Apart from being the lone musical entry to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), “Ang Larawan” has gotten endorsements from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), as well as from Senator Bam Aquino and Congresswoman Pia Cayetano, among others.
Set in 1941 in Intramuros, Manila, “Ang Larawan” is about sisters Candida and Paula – daughters of high-profile painter Don Lorenzo Marasigan – who defiantly hold on to their father’s precious paintings despite having financial troubles. A handsome boarder Tony Javier convinces them to sell the artworks to an American.
“Ang Larawan” is the film adaptation of “Larawan, The Musical,” which is based on National Artists for Literature Nick Joaquin’s three-act English play “A Portrait Of The Artist As Filipino.” Nick’s work has been adapted numerous times on stage, on screen and in English and Filipino, making it one of the most pedigreed literary works in the country.
In a press release, “Ang Larawan” is said to be an ode to the “passing of the world and truth and beauty and a celebration of the tenacity of the spirit amidst the rise of materialism and consumerism.”
West End star Joanna Ampil plays Candida while multi-awarded pop singer and entrepreneur Rachel Alejandro plays Paula. Urian Best Actor Paulo Avelino is Tony Javier.
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, as well as Aicelle Santos, Cris Villonco, Cara Manglapus, Jojit Lorenzo, and Rayver Cruz.
Seasoned singers Ogie Alcasid and Zsa Zsa Padilla have very special roles.
The film has also merited a grade of “A” from the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB), meaning it qualifies for 100-percent tax rebate.
It is said that the musical written by National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio and composed by Ryan Cayabyab is the only film this year that had all 11 CEB members giving it the highest grade.
“It is seldom and rare that the members of the Board give a unanimous A to a film,” CEB stated.
This recognition is added to the string of accolades “Ang Larawan” has been receiving ever since its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival last October.
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, “‘Larawan’ is a brilliant, fabulous production with great acting and excellent technical elements.”
The CEB commended the production behind the film for taking risk, ditching the usual formula film with a musical genre that remains untested for the festival.
“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.”
Meanwhile, as soon as the CEB grade was released, “Ang Larawan” actors took to social media to express their gratitude over the matter.
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 in previous interviews, she disclosed she began preparing for it three years prior.
Rachel said, “Wow! What a blessing!,” while Celeste wrote, “Very proud!”
Richard Kuipers of American entertainment trade magazine, Variety, said “This musical adaptation of a beloved Filipino play is a class act.”
He added that “Ang Larawan” is “beautifully decorated and top-notch in every technical detail” that is “clearly made with the utmost love and care.”
“A universally accessible tale about art, money, family conflict, national identity and female emancipation, ‘The Portrait’ should be embraced by mature audiences… Festival programmers should check it out,” he said.
“Ang Larawan” opens in cinemas on Christmas Day.
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