich and satisfying round of out-of-the-box roles for the still-reigning queens of local cinema…” – Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 Aug 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Watching the movie will be like being there on the set as well, feeling the pain and fatigue of the bit player but also enjoying the laughter and the sense of camaraderie that the behind the scenes closeness fosters. Focal to the telling of the story, of course, is none other but Ate Vi. She probably does not give as swashbuckling a performance as she did in, say, ‘Anak.’ That said, Ate Vi is Ate Vi. She is a master in the craft of acting without acting which, in my opinion, makes her among the most gifted and convincing actors in the country…” – Rex Torrecampo Life So Mundane, 16 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Told with an eye for the ludicrous excesses and stresses of TV work (one director is tasked with shooting forty set-ups in two days) and the inherently existential comedy of being a stand-in, Jeturian’s film never misses a target. One overly nervous extra loses her dentures during shooting; a neophyte shows up to play a peasant wearing enough makeup to shame RuPaul. At the same time, the film is buoyed with ample affection for the characters’ dreams. After working all day and into the night, the inevitably cheerful Loida is capable of pontificating about the important role the extras play. Skilfully directed by Jeturian, and driven by Santos’ courageous performance and peerless comic timing, The Bit Player is also a kind of tribute to Loida. Even at her lowest point, she never gives up…” – Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF (READ MORE)

“…At the sold-out premiere in Toronto, many in the long lineup awaiting the film’s start were excited to watch it given the critical acclaim at Cinemalaya. Arnold Manalac, a big Santos fan, organized about 20 of his friends to come watch the film. “These are all my college friends, friends here in Toronto, some of my relatives,” he said while pointing out the smiling faces with him, “so we organized and came up with a small group to support this film. The crowd of mostly Filipino-Canadians was abuzz with anticipation, including the very first people in the line, Danny Ong and Ricardo Obusan, who came to support independent Filipino films. Jeturian signed autographs before and after the film’s screening and took questions from the audience. The final showing of Ekstra at TIFF is Sept. 15, but the movie will have a theatrical release in eight Canadian cities including Mississauga and Scarborough from Sept. 13 to 26…” – Dyan Ruiz, The Philippine Reporter, 13 Sept 2013 (READ MORE)

“…The film captures a day in the life of a movies/television soap bit player, Loida Malabanan (played by Santos). It takes off as Loida wakes up early dawn to prepare for another out-of-town shooting for a television drama series as an extra. The film therefore provides a behind-the-scenes look at the travails and the simple joys of Loida and her fellow bit players. Working in an industry dominated by the glamorous and famous, it would seem that bit players have their fair bit of small luxuries, fame and glamour. The movie shatters that impression as it focuses on the sufferings and indignities interspersed with the laughter and friendships of the bit players. In one scene, the bit players have to look for a place to rest in a sun-soaked shooting location and eventually had to share a resting space with a carabao. In another, they literally have to beg for food from a member of the catering crew. The movie is pretty straightforward with no complex subplots, so there were times when I yearned for a sudden twist. I didn’t get what I wanted…Ekstra is really a tribute to the bit players and scoffs at the “system” in the local showbiz industry wherein “star” talents are treated like royalty, while bit players (including those working off-camera such as technicians, custodians, etc) are exploited to the hilt…” – Irish Eden Belleza, Gulf News, 21 September 2013 (READ MORE)

“…In the Directors’ Showcase, Jerrold Tarog’s Sana Dati (literal translation is “Wish It Were Like Before”), swept eight awards, including Best Film and Best Director. Set during a wedding ceremony, a bride disappears to meet her previous true love. Although well crafted and having an interesting premise, I do not think it deserved that many awards. The other real contender in the section was Jeffrey Jeturian’s new film, Ekstra (Bit player), an enjoyable comedy, which paid a sympathetic homage to the shadow “bit players” (or extras) in TV soaps. The film was lifted by the emphatic character of Loida, which was nicely acted by super star Vilma Santos (now Governor of the Batangas province!). Ekstra grabbed the Special Jury prize, Best Actress (Vilma Santos, known as “Ate Vi”), Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Ruiz), and also the Netpac award for that section. The main Jury (Peque Gallaga, Carlitos Siguion Reyna, Ditsi Carolino from the Philippines, Maggie Lee from Hong Kong and Bastian Meiresonne from France) decided not to award the Best Actor prize this year…I have mixed feelings for this edition of Cinemalaya: films were of uneven quality; jury awards were not well distributed. I am glad the Audience awards were given to Ekstra (Directors’ Showcase), Transit (New Breed) and Taya (Shorts). Whatever may happen, Cinemalaya remains the most important cinematic event in the Philippines and all other subsequent festivals are only variations on the format (whether it be Cinema One, Sineng Pambansa, and now Cine Filipino, in September). Let’s just hope that Cinemalaya’s budget will not be shrinking further, as it is the case for many festivals in the world. That would endanger its very existence…” – Max Tessier, NETPAC Bureau, 01 September 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos in her long and illustrious career in cinema has her playing a stripper (BURLESK QUEEN), a dying woman (DAHIL MAHAL KITA, PAHIRAM NG ISANG UMAGA), the other woman (RELASYON), a superhero (DARNA), a freedom fighter (SISTER STELLA L), countless mothers (ANAK, BATA BATA PAANO KA GINAWA, DEKADA ’70, IN MY LIFE) and sometimes even a tormentor (SINASAMBA KITA) yet what Ekstra, her new indie film offers is something we have never seen Vilma do- underacting. The role demands it, and Vilma more than handsomely gives her finest performance as a bit player…As Loida Malabanan, Ate Vi shines even in anonymity. She is supposed to fade into the background, not outshine the “stars” and just do what is assigned her- to be a bit player. But even in the crowd, Ate Vi makes Loida stand out. She gives Loida the bit player enough motivation, and a poignant love for the acting craft that she has forever changed the image of the bit player, in the same way that she redefined the term “mistress” when she did Ishmael Bernal’s Relasyon way back. For the director, the staff and the big stars, Loida is a nobody. But for us, the audience, we recognize Loida’s magnanimity. Watch out for that pivotal scene in the third act where Loida, and us the audience learns the true meaning of ingratitude in the media. Ekstra is Vilma’s movie. We cannot imagine any other actress for her role. At the end of the day, as Loida descends from the jeepney, and prepares to go to bed just about when everyone is supposed to go to work, we feel exhausted. It’s not the physical work that made us tired, but the system of a dog eat dog society…” – Macky Macarayan, Pelikula Pamantasan – PLM Film Society (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos, whose star’s premise encompasses age, climate,even time itself, portrays this “extra.” It is time to report that the brilliance has failed. The consistency of her light years has been credited to a vigor whose basis is melodramatic competence. With the genre demolished at primetime, every night of our lives, the actress looks dissipated in the rehearsal, and what she can afford to muster is a middling energy. There was a time when her powers largely depended on this “extra,” which can be derived from the “over-” in her “overacting.” Even without training from the Peking Opera, Santos repeated this shrill technique from one project to another, for the manner somehow worked at the box office. Manner became the mannerism that launched a star most distantiated from the repertoire of an ensemble and the theater of an environment. Ekstra ultimately fails in Santos’s inability to inhabit the supplementation that she has triumphantly supplanted, with total industrial patronage, all these absolutely industrious years. Her “extra” is a “surplus”: a defective product that deserves to be remaindeered. The catatonic performance in last year’s The Healing should have warned us of the affliction in Ekstra. She is never “Loida”; she doesn’t possess the sentimental history to locate the interiority of such victimage. Frame after frame, “Vilma” remains the star who became an actress, by aspiration, then capitalist scheme, and, perhaps, through bureaucratic accident. The only feeling Vilma understands from Loida is despair, having realized that the industry has lost its charms to restore whatever has remained of recognizable talent. We can only hope Santos has known the extent of such violation, with those final eyes of a rather infinite regret…” – J. Pilapil Jacobo, Young Critics Circle Film Desk (READ MORE)

“…Gov. Santos of Batangas province, who stars in Jeffrey Jeturian’s movie Ekstra, won the Best Actress award in the Directors Showcase at the 9th Cinemalaya Awards night held Sunday night. Surprisingly though, no Best Actor Award winner was named. Ekstra also won three other awards including the Best Supporting Actress award for Ruby Ruiz, the Audience Choice award, and the Special Jury Prize. The movie is a socio-realist drama-comedy that follows a seemingly usual day in the life of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra. As the shoot goes on, viewers get a glimpse of the truth in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her…” – Ed Uy, Manila Times, 05 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“…Long vocal about her hesitation to star in an indie movie, Santos had always said she would conquer her fears of trying out the genre given the right script. And yes, Esktra truly got it right. Not only was the Star for All Seasons highly entertained by the amusing yet touching storyline about the travails of a bit player for television—an “ekstra” in showbiz jargon—she was also extremely challenged as an actor to portray the role of Loida Malabanan, and on a much higher level, inspired to pay tribute to the countless and nameless faces she has worked with in the last five decades as a movie star. “Ang pinakamalaking challenge ng role ni Loida Malabanan ay kung kaya ko bang magmukhang at maging isang ekstra sa pelikula,” Santos explained her approach on the Jeffrey Jeturian gem of an indie. “Yun bang hindi ako puwedeng umangat; yung ma-de-glamorize ka na magulo ang buhok mo, ang lalaki ng suot mo; at yung hindi si Vilma Santos ang makita mo kundi isang ekstra…” – Tessa Mauricio-Arriola, Sunday Times Magazine, 10 August 2013 (READ MORE)

“… Anchored by stunning performances from Vilma Santos, Ruby Ruiz, and Marlon Rivera, as well as Jeffrey Jeturian’s compassionate direction, EKSTRA meshes drama and comedy with panache. Vilma Santos always manages to get a very realistic tone to her character, which is quite refreshing. It follows the story of a day in a life of a bit player, Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) during the shooting of a popular soap opera. As the shoot progresses, we get a glimpse of how production works, the people ruling it, and how the extras are treated on the set. There are parts that are pretty cliché, but there are also scenes that are fucking flawless. The supporting cast around Santos is amazing including Ruby Ruiz who gives one of her best performances in this film. It has moments of laughter coupled in with drama that explores hope, love and passion, & the hardships of climbing the mountain of both show business & a relationship in a cynical world. The script written by Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone, & Jeffrey Jeturian is absolutely wonderful…” – Chikkaness Avenue, 12 Agosto 2013 (READ MORE)

“…I haven’t come close to seeing everything playing at the St. Louis International Film Festival, but I have seen enough to recommend a few films you might otherwise overlook. One is the Filipino comedy-drama The Bit Player (11/18 Frontenac 4:30 p.m.; 11/20 Frontenac 2:15 p.m.); in fact, the performance of Vilma Santos-Recto alone is reason enough to see this film. Even better, it’s a backstager, offering a look at television production from the point of view of the many underpaid, underappreciated extras who play a vital role in making the programs happen. Santos-Recto is a huge star in her native country (fun fact: she’s also the governor of Batangas province) but perfectly inhabits the life of a middle-aged single mother whose best efforts are required just to stay employed and keep her family afloat…” – Sarah Boslaugh, Playbackstl, 09 Nov 2014 (READ MORE)

“…The TV screening of “Ekstra” heartened Vilma’s fans because it was a bracing departure from her usual starrers. It was strikingly simple and acutely realistic, “daring” to cast her, not as a star, but as a lowly, faceless bit player in the movies. Jeffrey Jeturian’s indie surprised fans with its gutsy decision to cast Vilma in an “everywoman” role that they could fully empathize with. And it delighted TV-film industry insiders even more with its spot-on and satirically “knowing” details about the un-glamorous side of the biz—where extras work for a pittance while waiting for hours and hours for spoiled and overpayed stars to finally deign to show up for their shooting or taping schedules!…It was also such great fun for “real” stars like Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Cherie Gil and Pilar Pilapil to candidly and even ruthlessly spoof themselves and their stellar colleagues, the better to drive home the key and telling point that show biz can be a vicious den of harsh and cruel inequality. “Ekstra” is precisely the kind of film that Vilma should be making at this time in her life, when she’s so busy with other, more political concerns. This way, she can continue to act in at least one significant movie a year, even as she focuses on more nationally “important” pursuits!…” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 April 2015 (READ MORE)

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Vilma S. Meet the Real Sister Stella L.

