Vilma Santos, the enduring Grand Dame of the Philippine film industry, delivers a performance of grace, courage, and peerless comic timing as a single mother toiling as a lowly TV extra in the latest film from veteran director Jeffrey Jeturian (Trespassers).
Contemporary World Cinema
The Bit Player
The Philippine film and television industry gets satirized in Jeffrey Jeturian's alternately funny and forlorn The Bit Player. Vilma Santos, one of the country's biggest and most beloved stars, plays Loida, a single mother trying to put her daughter through school while working in the most thankless position in the business: an extra.
Derisively dismissed as "talents," Loida and her fellow extras must put up with seemingly endless indignities. A father and son are kicked out of a crowded van on a highway in the middle of the night because the son has the wrong kind of eyebrows. Stars accidentally punch extras during shooting. Angry talent coordinators berate them. Through it all, Loida and her best friend persevere, hoping for that one big break: a speaking role that will increase their pay and possibly launch them as bit players.
Told with an eye for the ludicrous excesses and stresses of TV work (one director is tasked with shooting forty set-ups in two days) and the inherently existential comedy of being a stand-in, Jeturian's film never misses a target. One overly nervous extra loses her dentures during shooting; a neophyte shows up to play a peasant wearing enough makeup to shame RuPaul. At the same time, the film is buoyed with ample affection for the characters' dreams. After working all day and into the night, the inevitably cheerful Loida is capable of pontificating about the important role the extras play.
Skilfully directed by Jeturian, and
driven by Santos' courageous performance
and peerless comic timing, The Bit Player
is also a kind of tribute to Loida. Even at her
lowest point, she never gives up.