Gawad Urian 2020: Altarejos shares first critics nom with perennial muse

Having been in the industry as a multi-hyphenated filmmaker for almost a decade and a half,  Joselito Altarejos finally receives his first Gawad Urian nomination that victoriously coincides with his perennial “muse” – actor Oliver Aquino’s Best Actor nomination as well.

Altarejos and Aquino worked on their fourth film together, Jino to Mari, a year before its festival release. Originally titled “Death by Gokkun,”  it had been intended to be the festival opener of Sinag Maynila when it was postponed in its 2016 edition due to failing to secure a permit to exhibit for its highly sexual content   The film is about two young sex workers who are hired to do a pornographic film on a remote island. Altarejos and Aquino’s next film, Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan, would also be pulled out by the same festival for its supposedly highly-charged political stance against the current government.

Altarejos, who has also dabbled for many years on television, has now concentrated on making political films in digital form through his online platform 2076kolektib.com . In an exclusive interview with Daley Bugle right after the Urian nominations were announced, Altarejos said that the nominations Jino to Mari received have long been a resulting product of the combined hard work and creative pursuits of their past four films together. Indeed, Aquino’s best actor nomination from the most prestigious film awards in the country, is a major victory that their professional team-up have long aspired for, although accordingly, was not out of some flimsy desires for a career-high.

“Of course, we want him to be recognized for his performance film after film, but as a filmmaker – I never compromised the integrity of my creative direction myopically for that sole purpose. I have always believed Oliver Aquino is a great actor, but as a creative partner – we both understand that it’s the film first and its highest intentions, before any kind of accolades that it may receive in the end,” Altarejos shared.

US-based film critic Noel Vera writing for Businesworld cites, “Altarejos achieves something similar with a kiss: the film snaps into focus, our resistance and upraised arms fall away, and he (like the arty porn Japanese filmmaker in his picture) can have his complete and unquestioned way with us, however he likes.”

Another US-based film critic and preservationist. Jojo Devera lauds Aquino’s sterling performance, “Aquino inhabits Gino with a still ferocity that you expect him to shatter like porcelain before the drama slowly builds to its shocking conclusion. Aquino’s composure is like a painting, look close enough and you’ll see the cracks in the surface.”

Speaking to Marinel Cruz of Philippine daily Inquirer, Altarejos said, “On the surface level, yes, I’m doing a film about how to make a porno film. On a deeper level, I’m making people think. I needed my actors to trust me. They did meet my expectations. They helped me turn this project into the boldest and most daring Filipino film .”

It can also be recalled that Oliver Aquino and his equally impressive co-lead actor Angela Cortez have both previously won for their performances at the FACINE international festival in California, USA. In fact, Aquino have been cited for all his four films with Altarejos.

Jino to Mari won four awards at the Sinag Maynila 2019, including Best Actress (Angela Cortez), Best Screenplay (Altarejos and John Bedia), Best Musical Score (Richard Gonzales), and the Sinag Maynila Box-Office Award. It was nominated for all major categories, including Best Actor for Oliver Aquino and Best Director and Best Film for Altarejos.

Furthermore, seasoned film critic Oggs Cruz writing for Rappler championed the film, “Jino to Mari moves from what seems to be a banal chronicle of two strangers forced to be together for money to a blistering discourse on how the nation, with its history and its pervading culture as presented by its president’s careless rhetoric, is perpetually being raped, literally and figuratively. The film’s climax, an operatic orgy where both Gino and Marie are forced to abandon their rules, is agonizingly profound. It is an artful counterpoint of lustful excesses and several decades’ worth of a nation’s indignity.”

Altarejos also reveals that they are already in production with their sixth and seventh film. The first one has already been picked up for international distribution, and the latest will reunite Aquino with a critically acclaimed veteran actress.  

Jino to Mari is officially nominated by the academe and critics group, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, for Best Editing (Altarejos and Diego Marx Dobles), Best Cinematography (Mycko David), and Best Actor ( or  Pinakamahusay na Pagganap ng Pangunahing Aktor to Oliver Aquino).

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