SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM LILIA CUNTAPAY (Antoinette Jadaone, 2011)
Like any other mockumentary, Antoinette Jadaone's SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM LILIA CUNTAPAY intends to flesh out a bitter truth out of its subject matter, in this case the role of bit players in local cinema, as represented by one particular bit player, whose presence in film and on TV for about 30 years is extremely underrated. However, unlike any other mockumentaries (Christopher Guest and Jerrold Tarog conveniently come into mind), SIX DEGREES breathes striking vigor to the film medium because the actor is actually playing herself! And not just as a means for comedy, but rather as an echo for her own life story.
Jadaone and her crew made a research on Cuntapay's life, located where she lives, and out of it she wrote a performance art that is to become Cuntapay's crowning glory, sort of a retrospective cum tribute to her "non-existent" presence in the movies.
In its ultimate, SIX DEGREES is able to achieve a sense of recognition for Cuntapay that she rightfully deserves, making us, the audience know who she is and what her contributions to Philippine cinema are. Jadaone made us realize the fundamental and integral part of Cuntapay's identity: her name. We all know Cuntapay when we see her onscreen, or when we are given a photo of her, but we really did not know her name (at least, most of us); we just cared that she looked scary, is a regular of the now-defunct Magandang Gabi Bayan, and always plays either a witch, a white lady, or a vampire in movies. That's why you will hear Lilia Cuntapay repeteadly mentioning her name in this mockumentary, because Jadaone wants us to remember her name.
The structure itself is impressive- Lilia Cuntapay after 30 years in show business, is finally earning an acting nod, alongside established actresses Rio Locsin, Raquel Villavicencio, and Mercedes Cabral. This excites Lilia, and Jadaone, playing herself in the background in a staged character relative to the nature of mockumentaries sets aim to document Lilia's journey as she prepares the perfect speech should she win. Along the way, Jadaone's camera, and our eyes as well catch Lilia's life in passing: getting early for location shoots, being pushed aside in anonymity, and even the misery that comes from an underdog in the industry and in life (the scene where they created a makeshift premiere night in Lilia's house starts out funny then turns poignant).
But Lilia Cuntapay is a strong woman. She is a sweet lady with unlimited supply of humility. Her passion for the movies and for her craft as a bit player excites me, and reminds me that stories like hers is why we love going to the movies. Giving a lead role for Lilia Cuntapay is brave and noble enough; to have her play herself and spill her guts out and make it beautiful and inspiring is something else- it is beyond comparison.
Interviews from filmmakers Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, the first two people who gave Lilia her big break in the movies help give the film a credible stance. Lilia's own stories of her experiences filming horror films intercut with footages of those movies result to show-stopping hilarity.
The equation itself, based on the premise that anybody can be connected to actor Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less, is amusing and fits the occasion. To say that Lilia Cuntapay is the Philippines' answer to Kevin Bacon seems appropriate, but as Jadaone and Lilia herself puts it, "Kevin Bacon is six degrees of separation from Lilia Cuntapay" would be the rightful statement.
The trailer can be viewed here: