Wiljo Martin, a 12th grader at Citadel High, recently won Best Young Actor at the 2022 Washington Film Awards. After starring in the short film MAID months ago, he was shocked to learn of the accolade start of career after completing an exam.
“I didn’t even know I was nominated for the award,” says Martin, 17, who learned the news via text message from Halifax-based filmmaker and artist Melänie Mendez Munden. “It’s really interesting to have a lot of people watching the movie because I’ve never been a part of anything that’s gone so global before.”
Locally, Martin has been acting in theater and film since elementary school and even starred in the 2019 short film Lemon Squeezy. However, his dedication to the craft has blossomed in recent years – and he’s not screaming to cut work or opportunities.
“This is my second year at the IB theatre, I have rehearsals for an upcoming musical three times a week and I dedicate my Sundays to the Neptune theatre. My agent also went through many auditions,” says Martin. “I’m quite busy.”
Martin’s renewed interest in acting came in early 2021. Shooting portraits for his portfolio, he expressed his desire to star in more films to a photographer, who quickly put him in touch with Mendez Munden. . Auditioning for the role of Jay, a troubled teenager, he landed the role in MAID in the spring.
Running for nine minutes, MAID tells the story of Lina (Nicole Bernabe), a migrant worker resident in the Philippines who struggles with feelings of depression and isolation when she moves to Canada – finding employment as a housewife. household for a wealthy family and their son Jay.
“He’s a bit of a loner and doesn’t get along with a lot of people,” Martin says of his character. “He’s just a very lonely, depressed kid.”
“Jay is the neglected son of Lina’s wealthy employers. He masked his feelings of hopelessness with addiction,” says Mendez Munden. “The story revolves around these characters as their lives collide and end in tragedy.”
Inspired by the immigration story of Mendez Munden’s mother, MAID dispels misconceptions that life after immigrating to Canada is easy and struggle-free.
In addition to the Washington Film Awards, the film MAID has received acclaim at screenings and film festivals around the world. In 2021, it won the official selection at the Cannes Indies Cinema Awards, the Amsterdam Short Film Festival, the Paris Independent Film Festival, the Los Angeles Indie Fest International Film Festival, as well as the International Film Festival of Atlantic movie.
Shot in five days at Hubbards, the film was another positive career experience for Martin to add to his credits.
“It’s a small film, but everyone involved in it cared so much about it – it shows when you watch the film,” says Martin, noting the efforts of Mendez Munden as well as the cast and crew. .
And the feeling is mutual.
“Wiljo brought not only talent but also humanity to this project. His kindness, his generosity as a person and as an actor, that’s his truth,” Mendez Munden says. “I was blessed with an incredibly talented cast and crew for this film; I will forever be humbled and grateful.
Meanwhile, having recently debuted in the Philippines, the film has come full circle, concisely expressing the complex realities of immigration to a whole new continent on the other side of the world.
“It’s definitely a story I’m happy to be a part of and a really great story that we need to tell,” says Martin,
Sure to follow with more roles in the future, Martin is currently focusing on a musical production of Little Women produced by Neptune Theater. Of course, as his graduation nears, he also prepares for the next act of his life by working on college applications. first choice, National Theater School.
“I’m excited about this new part of my life,” says Martin. “It’s scary, but it’s exciting, and I hope I can do more great things as an actor.”
Meanwhile, with the endorsement of international film associations, a cast and supporting cast, and Halifax’s creative community behind him, Martin is ready to let his passion take center stage in his life.
“I would really like to do this for a career,” says Martin. “I don’t really see myself doing anything else.”