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Joem Bascon goes to Japan

Joem Bascon (right) with director Daniel Palacio in Tokyo—Photo courtesy of Tokyo International Film Festival

TOKYO—After over a decade in show business, Joem Bascon finally got to grace an international film festival.

He was supposed to attend the San Sebastian fest in Spain last September, but was tied up taping the ABS-CBN daily soap, “Pusong Ligaw.” This time, he made sure he could join the rest of the “Pailalim” team, led by director Daniel Palacio and producer Brillante Ma Mendoza, at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival. “Pailalim” was part of Tokyo’s World Focus program.

“It’s my first time in a foreign festival,” he told the Inquirer during the Filipino night, organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines, in Tokyo.

As expected, he had to go through a hectic travel schedule. Since he was permitted to skip one taping day, he had to head straight to the “Pusong Ligaw” set upon his arrival.

Still, the stressful three-day trip was worth the hassle, because he had the chance to interact with the Tokyo audience after a screening on Oct. 26.

Bascon plays Bangis in “Pailalim,” a family man-turned-grave robber who lives in a public cemetery.

“The film’s story was new to the Japanese audience,” he related. “They found it shocking. That was the exact word they used. The film made them more aware of our country’s situation. I’m glad we fulfilled our goal in making the movie.”

Palacio recounted that he didn’t need to audition anyone else for the role. “I knew that the part belonged to Joem,” the young director volunteered. “He was perfect, character-wise. As an actor, he’s professional and humble.”

Palacio appreciated that Bascon would frequently ask him if he had gotten the scene right after each take. “I never hesitated to call him back to the set, even if he was on a break, because I knew he’d always be ready and raring to resume working. The guy is special.”

Hollywood Reporter critic Neil Young agreed, describing Bascon as “a reliable strong suit.” In spite of Bascon’s background as a “bad-boy pinup … he makes for an empathetic and thoroughly convincing unwashed denizen of this sordid milieu.”

Bascon admitted that shuttling between the mainstream and indie worlds could be tricky.

“It’s hard because the acting styles are different. On TV, the portrayal has to be big. But in indie films, I have to tone things down,” he explained.

He also makes certain to devote time to each indie movie. “I didn’t do anything else but ‘Pailalim’ during its 11-day shoot. The result won’t be as effective if you shoot a movie and tape a TV soap at the same time.”

As follow-up, he appeared in another indie project, Mendoza’s short film, “Defocado” (also known as “Lakbay”), which the Cannes winner hopes to develop into a full-length feature.

In “Defocado,” Bascon plays a cameraman who’s documenting the long protest march of Sumilao farmers from Mindanao to Luzon.

“Direk Brillante taught me how to use the camera, how to compose shots, how to choose angles,” he recalled. “In each film, I make sure that I look unique, too. I cannot be Joem Bascon … I have to be the character.”

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