The camera follows the daily life of underappreciated film industry veteran (and “Horror Queen”) Lilia Cuntapay after she receives a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at a local film awards show. Besides following the passionate septuagenarian in her day-to-day environment as she interacts with friends, neighbors, family members and acquaintances, the film shows her playing as an extra, being interviewed by TV news, doing self-promotion, and preparing for a “just in case” award acceptance speech, sometimes with much difficulty. Interspersed throughout the film, the director begins to paint a portrait of Cuntapay via film clips and interviews with the general public, film professionals, and famous filmmakers such as Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes. As Awards Night nears and anxiety heightens all around her, will Lilia Cuntapay be prepared for her role?
Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay was originally intended to be the subject for a short film, but Jadaone eventually gathered a treasure trove of material and consulted with filmmakers like Raymond Lee, Joyce Bernal and Sherad Anthony Sanchez as she developed the idea into her first feature length work. Although her previous short films have not contained much dialogue (if at all), she features a substantial amount of exchanges between Cuntapay and herself, effectively casting herself as a character in her own mockumentary-style film. The film’s self-awareness doesn’t end there, however; Lilia Cuntapay’s incredibly candid demeanor on camera often reaffirms, but also inevitably puts into question, the value of her “roles” — either on- or off-camera. (Interestingly, as it turned out in real life, Lilia Cuntapay won Best Actress at the 2011 Cinema One Originals Awards. Figure-toi!)
The film’s enigmatic construction, layered upon nuanced sequences of its self-reflexive, meta-story truths, further adds fodder to the legend and legacy that is surely to become of Lilia Cuntapay after its viewing. Exactly who or what role is being depicted? Who is “acting”? What exactly is intentionally constructed for the audience? The viewer’s difficulty in separating between reality and fantasy coincides with Jadaone’s and Cuntapay’s imagined worlds, most noticeably during the award speech sequences.
Even if the truth isn’t exactly straightforward in the film, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay is ultimately a loving, compelling portrait of someone whose exuberance for art and life supplants their inevitable missteps, failures and ambiguities. Perhaps this film just helps to remind us of her name or to ponder that this is truly one of the most suggestive actor’s monikers in the history of cinema.