“Ang Larawan,” the lone musical entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, has gotten a grade of “A” from the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB).
The musical written by National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio and composed by Ryan Cayabyab is the only film this year wherein all CEB eleven members who previewed gave the highest grade. The CEB summation stated, “It is seldom and rare that the members of the Board give a unanimous A to a film.“
Based on the play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, “Ang Larawan” tells of how financially troubled Marasigan sisters Candida and Paula hold on to their father’s masterpiece in spite of great interest and attractive offers from potential buyers.
West End star Joanna Ampil plays Candida while multi-awarded pop singer/host and entrepreneur Rachel Alejandro portrays Paula. Urian Best Actor Paulo Avelino takes the role of Tony Javier, the boarder who is persuading the sisters to sell the painting to an American buyer.
The rest of the cast features a stellar ensemble composed of OPM stalwarts Celeste Legaspi, Dulce, and Nanette Inventor; stage and film luminaries Robert Arevalo, Nonie Buencamino, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Noel Trinidad, Jaime Fabregas, Leo Rialp and Bernardo Bernardo; and young stars Aicelle Santos, Cris Villonco, Cara Manglapus, Jojit Lorenzo and Rayver Cruz. OPM icons Ogie Alcasid and Zsa Zsa Padilla have very special roles.
Culturtain Musicat Productions is the production outfit behind this film directed by Loy Arcenas.
The CEB praised the various aspects of production with one member citing that the movie is “enthralling, captivating and beautifully helmed!” The board described the performances by the leads and supports as “excellent.” Another member reiterated that, “’Larawan’ is a brilliant, fabulous production with great acting and excellent technical elements.”
As soon as CEB grade was released, the filmmakers took to social media to express their gratitude and joy. “Wow! What a blessing!” said Rachel Alejandro; while Celeste Legaspi declared, “Very proud!” Joanna, who is touring as part of the international production of “Cats,” wrote on Facebook, “All the hard work is paying off.”
“Ang Larawan” is Joanna’s first starring role in a film and she began preparing for it way back in 2014.
The CEB recognition is the latest of a string of accolades that “Ang Larawan” has been receiving ever since its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival last October. Variety’s Richard Kuipers said, “This musical adaptation of a beloved Filipino play is a class act.” Local press and writers who have watched the film at an advanced preview are predicting “Ang Larawan” will be embraced by music-loving moviegoers and will be a strong contender for MMFF awards.
The film has also gotten endorsements from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Senator Bam Aquino, Congresswoman Pia Cayetano, and Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas.
Noting that “Ang Larawan” is a period movie, not a formula film, and that the musical genre remains untested, the CEB commended Culturtain Musicat Productions for taking a risk. “So, kudos, congrats, and thanks to the brave, intrepid band of producers and their fearless funders for this film. May their tribe increase and may this movie reach as wide an audience as possible.” Furthermore, the CEB made a clear call to the moviegoers “to see this film and spread the good word: go out and see Filipino films!”