Jaclyn Jose becomes the first Filipino and the third Asian ( or the first Southeast Asian) to win a Best Actress award at the most prestigious film festival in the world. The awardee for best performance was chosen among the 40 possible leading female actors, which saw tough competitions among early critics favorites such as Ruth Negga (Loving), Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper), two time Best Cannes Best Actress winner Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Charlize Theron (The Last Face), and Sonia Braga (Aquarius).
Jose has been cited for her heartbreaking portrayal of a poor matriarch who had to be bailed out of jail after being caught peddling illegal drugs in her small convenient store in Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa. This is Mendoza’s fourth competition entry to the said international film festival annually held South of France.
Jose’s victory, although subtly telegraphed as a frontrunner, still elicited a surprise among film critics arguing her role has limited screentime, and could have been relegated as a supporting performance. However, jury members Donald Sutherland and Arnaud Desplechin defended Jose’s performance as “the (essence of the) film.” Particularly lauded was the final scene in which the titular Rosa is shown running a gamut of emotions as the film fades out to its bitter end. “It broke my heart,” Desplechin revealed.
Jaclyn Jose, born Mary Jane Guck to a Filipino-German/American parentage, started as a sexy star in films 32 years ago; but it is her naturalistic acting style which emerged as her winning ticket to be cast in countless dramatic features directed by the country’s master filmmakers. Her performance in the classic chamber drama Takaw Tukso (William Pascual, 1986) earned her first Best Actress award from the Gawad Urian. From thereon, she would become one of the most acclaimed actresses of all time. Incidentally, Mendoza was building his upstart as the production designer of the said award winning film. Her personal and professional relationship with Mendoza would span three decades, culminating in Mendoza’s directorial debut at 40, when he cast her for the role of the wife whose husband’s funeral she needs to carry through in Masahista (2005). Both Jose and Mendoza first stepped together on the Cannes red carpet competing for the film Serbis in 2008. Jose played the ” second” matriarch of a family that owns a provincial theater, which has become a symbolical habitation of the society’s moral decay.
Ma’Rosa, originally titled “Palit-Ulo” (a term referring to the backdoor exchange usually involving corrupt policemen and captured criminals), was allegedly first offered to Superstar Nora Aunor. Aunor almost won the Cannes Best Actress award by a hair in 1981 for the film Bona.
Jaclyn Jose joins the ranks of other internationally acclaimed Filipino actors – Charito Solis who won Asia’s Best Actress award for Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak, Nora Aunor who won Best Actress at the Cairo and Asian Film Awards, and Eugene Domingo who won Best Actress award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, among many others.