The IdeaFirst Company’s Gameboys breakout star Elijah Canlas was recently hailed the Best Actor in the 17th Asian Film Festival in Rome, Italy for exemplary performance for the titular role in the drama Kalel, 15.
In an announcement shared by the creative content company behind the critically-acclaimed film, the win came on the heels of the mid-season break of the widely-celebrated online series, Gameboys, where Canlas plays one of the shows now-iconic lead characters.
Kalel, 15 trails the coming-of-age tale of a young Catholic boy who turns out to be diagnosed with HIV, deepening the pressures he is facing in his adolescent life. With Kalel as the central figure in the story, the plot then dives into a wide array of cultural and sociological issues on religion, gender structure, poverty, and HIV awareness. Joining the 19-year-old actor in the film is multi-awarded actress Jaclyn Jose as his runaway mother, Gabby Padilla, and the late Eddie Garcia–a parish priest who is revealed to be Kalel’s father.
In a video that serves as his acceptance speech, Canlas expressed heartfelt thanks for the team behind the film that led to the “tremendous honor”. He then shared the award to his family, his director Jun Robles Lana, cinematographer, Carlo Canlas Mendoza, and co-actor Eddie Garcia, citing the great blessing of working alongside the legendary actor for his last film. Further, Canlas’ message highlighted the value of opening up and deepening the dialogue on HIV awareness.
He articulated, “This goes out to the kids and to everyone else who struggle with HIV, and continue to face stigma everyday. May we all be kind and help each other.”
In a post, Lana praised the young actor for his impressive portrayal and how, through his hard work and intelligent choices in approaching the role, proves how much of a “chameleon” Canlas really is.
Amid the pandemic and the ongoing community lockdowns across the globe, this year’s Asian Film Festival collected 27 feature films and three short films from 10 countries in East Asia, namely Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, in its continuing focus in honoring the best of Asian filmmaking, along with a platform to hail new filmmakers through its Newcomers section.
In celebration of Philippine cinema’s centennial, the festival also featured 8 local feature films. This included Lav Diaz ‘ The Halt , which was also presented at Cannes 2019. Lana’s Kalel, 15 was also an official selection for the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia in 2019.
At present, Canlas’ acting streak continues with the undying fan adoration and critical success of the online series Gameboys, where he plays the role of Cairo, opposite another independent cinema regular, Kokoy De Santos. The series, which was originally slated for ten episodes, has now been extended to 13 episodes and a confirmed movie. Moreover, The IdeaFirst Company has announced a Gameboys spin-off series titled, Pearl Next Door, featuring the beloved female character in the lead role, played by actress Adrianna So.
Watch the trailer of Kalel, 15 here: