ELIJAH Canlas plays his first lead and title role in “Kalel, 15”, the film that bagged its director, Jun Lana, the best director award at the Tallinn International Filmfest in Estonia. Elijah was 13 and studying theatre arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling when he made his first movie, “Sundalong Kanin”, a 2014 Cinemalaya entry by Janice O’Hara and a coming of age story about boys who want to be soldiers and help fight the Japanese in World War II.
“It opened doors for me and I made other films and also teleseryes for ABS-CBN like ‘Bridges of Love’ and ‘All of Me’,” he says. “I also did the iWant streaming series ‘Past Present Perfect’ with Shaina Magdayao.”
The other films he did are “Sakaling Hindi Makarating” with Alessandra de Rossi, “Last Song Sydrome” where he played the rapper brother of Gabbi Garcia, “Babae at Baril” with Janine Gutierrez, the Cinemalaya entry “Edward” with Louise Abuel. Now, aside from “Kalel 15”, he has also completed a new movie for Jason Paul Laxamana, an entry in Sinag Maynila, “He Who is Without Sin”, where he plays a college student sexually harrassed by Enzo Pineda. Clearly, Elijah’s acting career is very much on a roll.
How did he prepare for “Kalel 15”? “First I created a full character background in my mind, so I’ll know his likes and dislikes even before the shooting starts. I’ve never met someone like him who is HIV positive, so I also researched about it kasi nakakahiya sa co-stars sa movie.”
His mom is played by Jaclyn Jose, a lovelorn carinderia owner, and his dad is their parish priest, played by the late Eddie Garcia in one of his last movie roles.
“At first, I was really intimidated kasi they’re both internationally award-winning veteran actors. Pareho pa silang super galing so I felt the need to step up. But they’re both very approachable, lalo si Tito Eddie na sobrang bait, so nawala agad ang takot ko sa kanila.”
The role is daring as it required some nudity and he also did a love scene with newcomer Gabby Padilla. “How Kalel got the HIV virus from gay sex is just suggested, but I had scenes na naka-briefs lang ako with other young men. Mas graphic yung love scene with Gabby where I was giving her a handjob and she later bit my lip and it bled, without her knowing HIV positive ako and she might be infected.”
How did his parents react to him doing such scenes? “They’re very supportive naman kasi alam nilang gusto ko talagang mag-artista. I like what I’m doing at wala namang pumipilit sa aking gawin ang hindi ko gusto. I’m now 18 going on 19, so I can make decisions for myself. My mom actually asked me, 'Kaya mo ba?' And I said, it’s a starring role at ang ganda ng material na eye opener for the viewers, sayang naman if I’d let go of the opportunity. Now, I’m really grateful and proud that I did ‘Kalel, 15’.”
The film is now in theatres on a limited run and it’s rated R13 by the MTRCB.