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The Bit Player More at IMDbPro »Ekstra (original title)

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

An Expose on the Life of a Showbiz Bit Player

Author: 3xHCCH from Quezon City, Philippines
28 July 2013

"Ekstra" is a very entertaining film that brings us into the world of a bit player or "extra" in the punishing world of television soap opera. This was more than just a glimpse. We get an in-depth, no-holds-barred, brutally frank expose on how bit players are treated on and off the set of a location shoot.

Loida has been a bit player for many years already, enabling her to get her daughter through her education even if she was a single mother. We follow her typical experience one day when she was called to a remote shooting location in Batangas for the hit TV soap opera entitled "Nauna Kang Naging Akin". The production seems to be behind schedule , needing to shoot so many sequences to air that very night, making the director super-stressed.

Through Loida, we see every indignity bit players had to endure in order to earn their seemingly measly living. They have no privacy, not enough food nor rest while on the set. They were at the constant beck, call and mercy of the director. the assistant director, the casting director. They had to wait for long periods of time under harsh conditions inflicted by weather, technical difficulties, and the inconsiderate diva behavior of the bigger stars.

It was such an inspired idea to get a star of the highest caliber to play this unsung hero of the movie industry. The fact that is was no less than Ms. Vilma Santos herself playing the lead role of Loida Malabanan makes this film so much more meaningful and special. If the lead was played by a lesser star, it would not have made an impression of such great impact as this film did.

Ms. Vilma Santos is the heart and soul of this film, and she was such a paradox in this role. She portrays her role in the most natural and realistic way, yet we know this was so NOT her. We know that in reality, Vilma already played the lead role in her very first movie in "Trudis Litt." She successfully dimmed her megawatt star power to appear inferior in stature to stars like Marian Rivera and Piolo Pascual who were the lead stars of the soap being shot, yet Ms. Vilma still manages to outshine them all.

Ms. Cherie Gil was so deliciously good in her villainous Dona Beatriz character. Tart Carlos, more popularly known for her role as the maid Doris on "Be Careful With My Heart," has a marked role playing Loida's friend and co-extra, where her skills in comedy shone. Musical director Vincent de Jesus was very effective as the harried assistant director, scrambling to accomplish all the orders of the stressed director.

This was such a revelatory and informative movie for me, to see what really happens behind those neat programs we see on TV or the big screen. We will see that behind the apparent glamour on screen, there is much chaos and exploitation on the set before those final edits were achieved. These behind-the-scenes situations were depicted so honestly such that this film could might as well have been a documentary to further the cause of fair treatment of bit players. It is a position statement as much as it was entertainment.

Like "Babae sa Septic Tank" and its insider look into indie film making last year, "Ekstra" is a definite must-see for all film fans to understand more in depth on how this celluloid industry that they love works. 9/10.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Cynical Views

8/10
Author: Mek Torres from Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines
20 August 2013

The title "Ekstra" seems to indicate that it's about a person who has an inspiring story of her years of being the extra role in every television show. The actual film is somehow different. While the main character do learns through her experience, the film mostly plays as a comedy for satirizing what's going on behind the scenes. It's ironically an entertaining cynical view towards filmmakers who make television episodes without any ambition except the income they would receive. With slick direction and great performances, Ekstra is an absorbing cinematic trip.

The first act introduces Loida as a humble person who looks like there's a destiny ahead of her, but following the dreams of becoming a big star is not the only story we get to see here. It also gives a look to how the shows are being filmed, and that's not all, the filmmakers are usually depicted as selfish and heartless, while the bit players are only tagging along trying to transcend their career. That side of the plot is gloriously ridiculous, showing that the job is really all about money: the producer barely does anything, the production is managed by cheapskates, we can understand the director's pressure, but what's crueler than his rants is the gross decision for product placements. They're presented to be amused and it is a witty satire.

The film seems to be aware that our local TV hits are interchangeably generic since the director's, Jeffrey Jeturian, current running one is a total contrary to those. It's amazing to see that someone's sick of the clichés; like family relation twists and endings with kidnappings and guns. Now this movie made them look stupid, which is true. But the substance of their stories isn't supposed to be the point of the film. Again, it's Loida's story, though she is more of an example. All of the bit players have the same ambitions and same luck. The film just picks Loida as the underdog because she's the most talented among the extras. But that's it, she's just taking all the bitterness of reality despite of her skills, since that's probably the point of the film.

Vilma Santos is the attraction here anyway and she definitely did what she does best, even if her role is supposed to be humble. Her amazing glow keeps the character feel down-to-earth inspiring. The direction is decent enough for whatever an independent film would ask, skillfully placing the cameras in crafty ways.

Ekstra is not a character study, but it is an absolutely enjoyable commentary about today's mainstream entertainment and its creators who lack passion in their work. It's also a fun speculation for really noticing and poking fun of the awful clichés of our modern soap operas, but I think the plot has something better to say. It just didn't got the chance because it was too busy expressing its cynical portrayal of local filmmaking. Nothing can fault its artful storytelling, besides that's actually the best way of telling stories. I think we should merit for being totally honest in its own perspective. Ekstra is already a great movie anyway, and the performance by Vilma Santos makes it even better.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Jeffrey Jeturian makes good use of cinema to speak about Filipino television industry.

8/10
Author: FilmCriticLalitRao from Paris, France
27 January 2014

In "Ekstra"/The Bit Player viewers get a chance to understand the complicated world of television through cinema. The film is authentic to the core as coming from television background has helped its director Jeffrey Jeturian to make a film about extras of a popular TV show. One can sense a lot of authenticity as Jeffrey Jeturian has already experienced what he has portrayed in his film. For viewers who have a little idea about Filipino film industry, it needs to be stated that this film's star attraction Ms.Vilma Santos acts in one of the most deglamorized roles of her career. In many ways, this enables her to have a direct experience of the problems faced by junior actors who use all their energy to land a small role. Most laughs in "The bit player" are generated when viewers get a chance to watch what really happens during the shooting of a TV serial. Director Jeffrey Jeturian takes viewers on a hilarious behind the scenes ride where one watches with dismay how junior artists are lodged, kind of food they are provided, conditions in which they work and how weather can sometimes spoil all good plans. At the end of this ride, it is made clear that television is not a joke and a lot of hard work needs to be put both by actors as well as technicians in order to create shows which are loved by millions in a country. Lastly, it is said that ideas are important when there is shortage of finance. This assertion has been proved true with the inclusion of an ordinary cake to represent a large cake.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Touching performance of Vilma Santos

Author: plsletitrain
18 December 2013

She has never failed to deliver a stellar performance in her movies but what makes this movie more special and touching is seeing her perform in this project. You see, being one of the brightest stars that she is, to see her recognize and play the role of the often unrecognized yet indispensable persons that make a movie/series, namely the bit players or "extras", is very humbling.

A depiction of how bit players struggle to earn minutes/seconds of screen time, this movie shows what goes behind the final results we see on TV/theaters. With realistic performances from the supporting actors, the movie's lead actress cements the inspiring concept of the film. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time that anyone has ever come up with such a concept of showcasing the lives, or a life, of bit players who aspire to grab a role for a talent fee which doesn't even comprise an eight of the main characters' talent fee.

This movie succeeded in showing reality..the reality of what bit players experience off-camera, the reality of what they had to endure to earn that unseen role, the reality that there is so much more than what we see on TV. 10/10

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Starts slow, but ...

7/10
Author: westsideschl from United States
24 May 2014

I thought this was going to be another rom-com melodrama (metaphorically: more cheap food fare) typical of Mexico, Philippine, Thai, Indonesia, New York, some Hollywood and certainly Bollywood film studios. Pleasantly surprised by the writing, acting and unique storyline of what it's like (at least in some cases) to be those extra faces in a film. The background of putting up with director whims and idiosyncrasies, intolerable assistants, uncertain logistics, competing for choice roles and, of course, the weather. Surprisingly realistic elements of disappointment as those rare opportunities of having a speaking role can be so quickly lost.

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Funny and insightful look at life behind the cameras

7/10
Author: Sirfaro11 from Philippines
24 December 2013

This movie chronicles the typical story of a bit player, how important ( and ironically , unimportant) an ekstra is. Loida plays the lead role, a single mother who successfully raised her daughter through acting in the movies, but has no luck after years of playing small roles, but has certainly gained wisdom.

The movie is a funny, insightful look on what goes behind the camera. Jeffrey Jeturian certainly knows how to make n audience laugh, without trying too hard and with his realistic portrayal of a typical life of his main character. You feel how life is difficult but the ekstras love their job, and that is how they survive.

Get treated as well with many cameos from both networks and an additional commentary on showbiz backstabbing. They say nice things in front of the stars but say the opposite behind the back.

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