EXCLUSIVE: Iza Calzado on winning her first international acting award

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Iza Calzado received the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer in this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival, where 16 other films were in competition. Calzado won for her role as Jane Ciego in the psychological thriller "Bliss," directed by Jerrold Tarog. Photo by SAMANTHA LEE

Osaka, Japan (CNN Philippines Life) —  “I’m nervous, I don’t even know why,” Iza Calzado tells me a couple of hours before the Osaka Asian Film Festival Awarding Ceremony, where “Bliss,” directed by Jerrold Tarog, is in competition. Calzado plays Jane Ciego in Tarog’s latest film, his most recent outing since the 2015 hit “Heneral Luna.”

The ceremony felt a bit like living in two worlds, as everything was conducted in Japanese before being translated into English. That’s probably why Calzado’s winning moment —  being granted the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer in this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival — felt like it was unfolding in slow motion, with no one from the Philippine delegation realizing that she actually won until her name was flashed onscreen. 

It almost felt like the moment existed in a vacuum. If this had happened in Manila, all the news outlets would have been all over Calzado’s first international best actor win. But instead of a night of press interviews that should have been waiting for her, Calzado had plans to treat herself to some shabu-shabu. 

Right before she left for dinner, however, Calzado agreed to pose for some photos outside. Taking a portrait of Iza Calzado on a busy city street would usually be unthinkable, but it was a cold winter night in Osaka, and it was unlikely anyone would recognize her.

Five minutes later, a throng of Japanese fans exclaimed “Iza Calzado!” as they walked past us, signaling that our impromptu photoshoot had just come to an end. The crowd patiently waited for their turn to have their OAFF programs signed and take selfies with Calzado, whose face registered disbelief that this was actually happening.

CNN Philippines Life sat down with Calzado for her first post-win interview to talk about how she felt about the award, and all the signs that led her up to that moment. 

It looks like Jane Ciego’s wish finally came true.

I know. That’s so funny. Ako nga yata si Jane Ciego.

How does it feel?

I don’t know. I was so surprised. Like okay. Award. Brilliant performance. And then he said a name. And I was like, “What’s that name?” (Editor’s note: The award was given out in Japanese with a delayed English translation), and then I looked at the screen and I saw my face with the “Bliss” poster. And then my heart started beating so fast. It’s a good thing they took a while to present the award before they made me speak. Because otherwise I would have been more tongue-tied than I already was.

I was just so surprised. You know when I accepted “Bliss,” I didn’t think that [I would win anything]. It was a fun movie. That’s why I accepted it. I just wanted to get on that rollercoaster and have fun.

iza calzado with fans.jpg In Osaka, several Japanese fans took out their programs for the film festival and gathered around Iza Calzado to ask for her autograph. Photo by SAMANTHA LEE

It was something you did for yourself.

Yeah, it was really for myself. Kasi baliw ‘yung pelikula. So I wanted to do something crazy, you know, crazy fun for me. I accepted it because it was a psycho-thriller that thrilled me. I wanted to do something out of the box, and this is just really icing on the cake.

I felt so proud when I was standing there. Looking at all the Pinoys. Because there were only a few awards given out. And I felt so happy that it was such a strong crew, strong representation of the Filipino film industry. Of course I even felt happier and I was very grateful to have received that award and to have represented us in a hopefully positive away.

How does it feel to win an award in another country?

This is my first international acting award. Wow. It’s super overwhelming and hindi ko alam kung joke ba ‘to? Totoo ba ‘to?  Serious ba ‘to? Nananalo ba talaga ba ako ngayon? Pero alam mo, sabi ko na nagpaparamdam 'yung tatay ko at saka nanay ko sa akin talaga. Like everything worked out. I actually got surprised that the show that I’m working on, “A Love to Last,” that they actually said yes to me missing out on two days of taping. Everything just worked out. It was so smooth. There were signs telling of “go, go”.

So there were signs?

I wasn’t sure if I was gonna get to take [time] off from taping. And then they said yes. And it just so happened I already had two tickets to Japan. Everything just fell into place. Sobrang galing.

Was there anyone you forgot to thank during your acceptance speech?

I didn’t want to give a long speech. It was just a fast program. All I wanted to thank was God and my parents at that point. Now that I have an opportunity, on record. I just want to thank my boyfriend Ben for being so supportive and being here. Ben Wintle, thank you for being my photographer, slash bodyguard, slash arm candy.

Does this make you even more excited now to show “Bliss” to a Filipino audience?

Of course. Hopefully it gives people more reason to check out the film. Can I just say that everyone in the film was so good? Especially my dear friend Adrienne Vergara who gave so much of herself in the film. I just want to share this with her kasi hindi tatayo 'yung pelikula kung wala siya. At saka 'yung lahat ng kasama namin sa pelikula. ‘Yung buong cast.

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"Bliss" is slated to be released in the Philippines on May 2017.