After winning five awards in the recently held Cinemalaya Awards and now our official participant in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Ekstra (The Bit Player) is one of the most buzzed local films of the year. It is a socio-realist drama-comedy that follows a seemingly usual day in the life of Loida Malabanan (played by Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra or bit player. As the shoot goes on, we get a glimpse of the reality in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her.
There was a line in the movie that if you feel that you can’t do the role, you should learn to say no. I’m glad Vilma Santos didn’t say no to this indie film. Winning Best Actress in this year’s Cinemalaya for her role here, Vilma Santos gives undeniable warmth in her scenes. She delivers her lines with the right emotions to affect you. She takes you along with her character Loida’s journey. If she has to be funny, you’ll laugh at her and if it’s time to be serious, you’ll feel her pain. Well, she’s the Star for all Seasons after all. Supporting her is Rosario “Tart” Carlos who shined to fame as the maid Doris in Be Careful With My Heart. Tart Carlos fits her role and is very effective in it so is Ruby Ruiz who won Best Supporting Actress as she portrayed the casting director. Actually, all the experienced female bit players in the film are good. I remember there was this scene in the van where they talked and shared. It was an interesting conversation to hear. Having all these performances make it easier for the audience to sympathize with them as we get transported to a day of their lives. It’s not an easy job as it looks. You don’t just stand in the background and earn. There are troubles and hurtful remarks included in the job’s description. There’s a harsh reality into it.
Set in the entertainment industry, the film also offers a chance for some big stars to participate. We see Cherry Pie Picache and Richard Yap in the opening. For the mock teleserye, there’s Marian Rivera and Piolo Pascual as the main leads, Cherie Gil as the villain, Tom Rodriguez as the third wheel of the love triangle, a glimpse of Eula Valdez and the presence of Pilar Pilapil as Cherie Gil’s sister. What I liked in some of these performances is that they were able to mock the usual stereotype their roles have to do. I particularly find both Marian Rivera and Cherie Gil amusing in their candid and filming personalities. Besides the life of the bit players, this is another side of the film focused on – the difficulty on production and the clichés that has to go with it like the importance of product placements. It got to show the ugly and dirty side of making a teleserye – the cheapening of the budget, the latecomers, the long hours and the backstabbing comments. One might not wish to be part of a production like this. It was a satirical take and I enjoyed it.
Overall, I like this film. It didn’t feel dragging. It’s a very energetic film with a hilariously written script. The ending may feel abrupt as I felt that too. But after thinking about it for creative reasons, I think it’s the most fitting way to end the day of a bit player. Loida’s emotion alone in that scene summarizes it all.
With Vilma Santos and her lively supporting cast, you might find Ekstra something worthwhile to see.
Produced by Quantum Films and distributed by Star Cinema, Ekstra is still showing in limited theaters!
About the movie reviewer:
John Albert Villanueva is a self-confessed movie geek. He love movies so much that he watch almost every movies that’s out in the big screen and collects DVDs of classic films and the ones that won an Oscar. John Albert Villanueva review movies exclusively for Orange Magazine TV.