Im so excited to see Aiko Melendez as she returns to the big screen and makes her Cinemalaya debut this year in Asintado, a film about a mother forced to make one of the biggest and most difficult decisions of her life for the sake of her child. Directed by Louie Ignacio, Asintado (‘Between the Eyes’) is competing in Cinemalaya’s Directors’ Showcase. Produced by Ferdinand Lapuz and Dennis Evangelista, with a story and screenplay by Soccorro Villanueva, it stars, aside from Aiko, Gabby Eigenmann, Miggs Cuaderno, Rochelle Pangilinan, Jake Vargas, Benjie Felipe, Madz Nicholas, Maita Ejercito and Jak Roberto.
Set against the backdrop of the Taong Putik festival of the farming community of Bibiclat, Nueva Ecija, Asintado is about a mother of two (Julia, played by Aiko). When her older son (Jake Vargas) gets involved with a drug ring and botches a job, he brings down on himself and their town the wrath of drug ring boss Carias (Gabby Eigenmann). To escape Carias’s wrath, Julia is forced to turn to her autistic younger son (Miggs Cuaderno) who has an unimaginable talent as a skilled marksman who can shoot right between the eyes, hence the title of the film. The question is, does Julia risk her younger son’s safety and life to save the other?
Asintado is Aiko’s first movie in five years. According to her, the script was the main reason why she accepted it, plus the fact that she was handpicked by Direk Louie for the role of Julia.
Both as a mother and as an actress, Aiko found the story extremely compelling so far as the moral dilemma it presents to viewers. “Yung moral issue here is bakit in-allow ni Julia na turuan ang isang anak niya ng isang crime, pero lalabas din dito yung love of a mother for her children. So the argument will start paglabas sa sinehan na you’re thinking, would you be on Julia’s side or sa isang side, it will make you think.” The message of the film is that “the love of a mother is unconditional. Ang ina, magagawa ang mga bagay na di pa nya nagagawa para sa mga anak nya. Kahit ang mga bagay na ayaw nyang gawin basta para sa mga anak nya gagawin nya lahat lahat.”
Aiko turns in a brilliant performance as Julia, and already, is being talked about as a contender for Cinemalaya Best Actress honors alongside Nora Aunor. But whether she wins or not is immaterial. The mere fact that her name is being spoken of in the same breath as Nora’s is honor enough for her, says Aiko, who gave her all to the role. “When I accepted Asintado, siyempre may pressure ng kaunti because I’m playing lead again and that comes with a big responsibility. I needed to really study my lines by heart and was open to almost all suggestions just to make a particular scene perfect. So whether I win or not, okay lang. An award is just a bonus and an affirmation of one’s hard work.”