Jaclyn Jose: Cannes Best Actress for Filipina star's drug role

Jaclyn Jose poses with her prize Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jaclyn Jose beat Hollywood A-listers like Charlize Theron, to become the first Filipino to win the Cannes 'Best Actress' prize

The gritty portrayal of a drug-dealing matriarch in a Manila slum is what helped Jaclyn Jose become the first Filipina to win the Best Actress award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

The veteran actress played a struggling mother in the 2016 movie Ma' Rosa, forced to sell drugs in order to make ends meet but who then gets caught in a web of police corruption.

She has described the film as a drama that showed "how Filipino families coped and survived, in spite of poverty". Speaking at the awards ceremony a tearful Ms Jose said she did not expect to win.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Jose as seen at the Cannes Film Festival with her daughter Andi Eigenmann, also an actress

But her win is timely.

This is a portrayal that will strike close to home for many in the Philippines, who have just overwhelmingly voted in the maverick mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president on an uncompromising platform of fighting crime and a brutal stance on drug dealers.

"The movie digs deep into the heart and soul of Filipinos because her children are forced to endure not only losing their mother but also the sole breadwinner of the family, a situation common in many households," said Ricky Lo, an entertainment editor and columnist in Manila who reviewed the film for the Philippine Star.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is famous for his tough stand on drugs and criminals - prominent themes in the 2016 film

"Rodrigo Duterte has delivered many hard promises and vowed to minimise, if not, wipe out drug dealers and addicts -what you see in the film. At the same time, it also focuses on what it's like to be poor in the Philippines and brings into sharp focus corruption in the government and the oh-so-slow grind of justice."

The film was shot before Duterte declared his intentions of running for president, but this win has highlighted just how potent an issue this is for the country.

Jose was already a huge soap star in the Philippines but for this role she underwent a dramatic transformation, taking on the guise of a shopkeeper who turns to drugs to feed her four children.

"The biggest challenge for me was not to act. Especially since I am coming from television shows where I play loud and campy characters," she told reporters.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Filipinos had nothing but high praise for the veteran actress's win on social media

But perhaps part of the irony, given that Duterte was elected on an implacable stance against such dealers, is the empathy with which she plays the role.

"She delivered a very moving performance and you can't help but be touched by the way she acts, the story will move you as it draws you in on what it's like to survive on the Manila streets."

Manila-based movie blogger Daniel Abbey, described the movie as "a cold, hard look at what it means to be poor" in the Philippines.

Back in her homeland, there was no short of high praise for Ms Jose's big win.

"It's no secret that the Philippines has an amazing pool of creative talent," said Mr Abbey. "This particular recognition at Cannes is sweet, not just because it's a first for us but because we get to showcase our talent to a wider audience."

Social media users also tweeted their delight at the win.

"Congratulations to Tita Jane, Ms Jaclyn Jose, for her well-deserved win as best actress at Cannes," tweeted Jake Ejercito using the local term for aunt. "Your talent has always been world class."

Atom Araullo expressed his excitement: "Amazing win for Jaclyn Jose and a first for the Philippines!"

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