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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 16, 2019


director jun lana with his trophy & with KALEL star elijah canlas

director jun lana

elijah canlas as kalel, 15

DIRECTOR JUN LANA is one director who can do both commercial movies and award-winning arthouse films with equal ease and competence. He started as a scriptwriter in such films as “Sa Pusod ng Dagat’, “Jose Rizal”, “Muro Ami” and “Bagong Buwan”, all directed by the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya, then he branched out to directing on TV and the big screen.

His filmography includes such commercial box office blockbusters like the horror film “Haunted Mansion”, the gay comedies “Die Beautiful”, “Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes” and “The Panti Sisters”, as well as such award-winning serious works as “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan”, “Barber’s Tales” and “Bwakaw” that all won acting award for its lead performers abroad.

He now wins his first international best director award for the black and white advocacy drama, “Kalel 15”, in the A-lister Tallinn Black Nights Filmfest in Estonia. This is a socially relevant drama that is definitely aeons away from the flippant, rollicking and laugh-filled movie that “Panti Sisters” is.

Filmed in the central plains of Luzon with Mt. Arayat looming in the background, “Kalel 15” stars teen actor Elijah Canlas (also good in a supporting role in the recent Cinemalaya entry, “Edward”) in the title role. He is the son of a priest, played by the late Eddie Garcia as Fr. George in one his last film appearances, and Jaclyn Jose as Edith, a carinderia owner.

The film is about teens who are tested as HIV positive and this seems to be fast spreading epidemic among young people in our country today. These young folks can easily indulge in fast sex with the help of social media where they meet, and they do the sex act without protecting themselves.

Statistics show that our country now has the largest number of HIV positive people in the Asia-Pacific Region. In the West, the numbers have been reduced due to the awareness to the dangers of possible infection but here, it continues to rise. As the movie says in its ending: “There are countless more who refuse to be tested for fear of stigma and discrimination.”

When Jun Lana accepted his best director award in Estonia, handed to him by acclaimed British director Mike Newell,he declared: ““I dedicate this film to all the kids back home who are living with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. This is your story and I will try my best to get your story seen by as many people as possible.”

When Kalel gets diagnosed to be HIV positive, his mom is shocked but gets more concerned about what their relatives and neighbors would say. She insults and reprimands him from head to toe. It will soon be apparent that Kalel has a dysfunctional family. His mom has many lovers and his sister, Elora Espano, also have a drug addict for a boyfriend, Cedrick Juan.

His dad being a priest in their parish, Kalel grows up without really having the proper guidance of a father who’s present in his young life. His dad even tells him: “Sakit yan ng mga bakla, a. Nagpapabira ka ba sa puwet?”

He is left alone to fight the disease, something that someone his age should never face. His mom runs away with a new boyfriend and his friends turn away from him because of the stigma that the scandalous news of his condition has spread in school. Even his girl friend in in a quandary.

This is Sue (Gabby Padilla of the Netflix film “Dead Kids” and the lesbian film, “Billie & Ellie”), who makes the mistake of biting his lip and sucking his blood, not knowing he is an HIV carrier.

The Tallinn Film Festival’s official page congratulates him in their own message: "Working with a large cast of mostly very young actors, Jun Lana has made a film which feels deeply rooted in the everyday lives of its characters.

It's a passionate and concerned film about lives we never see in the West." Wow! Can’t wait to see “Kalel 15” which will be shown in theaters in limited release starting this Wednesday, December 18.