When award-winning filmmaker Erik Matti's action-thriller OTJ (On The Job) had its world premiere at the 66th Cannes International Film Festival in France back in May, the movie received a two-minute standing ovation from a full-packed house.
One of 21 films from around the world featured in the prestigious festival's Directors' Fortnight Section, two of OTJ's lead stars were present at the screening, both of them overwhelmed, stunned and humbled by the highly sophisticated movie audience's response to what has certainly become a turning point in their respective acting careers.
Three months on, as OTJ nears its Philippine showing on August 28, Piolo Pascual and Gerald Anderson remember that fateful night in Cannes as if it were only yesterday.
"It was surreal," recalled Gerald on Wednesday at ABS-CBN's Dolphy Theater. "At the end of the movie, the theater was pitch black then suddenly, may isang spotlight itinutok sa amin, habang nag-sta-standing ovation ang lahat ng tao."
"We were just so happy. So proud to be part of such an amazing movie," added Piolo.
Co-produced by Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment, OTJ is a multi-faceted and fast-paced story revolving around the ills of both the justice and penitentiary institutions in the Philippines. Based on actual facts and hard research, the incredible lawlessness that goes on this branch of government is presented through the characters of an NBI agent (Piolo) and two prisoners (Gerald and Joel Torre).
"The story delves into what our informants say continues to happen in Philippine prisons--how government and police official in high places can arrange for the temporary release of prisoners and hire them to become hit men," Direk Erik, who has been dubbed as the "Francis Ford Coppola of Philippine Cinema" by international reviews for his work on OTJ, elaborated.
According to him, Piolo and Gerald--as well as the rest of the stellar cast comprised of third lead Joel Torre, Joey Marquez, Angel Aquino, Shaina Magdayao, Empress, Dawn Jimenez, Leo Martinez, Michael de Mesa, Vivian Velez and Rayver Cruz--each delivered their highly challenging roles beyond his expectations.
"Everyone took their parts very seriously," he continued. "Gerald in fact even came with a picture on how he believes his character should look."
"I've always wanted to do an action movie," revealed Gerald, whose hard core role has him cussing in every other word of his dialogues. The movements of his fists, arms and legs are just as intense. "To prepare, ang dami kong pinanood na films tungkol sa mga hit men, at niresearch ko ang lahat ng information na mahahanap ko tungkol sa mga preso. We all wanted to make the movie more than amazing."
Piolo, who retained his clean cut look for his role, meanwhile got pointers from actual agents in the bureau to ensure the credibility of his portrayal.
"We actually had their names in the credits in the beginning but they requested na tanggalin namin sila doon because of the very delicate nature of the situation," he added.
While it was Joel Torre who won a best actor award for OTJ in July's 2013 Puchon International Fantastic (PiFan) Film Festival in South Korea, Piolo and Gerald both agree that to be part of the critically acclaimed movie is huge honor for them and an incredible boost for their acting abilities.
As OTJ continues to be invited to international movie festivals and competitions, will the rare opportunity to be part of such an explosive Erik Matti film affect the direction of their respective careers? After all, it is not every day that a Filipino actor's film gets a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.
Piolo replied, "As an actor, I can only hope for the best. I did OTJ because it was something so different and so out of the box, and as actors, it's our responsibility to our audience to always look for something new to offer them."
For his part, Gerald declared, "After Cannes, I came back a more educated and inspired actor, and I promise to bring this in every movie that I make from here on."
For more on OTJ, log on to www.StarCinema.com.ph.
(c)2013 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines)
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