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‘Gusto Kong Lumundag Lagpas Langit,’ John Arcilla Says As He Wins Best Actor Award At Venice Film Festival

‘Gusto Kong Lumundag Lagpas Langit,’ John Arcilla Says As He Wins Best Actor Award At Venice Film Festival
In ‘On the Job,’ John Arcilla is a veteran local journalist who uses his radio program and newspaper to defend the government.

It was a gloriously surreal moment to be honored as Best Actor at the 78th Venice Film Festival, John Arcilla said.

The 55-year-old actor took home the Volpi Cup on Saturday night, Sept. 11, (early Sunday morning in Manila, Sept. 12) at the world’s oldest film festival for his starring role as a radio journalist in “On the Job: The Missing 8,” the Erik Matti-directed crime thriller that tackles corruption and fake news.

“I’m the happiest actor tonight also because I know we come from different countries and we have different languages and cultures, yet I can feel the oneness tonight because of the art of cinema,” Arcilla, the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win the award, said in a recorded video message.

In a virtual interview with The Philippine STAR on Sunday, Arcilla was still on Cloud 9 at the thought of besting Hollywood stars and being recognized by an international jury headed by Oscar-winning Korean director of Parasite, Bong Joon Ho.

“‘Yung saya gusto kong lumundag lagpas langit (I want to jump above the clouds), that’s the feeling. Sobrang (‘m very) happy. You just dreamed about it before and now it’s here. You’re now part of the list of the world-class actors you used to watch on their big projects. Suddenly, you’re within that roster. It’s surreal but it happened. That recognition affirms what I’ve done is already within their standards. I’m so happy for that,” he told The STAR.

Arcilla, who couldn’t make it to Venice in person, recalled that the day before the awards night, which was also the day of the OTJ’s premiere, he received a text from Matti who told him that people were looking for him at the filmfest and was being asked to prepare a thank you video message “for safety reasons.” He didn’t take it as a sign that he was going to win.

The reason he couldn’t be at the awards night was because he decided to stay to shoot for “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” in Ilocos and the 14-day quarantine protocols on his return might affect the taping schedules.

He nevertheless posted on the day before awards night how he wished his dream would come true and join the likes of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as awardees. When the announcement of winners was finally made, his phone wouldn’t stop ringing from 2 a.m.

Meanwhile, he said there was more to say in his acceptance speech, thanking the crew and cast and emphasizing that he was part of an ensemble.

Arcilla also dedicated his award to his family, his first fans, and whom he said badly needed good news during this difficult time. He lost three immediate family members during the pandemic – his father and two siblings, including a sister just a few days ago.

“I wish I can share this with all my loved ones who left us in this lifetime. This most prestigious award I received today lift up my spirit to the heavens and I am transforming this joy, achievement or victory or Honor into love so that the loved ones I am missing can feel my heart which is outpouring with gratitude to all who love me and inspire me to get to where I am today and I’m thanking God for putting them into my life,” he wrote on Instagram.

Arcilla also wished the award would open doors for him to achieve his ultimate goal to be a “global actor.” He said he would do what it takes to further succeed.

“I really wish! Wala ka naman gustong mangyari kundi humakbang paakyat pa. Kung meron pa akong makikita paraan pa umakyat, sige, sige, sige. Gusto kong makita ‘yung possibilities. Gusto kong makita ‘yung doors, kung wala akong mahanap, hahanapin ko kung may stamina pa ako.”

He excitedly shared with The STAR a message he received from one of the attendees at the filmfest which said: “You should have been with the Best Actress Penelope Cruz because Bong Joon Ho, the head of jury and jury member Chloe Zao were raving about your performance and they wanted to meet you.’ I mean Bong Joon Ho who just won in Hollywood wanted to meet me! Maybe he’d want to do a project with me, ha ha, c’mon let’s do it God!”

Arcilla is no stranger to challenging roles and acting honors from the local movie industry. But the actor, perhaps best known for playing the title role in the 2015 box-office hit biopic “Heneral Luna,” plays a journalist for the first time in OTJ.

“I’ve been loving to play a journalist because I was a (Mass Communications) graduate. It’s been one of my dreams before to become a journalist or media practitioner. In a way, actors are media practitioners, there are just segregations between industries but they’re all about communication, selling an idea or telling something to an audience. ‘Yung kaibahan lang (with journalists) I think may pinanggagalingan ka na ito ba ay katotohanan or ito ba ay realidad or ito ba ay fair,” he said in a separate press interview.

“It was very clear to me that what’s happening in (OTJ) is happening in society. It’s not unique to the Philippines because if you look at it, all societies have different forms of crime and corruption. We’re exposed to that even if we’re ordinary folks so that’s why for me, ‘yung preparation ko sa role ay ready na ready na ako kasi babad na babad na tayo (sa mga ganitong bagay).”

“On The Job: The Missing 8” was the only film from Asia out of 21 international films in competition at this year’s Venice filmfest. The sequel to the 2013 film “On The Job” about prisoners being hired by politicians as hitmen has been transformed into a six-part mini-series for HBO that premiered on Sunday.

Meanwhile, “Happening” (L’événement), a hard-hitting French drama about illegal abortion in the 1960s, won the Golden Lion award for Best Film at the filmfest.

Among other awards, the runner-up Grand Jury prize went to Italian director Paolo Sorrentino for “The Hand of God,” his deeply personal film about losing his parents as a teenager.

Jane Campion won Best Director for “The Power of the Dog,” Spain’s Penelope Cruz won the Best Actress prize for playing a single mother in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” while Maggie Gyllenhaal won best screenplay for “The Lost Daughter.”

‘Truly a Pinoy pride’

Arcilla’s victory was lauded by his colleagues in the industry and fans on social media, including Yam Concepcion, Janno Gibbs, Aga Muhlach and Charo Santos, to name a few.

His co-actors in the series, Lotlot de Leon and Dennis Trillo, posted how proud they were of the “Heneral.”

Kuya, sobrang saya ko para sa inyo. Ito ay patunay na kaya din ng mga Pinoy!!! Mabuhay ka (Brother, I’m so happy for you. This is a proof that Filipinos can do it!!! Long live,” Trillo said.

Film Development Council of the Philippines chairperson Liza Diño- Seguerra, who was also present at the festival, congratulated Arcilla, Matti and the team “for a mind-blowing masterpiece.”

“Led by John, this was a well-acted film by such an impressive ensemble cast. Kudos!” she said.

Christine Babao commented on Instagram that Arcilla truly deserved the award being a great actor. “Sa panahon na puro bad news ang ating nababasa, ikaw ang nagdala ng pride and honor sa ating bansa! (In this time where we are surrounded by bad news, you are the one who brought pride and honor to our country) Salute!” Babao said.

Randy Santiago also congratulated Arcilla for being the pride of Philippine cinema and the country in general.

Santiago said in Filipino: “I pray and wish you more projects where you will showcase your talent as an actor.”

Candy Pangilinan likewise lauded Arcilla for his “well-deserved” victory.

Some of the previous winners of the Volpi Cup for Best Actor include Brad Pitt, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Joaquin Phoenix, Javier Bardem, Ben Affleck and Sean Penn. – With AFP