Why ‘Iti Mapukpukaw’ cast thinks doing the film was ‘all worth it’ | Inquirer Entertainment

Why ‘Iti Mapukpukaw’ cast thinks doing the film was ‘all worth it’

/ 12:20 AM August 22, 2023

Carlo Aquino (left) and Dolly de Leon in rotoscope animation

Carlo Aquino (left) and Dolly de Leon in rotoscope animation

Actress Dolly de Leon said she agreed to work on the Cinemalaya best picture winner “Iti Mapukpukaw” for four reasons.

“First, Project 8 is my favorite production company. I’ve worked with them for a long time and I love them. Second, I wanted to work with director Carl Joseph Papa. I know that he has a big heart and that being kind to people is his default,” Dolly told Inquirer Entertainment recently.


“Third, I have never worked with Carlo Aquino (lead actor) and I wanted to really enjoy the opportunity. Lastly, the subject matter. When I read the script, I knew early on that it would be a beautiful project. This was because the way the subject matter, which is a very sensitive topic, was tackled was so moving. It’s not a fun topic to talk about, but the way Carl handled it, his treatment on how a child processes trauma, I thought that was painful and beautiful at the same time.”


“Iti Mapukpukaw” is a Filipino-Ilocano rotoscope animated film that follows Eric’s (Carlo) life as it twists and turns after the arrival of the familiar alien, and the death of his uncle—two events that trigger Eric to remember his past and untangle his memories. It also won the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award and the Best Supporting Actress award for Dolly.

Not letting go

Meanwhile, Gio Gahol, who plays Carlo’s friend in the film, shared a funny reason for agreeing to join the project. “When I was informed that I’d be a part of it, they didn’t tell me what the story was about right away, just the fact that it’s a Cinemalaya entry. I had to look it up online. When I read the synopsis and it mentioned aliens,I told myself, ‘Go na ito!’ I didn’t care much about what was going to happen in the film. All I knew was that there will be aliens and watching aliens is cool,” he said, laughing.

When he got his copy of the script, Gio said he cried the first time he read it. “It’s such a beautiful story that there was no way I was going to let it go. Also, when I learned that Carlo and Tita Dolly would be there, I said, ‘Wala nang bawian!’ I was only a part of the shoot for two days because I already had to leave for the United States. When I saw the outcome, I thought, ‘The word special is an understatement for this experience.’”

Dolly then shared what she discovered about Carlo. “Off-cam, he is a really quiet guy. I later learned from friends that when it’s already your second project with him, you’ll see how kengkoy he can be. True enough, he was already quite talkative during our Gala Night. What’s sad was that I didn’t get to enjoy working with him because his character doesn’t speak. It was so frustrating,” she began.

Aquino (right) with Gio Gahol while shooting on green screen

Aquino (right) with Gio Gahol while shooting on green screen

“The biggest challenge, since we shot the film on green screen, was that you really had to use your imagination. You had to imagine holding a door when there’s really nothing there. Another was speaking in Ilokano. It helped that a language coach was present on the set. I’m so proud of the work that we put into this. It was really worth it.”

Gio agreed with Dolly by saying: “On a regular set, there are human experiences, you see things, you feel textures. In other words, there are a lot of stimuli. In our case, there was none—and that was the challenge. You had to be rich in imagination to believe that you are in a certain scene, at a certain space, at a certain time. The person I shot my scenes with does not have a mouth, supposedly, so you can’t call that dialogue,” he quipped.



“I’ve always known that Carlo is an amazing actor. I finally experienced this firsthand. Even if he wasn’t speaking, he was very present, he was magnetic. I learned that I didn’t have to be distracted by what was around us, I just had to look into his eyes,” said Gio.

We then asked director Carl to share how he managed to assemble such a cast. He said he didn’t ask any of them to audition, and that he was thankful that their schedules were free at the time. “We made a list of possible actors, and Caloy (Carlo’s nickname) was at the top of the list. I knew that the character of Eric was going to be heavy and complicated and that we needed someone to balance that. Since the character doesn’t have a mouth, physical acting was important, especially the eyes,” Carl began.

Carl Joseph Papa

Carl Joseph Papa

“At the end of everything, the story is about love. Ms Dolly and Gio were the perfect fit as Caloy’s support system. I’m a fan of these actors’ works, including Gio’s portrayal in ‘Bula sa Langit.’ Ms. Dolly was amazing. She could switch from drama to comedy seamlessly. When I pitched this to them, I said, ‘This is the story and we need you on board in order to effectively tell it.’ They all said ‘yes.’”

Now that the festival is done, Carl said this was what he hoped to do: “Sleep, eat and then sleep some more. I need to experience life again so that I can write more stories. For now, I just intend to rest.”

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Finalists of the 19th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will be screened at Cinematheque Centres in Manila, Iloilo, Davao, Bacolod and Nabunturan from Aug. 23 to Aug. 31. INQ

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