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Tokyo gets first look at ‘Larawan’

entertainment / Awards and Festivals
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Tokyo gets first look at ‘Larawan’

From left: Joana Ampil, Paulo Avelino and Rachel Alejandro in “Ang Larawan”

TOKYO—After the hullabaloo about its non-inclusion in the Metro Manila Film Festival, Loy Arcenas’ “Ang Larawan” scored a worldwide premiere in a top-tier cinema event—the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival, ongoing until Nov. 3.

For the first time, lead star Rachel Alejandro got to grace an international A-list event’s red carpet—never mind if it was drenched by a slight drizzle.

“It was a pretty wet walk,” Alejandro looked back. “The train of my terno (by Francis Libiran) got soaked, but I didn’t notice until later on. I was too thrilled to walk and wave to the crowd. I felt like Pia Wurtzbach, but several inches shorter. I was glad I didn’t trip and was able to say hello to some of our countrymen.”

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The feeling was electric. “I am beyond excited. I’m ecstatic that our efforts are being feted in a prestigious competition,” she said.

Needless to say, the cast and crew are just as thrilled to compete in Tokyo’s Asian Future section (along with another Filipino entry, Arnel Arbi Barbarona’s “Tu Pug Imatuy”).

Actress-producer Celeste Legaspi enthused: “I’m so proud! All they see from our country is poverty… I want to bamboozle them with our music, our culture, our genius… Nick Joaquin, Rolando Tinio, Ryan Cayabyab… our artistic and technical team, our singers, our culture, our wit, our love for family.”

The musical’s journey from stage to screen is an epic itself. As such, Legaspi was adamant about producing this film. “So that here on our shores, we can find inspiration [in the fact] that, indeed, we are a precious people capable of so much excellence.”

Lead actress Joanna Ampil, who portrays spinster Candida, remarked that the Tokyo premiere “acknowledges the film’s production values and honors its beauty.” Ampil described it as a “legacy” movie. “It will outlive all of us. It tackles our old traditions and beliefs. It was a learning process for me, too. I got to know our old customs… the drawbacks and how we’ve since moved on.”

Rachel Alejandro on the red carpet of the Tokyo fest

Unfortunately, Ampil won’t be able to attend the Tokyo fest, as she is currently in Copenhagen, performing as Grizabella in “Cats.” “My heart breaks that I can’t be there with the rest of the team, but I will be thinking of everyone,” she said in an e-mail.

It would’ve been Ampil’s first time to walk on the red carpet of an A-list fest. “I’ve never been part of a festival before, and I’m not really sure what to expect.” Just to be invited was honor enough, Ampil explained. “Anything else will now be a bonus.”

Ampil and Alejandro, who plays Candida’s sister Paula, are self-confessed film fest newbies.

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Alejandro noted that the country is now a force to be reckoned with in the international film fest circuit. She pointed out that what sets “Larawan” apart is its genre. “It’s a musical. It puts original Filipino music in the spotlight. If there’s anything I would love for foreigners to recognize … it is the Filipinos’ exceptional musical talent.”

Arcenas agreed: “It is high time that the world takes notice of our great singers and actors. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this film.”

Arcenas recalled that the film had presented its fair share of challenges. “But I would have been crazy to turn it down! When do you get to work on a musical based on a beloved classic play by Joaquin; libretto and lyrics by Tinio; music by Cayabyab?”

The timing was impeccable. Arcenas asserted: “We are now at a cultural crossroads. We are fast losing our sense of history and identity in our misguided quest for the here and now. The film will hopefully remind Filipinos, and the rest of the world, that we are rich in culture—a blend of East and West—and that there is so much more to remember, recapture, to love and to own from our history.”

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