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Those who have seen “Sister Stella L.” in its various previews and premieres nights are one the same in their opinion: it is indeed Vilma Santos’ best screen portrayal in the history of her long moive career! Si Vilma mismo ay inamin sa amin ito: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime movie role na talagang puedeng ipagmalaki ng kahit na sinong artista. Ang tagal bago tuluyang naisapelikula at natapos ang “Sister Stella L.” pero talagang mula nang ialok sa akin ‘yan, hindi na naalis sa isip ko. Kung kani-kaninong producer na nga inalok ‘yan. Like sa Viva noon na akala ko’y matutuloy na, pero hindi pa rin pala. Kaya’t kahit anong pelikula ang ginagawa ko noon, at the back of my mind, talagang nakareserba pa rin ang “Sister Stella L.” Itinatabi ko talaga ko ‘yan. Parang dream role na lagi kong binabalik-balikan. At finally, nang gawin na namin sa Regal, nabuhos na talaga ang buong atensiyon ko, ang lahat ng panahon ko. Ang now, after hearing all the favorable comments about the movie, and siyempre about me and my performance too, talagang tumataba ang puso ko at maha-high ako.

First and foremost, talagang it’s a great honor na makatrabaho ang isang direktor like Mike de Leon. Dati ko na siyang nirerespeto, pero after working with him and making “Stella L.”, lalo pang tumaas ang pagtingin ko sa kanya, First rate talaga!” Vilma recognizes the fact that without Mike’s help, she will not be able to give the right characterization that her role required. “Kaya paulit-ulit ko isyang tinatanong kung tama ang mga kilos ko bilang isang madre,” aniya. “and maniniwala ka ba, I met the real Sister Stella L.!” Nakakataw niya pahayag. Nagulat kami. You mean, sabi namin sa kaya, this is really a true story? Na ang kuwento ng madreng naging aktibista sa pelikula ay talagang ibinatay sa totoong tao? Akala namin kasi ay fiction lamang ito. “From what I heard,” sabi ni Vilma, “may kaibigan talagang madre si Mike na siyang naka-inspre sa kanya para gawin ang pelikulang ito. One day, dumating si Mike sa set na kasama niya. She is very pretty. Sa ganda, parang hindi madre.” Akala mo raw ay isa itong socialite. Ayaw sanang ipasabi ni Vi ang tunay na pangalan nito, pero we personally feel na wala namang masama dahil dapat pa nga siyang purihin sa kanyang prinsipyo. Kaya ire-reveal namin sa inyo ang tunay niyang identity. Her name is Sister Consuelo Ledesma, anak ng pinagpipitaganang si Pura Kalaw Ledesma at pamangkin ng ating current censors chief na si Maria Kalaw Katigbag or MKK. Now, isn’t that a very interesting sidelight of the movie? Ayon kay Vilma, tuwang-tuwa siya dahil naaprubahan ang pelikula nang walang anumang putol. “That means the censors now are broadminded enought to realize na wala namang talagang masama sa pelikula,” aniya. “Noon pa man, sinasabi ko nang ang ipinakikita lang ng movie, ‘yung totoong nangyayari, ‘yung mga prinsipyo lang ng taop ngayon. Like ‘yung mga strikes, manonood ka nga ng newscast sa TV, di ba makakapanood ka rin ng mga ganyan? Kaya I’m really very happy na it was passed without any cuts.

Kung pinutulan kasi, parang makukulangan na ‘Yung pelikula.” How does it feel when people keep on saying na siguradong mananalo na naman siya ng best actress award ss susunod na taon? “Naku, ha,” natatawa niyan wika, “ang layu-layo pa noon. Siyempre pa I’m flattered, pero ayaw ko munang isipin ‘yon. Ang tagal pa bago matapos ng 1984 at maraming-marami pang puedeng ibang mangyari. Malay natin kung marami pang ibang magagandang pelikula ang magawa featuring the equally good performaces ng ibang mga artista? Basta natutuwa ako’t ngayon pa lang, may panlaban na ko. ‘Yong lang.” With her fine performances in “Adultery” and “Sister Stella L.”, marami ngang movie insiders ang nagpapalagay that Vilma can easily rest on her laurels for this year. Sabi pa nila: “Maski huwag na siyang gumawa ng ibang pelikula at next year na uli siya magkaroon ng bagong release, okay lang.

For this year, talagang she has already proven herself.” We Believe similarly, too, but Vilma is apparently not content with just two good movies this year kaya she is on her way to making a third one. She is currently doing “Alyas Baby Tsina” for Viva Films. This time, reunited siya with Famas best director Marilou Diaz Abaya. “It’s a period movie, set in 1969-70 when unrest was at its peak,” ani ni Vi. “We’ve started shooting pero ilang ulit ding na-delay dahil ulang nang ulan, e. Tapos, nagkasakit pa ako for three days.” She will be completely deglamorized in the movie. Ang papel niya ay isang babaing naging puta at nabilanggo sa correctional kung kaya’t nilagyan doon ito ng tattoo. In several scenes, wala siyang make-up at ipinakikitang naglilinis ng kubeta. Clearly, this is another challenging acting vehicles for Vilma. Kaya nga may katwiran talagang magreklamo yung mga ibang artistang babae natin. How come she is getting the best roles in the best projects? What did she do to deserve such a wonderful, enviable fate? Vilma dismisses all these with a simple shrug of her frail-looking shoulders. ” I guess I’m just lucky,” aniya. “Talagang Somebody up there loves me. Wala naman kasi akong atraso sa kanya eh.” The bloom in Vilma these days is unminstakable. Talagang lalo siyang gumanda. And whatever joys and good fortune she is enjoying these days, we are sure she deserves all that bounty. – Mario Bautista MovieLIFE Magazine 1984

Sweet sweep for Stella

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It was a sweet sweep for Sister Stella L., the movie which garnered ten of the twelve trophies at stake during Friday night’s 9th Urian Awards rites. The Regal Films production was hailed the Best Fil; Sister Stella L., herself Vilma Santos, Best Actress; Jay Ilagan, Best Actor; Mike De Leon, Best Director; Laurice Guillen, Best Supporting Actress; and Tony Santos, Sr., Best Supporting Actor; Still Stella L’s Jose Lacaba, Jose Almojuella, and Mike De Leon were cited for the Best Screenplay category; Jess Navarro, for Best Editing; Ding Achacoso, for Best Music; and Ramon Reyes, for Best Sound. This is more than enough to compensate for its poor performance at the box office. ECP’s Misteryo sa Tuwa went home with two remaining awards for Best Production Design by Don Escudero and Rodel Cruz; and for Best Cinematography by Rod Ilacad. For his outstanding contribution to the film industry, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino bestowed a special award to William Smith for bringing into the country the first colored film laboratory. Some people could use a lesson in courtesy. At his age, Smith, understandably, could harlly walk, speak well or display clarity of thought, therefore, the need for him to read his remark of thanks from a piece of paper. While national artist Lamberto Avellana and veteran actress Mary Walter paid due respect for Smith, a young man seated beside us took note of this and declared, “Pare, ‘yung speech niya binabasa pa niya, o!” Although the presentation ran smoothly and briefly (yes, of long waits and intermission), notable was the marked seriousness about the atmosphere that night. Champoy’s twosome’s (emcee Cherie Gil and Noel Trinidad) efforts to perk up the audience were futile. The Urian show, furthermore, lacked star luster. Several guest stars failed to attend the ceremony as shown by the many vacant seats. Some presentors even had to go upstage twice. Have we suddenly grown weary of awards rites? Even the major awardees were not present to claim their trophies, thus, only Vilma posed for photographers at the end of the show. (Photos: Luis Garcia Jr.)

Dinumog ang Premiere Night ng Sister Stella L.!

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Paano malalaman kung magiging malakas sa takily ang isang pelikula? Isa sa mga sukatan ang premiere ngiht. Hangga’t maari’y ayaw ng ibang produser na magpa-premiere night. Usually kasi, may nag-iisponsor nito, at sa kanila, sa charity – kung tutoo mang sa charity – napupunta ang bayad sa takilya. At siyempre pa, dahil premiere night ekstra ang halaga ng tiket, P25 sa orkestra, P50-100 sa balcony at loge. Bukod sa malaking kawalan din yon sa produser sa regular run ng pelikula, puewede pang mapintas-pintasan ito, at pag kumalat iyon, bagsak ang pelikula! Sa isang dako, kung gustong makatulong ng produser sa charity, at kung sampalataya siya sa kanyang pelukula, mainam magpa-premiere night para higit na maipaalam sa lahat na maganda ito. Iyon ang nasa isip ni Mother Lily nang ipa-premiere night ang “Sister Stella L.” sa Rizal theater sa Makati. Umbrella organization ng mga madre ang nag-isponsor ng premiere night, dalawang screening iyon. Umuulan nang gabing iyon, pero dagsa pa rin ang mga tao. Siksikan. Gayunpama’y disiplinado. Marami rin kasi sa mga ito ang mga madre. Kung karaniwan nang umaasa pa rin sa walk-in ang ibang nagpapa-premiere night, iba naman ang nangyari sa “Sister Stella L.”

Bago pa ang first screening, dakong alas sinko-medya, sold out na ang tiket. Nakikiusap na talaga ang mga hindi nakabili ng tiket na bibili sila, pero ubos na. Dumating doon ang ina ng tunay na Sister Stella L. “No, my daughter is not an activist, she only wanted to help the needy,” sabi nito. Sa kasalukuya’y nasa abroad daw ito, nagtungo roon pagkaraang lumabas mula sa pagkaka-detain ng 11 months sa isang militar camp. Mula sa siyuting ng “Alyas Baby Tsina,” dumating si Vilma Santos. Kagulo sa kanya ang mga tao sa lobby. Magkasabay na pumasok sina Gina Alajar at Michael De Mes, at naisip namin, mali nga ‘ata ‘yung balitang nagkahiwalay sila. Very, very successful ang premiere night na iyon. Katunayan, gusto pa itong masundan ng isang labor sector, tumanggi na lang si Mother Lily. “They will give me raw three hundred thousand, but I said no. Paano naman ang regular run ko?” – Bibsy Estrella, Photos: Peping Mendiola

Unprecedented Stella L PremiereKung ang batayan ay ang premiere night ng Sister Stella L na ginanap sa Rizal theater noong June 22, sigurado nang dudumugin nang masa ang pelikulang ito ni Mike De Leon kapag regula showing na ito sa commercial theaters. Talaga namang very, very successful ang nasabing premiere night at ayon nga sa mga nakakaalam, never in the history of local cinema na ang isang pelikula’y dalawa ang screenings sa premiere showing at parehong SRO. Obviously, maraming A-B crowd nung gabing ‘yon, tulad ng grupo ni Chona Kasten na namataan namin, pero marami ring mga manggagawa at mga miyembro ng iba’t ibang sektaryang pang relihiyon. Ang nag-isponsor ng premiere night na ‘yon ay ang The Organization for the Promotion of Church People’s Right/Response (PCPR). Ang Sister Stella L na pelikula ng Regal Films ay ipapaplabas umpisa sa July 14. – (Photos: Tess Evangelista). Movie Flash July 12 1984