Director Elwood Perez breaks his self-imposed 10-year hiatus with a film that he conceptualized years ago

MANILA, AUGUST 26, 2013 (PHILSTAR) FUNFARE By Ricky Lo - It’s about time somebody did it. And thank heavens director Elwood Perez thought of it. That is, pay tribute to Anita Linda, presumably the only surviving great actress from the Big Four Era whose career spans more than six decades and who continues to rule the indie genre as “queen” with memorable roles.

“Anita Linda is one of my favorite actresses,” Elwood told Funfare, “and she deserves the honor, especially now that she’s still around to appreciate it.”

In Otso (Eight) which marks the return of Elwood from a self-imposed decade-long hiatus, Anita plays herself, a character bearing her real name (Alice Lake) who owns a middle-class condominium in the Sampaloc, Manila, area where mysterious things are believed to be happening behind closed doors, as seen and felt by an aspiring screenwriter (played by theater actor-producer-director Vince Tanada) who’s obsessed with writing an indie film by Jun Urbano.

The movie’s blurb alerts the viewers to what’s in store for them Truth is never what it seems. (You know, there are always three sides: One side, the other side and the true side.) Elwood leaves it up to you what side to believe.

In a scene in Otso with Vince Tañada.

Elwood is one of the original 12 directors given a (shoestring) budget of P1.5 million each (additional amount at their expense) by the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines, headed by Briccio Santos) to do a film as part of the Masters Showcase (non-competition) set for Sept. 11 to 17 (with a Recognition Night on Sept. 7) nationwide at SM Cinemas (a supporter of the project). The others are Gil Portes, Mel Chionglo, Peque Gallaga/Lore Reyes, Joey Javier Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Maryo J. delos Reyes, Romy Suzara, Chito Rońo, Tikoy Aguiluz, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and Jun Urbano. (Carlitos and Jun backed out; instead, an unfinished film by the late Celso Ad. Castillo, to be finished by his son Chris, will be shown.)

The Otso concept was hatched by Elwood as far back as 10 years ago but he was too shy to approach a producer to have it made. “You see,” reasoned Elwood, “I’m used to be the one being offered a project and not the other way around. But you know, as they say, all things happen for a reason.”

And he told a sob story.

“In 2008,” revealed Elwood, “my father bought me a Panasonic camera worth a fortune. I couldn’t use it because there was no reason to. I couldn’t have it rented because you would need a caretaker.”

Last year, his friend Frank Rivera (a theater person) invited Elwood and his visitor from abroad to watch a play called Bangkay in Balic-Balic (Sampaloc). It was a Sunday and for want of anything to do, he said yes.

“I was astounded by what I saw,” said Elwood in his characteristic exclamatory voice. “The play was so impressive. That was how I met Vince Tanada.”

A lawyer by profession and an actor/writer/director/producer by vocation, Vince was the author of Bangkay and many other plays he, as the so-called “Bad Boy of Philippine Theater,” has produced for and under the Philippine Stagers Foundation (previously known as Dulaang Bedista Alumni Production of San Beda College where Vince graduated cum laude and a Dean’s Award with a degree in AB Philosophy and Letters in 1995).

Away from the showbiz scene, Elwood said that all he was doing was read and watch (especially old) movies, read and watch more movies, and nothing else, in the process lately turning down offers to direct soaps. His last film was the bold-drama Lupe (starring Leandro Muńoz, Andrea del Rosario and Jordan Herrera) for Viva Films which, incidentally, is also the producer of his other comeback vehicle, My Trophy Wife starring Heart Evangelista, Derek Ramsay and Cristine Reyes.

When he met Vince, Elwood felt instant affinity with him and their newly-minted friendship led to the making of Otso.

“It was also at that Bangkay staging where I met Monique Azerreda who is cast in Otso as an enigmatic beauty rumored to be the mistress of a congressman,” added Elwood. Also a San Beda graduate, Monique has done several plays for Vince’s foundation, her discoverer. “At that time, when I was doing practically nothing, I felt that I was looking for something to steer me out of complacency. Vince’s group did it, especially after he let me watch more of their works. I told myself, ‘Ang huhusay ng mga batang ito!’ Their energy is infectious. Nakaka-inspire.” Volunteered Vince, “Our group conducts summer workshops for free. Most of our actors are graduates of the workshops.”

Except for Vangie Labalan (as Alice Lake’s building’s administrator), most of the other Otso cast are newcomers to movies: Jordan Ladra as the kindly security guard, Cindy Liper as the guard’s sick wife and Gabby Bautista as the couple’s precocious son, Chris Lim as the congressman’s aide, Adelle Ibarrientos as a mysterious woman and Mark Joseph Garde as the son who is having an incestuous affair with her.

Of course, Anita Linda again shines in her “indie majesty,” playing herself for the first time…to the hilt.

“She’s my signature actress, or didn’t you notice?” said Elwood. “In my previous films, she’s almost always in the cast and she was brilliant in all of them. Remember her in Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae? I owe her a debt of gratitude because it was her son, Fred Cortez, who paved my way to directing movies. (Asked which of his movies are his two other favorites, Elwood named Paraisong Parisukat and Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit.) I was then active directing TV dramas for Balintataw (a pre-Martial Law anthology on the original Channel 5). Anita Linda is now, I think, 90 years old and it’s the best time to honor her with a tribute.”

It’s payback time and Elwood is paying it well.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved