MANILA (UPDATED) - Cult filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz originally wanted to show his movie “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” in schools nationwide after making its premiere at the ongoing QCinema International Film Festival.
But now young students like the film's lead star, eight-year-old Justine Samson, would have to wait until they turn 13 to watch “Balangiga.” Or worse, when they turn 16.
On the morning after the movie's gala last Saturday, dela Cruz woke up with the message sent via Facebook Messenger that the film has been re-classified R13, from the original general patronage rating. He went ballistic, citing the lack of due process.
“It was a mere ‘FYI’ message from one of Ed’s assistants. There wasn’t even a phone call from Ed, whatsoever,” he said, referring to Ed Lejano, QCinema’s festival director.
QCinema is mandated by the Movie and Television Ratings, Censors Board to self-regulate, giving the filmmakers the privilege to rate their own films.
“May pinatay daw kasing mga baboy at manok,” dela Cruz said.
He reasoned out, however, that they were livestock animals, with their meat cooked and served on every human being’s tables.
“’Balangiga’ is different because the animals killed were livestock—chicken, pigs, a goat, a carabao. We ate their meat because it’s allowed by law. Republic Act 8485, the Animal Welfare Act of 1988, specifies the animals that are not subject to regulation,” he said.
He said he asked the other seven directors of the eight films in competition if they had the same experience. “Hindi pala ako singled out. Apparently, the self-ratings they gave were changed too, without consultation,” he said.
Dela Cruz and “Balangiga” producer Achinette Villamor finally had a meeting with Lejano and QCinema Foundation president Manet Dayrit on Monday at Novotel Manila Araneta Center. Dela Cruz expressed his willingness to cut the scenes that Lejano deemed inappropriate for a GP rating. When asked which scenes, Lejano said everything that involved the slaughter of animals.
Dayrit said it could have been under R16 because of the dead people.
Dela Cruz reasoned out that his film is about a massacre of humans—and animals—during the Philippine-American war. The Balanginga Massacre, according to both American and Filipino historians, caused the deaths of 50,000 Filipinos.
At the end of the said meeting, Lejano told them “Balangiga” will remain under R13 throughout the festival’s run.
The festival released a statement Wednesday night.
"The decision to change Balangiga’s self-rating of G to R-13 was arrived at taking into consideration that all films exhibited during QCinema must conform with MTRCB’s standards of classifying movies," it said.
"The festival deemed it necessary to change it to a more appropriate R13 rating due to the film’s mature theme and to several scenes depicting nudity, violence, gore, and frequent use of mature language and expletives.
"The MOA with MTRCB stipulates that QCinema may self-regulate with the understanding that the festival abides by the latter’s parameters and guidelines.
"Balangiga failed to submit their final cut in time thus the festival only got to see it during it’s very first screening, leaving no time for a proper review.
"It was only then that the festival recommended a change to a more appropriate R13 rating.
"Unfortunately, the matter was not formally discussed with the filmmakers before the change was made due to the urgency of the situation.
"A post review was conducted by the organizers and it was decided that the R13 rating be maintained for the duration of it’s festival screenings.
"We realize the lapse in the rating procedures that we are now addressing so that changes may be implemented in the future.
In a post-review erroneously titled “Balangiga: Howling Wind” obtained by this writer on Wednesday afternoon, Lejano cited the following reasons for the reclassification of “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” to R13.
“Mature theme: The movie tackles the atrocities of war and its effects on children. There was frequent use of mature language and expletives throughout the film. There were scenes of nudity. Scenes depicting a man masturbating under his robe while praying in front of a religious icon and another scene with a man dry humping a goat.
“Frequent scenes depicting violence, animal cruelty and gore such as the beheading of a chicken, disembowelment of a carabao, a writhing and squealing pig impaled on a stake, a child hacking and shooting a man, a mob hacking to death a man, and many bloody scenes. Other gory scenes of dead humans and animal corpses.
“All these gory scenes in context with the mature theme may be too disturbing and traumatizing for young children. Therefore, only viewers 13 years old and above can be admitted into the theater.”
Lejano also asked dela Cruz to submit by Thursday morning, October 26, an explanation for “the alleged incidents concerning children’s and animal welfare in the course of shoot.”
Dela Cruz said it’s still vague which specific shots or scenes to remove so the rating can be lowered to PG or GP. “How does one edit out a theme?”