A complete retrospective of his films will be screening at the Museum of Modern Art beginning today but Mike De Leon won’t be there for the opening. Something about getting a visa and a concern that he might not survive the long flight got in the way.
But he sent word, of course, acknowledging the honor. It is, after all, the MoMA and he is the first Filipino to be given such a recognition at the esteemed New York institution.
The director of Filipino cinema classics “Batch ‘81,” “Kisapmata,” and “Itim” also acknowledged the roles his grandmother, LVN Pictures founder Doña Narcisa “Sisang” De Leon, and father, Manuel De Leon, producer of the acclaimed “Anak Dalita,” played in his becoming a filmmaker and how the movies they made somehow influenced his own cinematic output. Working on his upcoming memoir,, “Last Look Back,” he said, revealed to him “uncanny parallels” between their movies and his.
De Leon, known for his very political films including the Vilma Santos-starrer “Sister Stella L” and 2018’s “Citizen Jake,” also described how he currently views the political situation in the Philippines. “I feel numb to it,” he said. “A seismic shift has happened inside my head with the return of the Marcos family to power.” He likens the surreal situation to his film “Aliwan Paradise,” a satire that pokes fun at our obsession with entertainment.
“I think I can now say without a doubt who the real entertainer is, and it’s a tie: the Marcos family and us, the Filipino people. It’s so entertaining and funny that it hurts.”
For the full statement, check out the art cards below, from De Leon’s Facebook page Casa Grande Vintage Filipino Cinema: