Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Star That Is Lilia Cuntapay

Put yourself in the shoes of a bit player. Someone who spends her waking days waiting for that call - A phone call from her agent for a role so insignificant, not even the supporting actors notice her presence. 

Imagine playing this role over and over for the next thirty years, and then one moment, in the dustbin of her career, a break comes. A role she has spent a lifetime of waiting to play. This time, not just an old hag in an r-rated film, or a ghost nanny in a horror flick. 

What if that person has been given a chance to play a character, not just an extra but the lead actress herself?

In the film Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, this question has been finally answered. Written and Directed by Antoinette Jadaone, the film explores the life of a bit player - someone whose perpetual movie role launches her to pop-icon status, but her name, hardly anyone knows - not even her co-stars.    

The film is done in a Mockumentary style. The director follows the real Lilia Cuntapay around as she bares her life outside the movie industry. Here, we get to take a peek at how bit players are seen as celebrities in their low-income neighborhoods; how they take their roles very seriously, even practicing the few lines they have to deliver, and how frustrating it is to be stereotyped in a role until the people identify you as the character and not the person.

Interviewer: Kilala niyo po si Lilia Cuntapay?

Interviewee: Lilia who?!?

Interviewer: Yung matandang yaya na mahaba ang buhok sa Shake Rattle and Roll 3? 

Interviewee: (after seeing the picture) Ahh siya ba? Yung mumu? Uu naman, napapanood ko siya nung bata pa ako eh!

Mona Lilia

We also get to learn that more than the White Lady and the Aswang in the Regal Films horror franchise. Lilia Cuntapay lent her expertise in movies such as Curacha and Brokedown Palace. She also claims to have worked with almost all the celebrities (including Kevin Bacon) by virtue of six degrees of separation. 

The idea rests on the fact that Nanay Lilia has worked with someone who has collaborated with another actor in the same industry. Based on this premise, it is possible even for a lowly bit actor to find herself at the center of the movie universe. 

More than the comic relief, the film brims with heartfelt moments that add depth to the story. We see Lilia Cuntapay arriving at the set at 4 in the morning (and was forbidden to use the VIP toilet) for a six-in-the morning call time. We also get to see her being interviewed in TV Patrol (for she was nominated for best supporting actress in a film) and throwing a viewing party for her neighbors. We also get to see her relationship with her adopted daughter, and how one seems to be in-denial of the other. 

I do not know how much of the narrative is fiction, but I was convinced that Lilia Cuntapay's acting was drawn from the gut. It speaks of hardships in the industry she belongs, her perpetual dilemma whether to see herself as an actress and not just an extra, and how she was confined to playing minor roles for so long, when she could be the star herself. Between the lines of the acceptance speech she had continuously revised throughout the film, a keen observer can see the point of what the Mockumentary is all about; of how one's aspiration has been realized.

Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay is a film dedicated to all the nameless, stereotyped bit players out there. It's no wonder that for some reasons, I felt that justice has been served when I left the UP Film Center after the ending credits began to roll.


bien said...

It's about time. Long overdue actually. Will it have its commercial run? Do you think it has the makings of a cult film? Dami kong tanong di ba?

Mugen said...


There's a campaign for it to be shown on more theaters. Not sure if it will become a cult film like Babae sa Septic Tank and Zombading, but those who have seen it agree, Lilia Cuntapay's film has its certain charm apart from the two I mentioned.

Mr. Hush Hush said...

good choice of character also.. I grew up seeing her onscreen, but discard her as well.. I think this will be a hit if run commercially. I'll definitely watch this movie.

nubadi said...

darn I miss this when it was shown in Shang, I was there in Manila eh. di bale kayo naman ang kapalit na nakita ko hehehe. but seriously, I wish it will have a commercial run at least in the major cities. I really want to see this motion picture.

Kiks said...

It has to be made commercial. Yeah, let's campaign for it to be shown commercial.

It has always baffled me how people like Lilia are cast in the background, made unimportant yet she and many others play the most crucial roles in most Filipino showbiz movies.

U want. Me want. We want.


JC said...

i like this better than babae sa septic tank and even zombadings.

Mugen said...


Glad you enjoyed it baabaa. :)


That's the reason why I watched it. Seldom do we see minor actors playing big roles in movies. I wasn't disappointed. Lilia Cuntapay deserved the award at CinemaOne.


Honga, had I known you're interested, dapat yun na lang ginawa natin. We were set to watch the first screening at Shang as well.

Mr Hush:

Sa sobra niyang ginawang bit roles, ngayon lang nag-sum up ang kanyang mga talents. I vowed to promote the film if it gets another screening. :)

Super Mario P. said...

Wanna watch this! Showing pa ba?

Poipagong (toiletots) said...

Hala, super interesting, UP theatre palang din right? would you know the sched?

Mugen said...


Ni-wowork-out pa nga eh. Pero kahit isang screening ulit sa UP Film Theater okay na. Sana.


Hindi na eh. But there might be another screening. :)

Nishi said...

mugen, i-text mo ako please pag natuloy yung isa pang screening. haha. gusto ko talaga to mapanood.

Mugen said...


Uu ba, sama-sama tayo manonood. Hehe. :)

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