Sinag Maynila disqualifies film critical of Duterte admin; director raises howl

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2020 02:53 PM

Poster of "Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan." Courtesy of Jay Altarejos.

MANILA - The Sinag Maynila Film Festival said Friday it has disqualified a full-length film after it allegedly deviated from its approved screenplay- a move the director decried as repression.

Political drama "Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan," a movie critical of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, was supposed to be screened from March 17 to 24, 2020 among five full-length entries in the festival.

But in a statement Friday, the festival's executive committee said it was being removed from the screening roster for supposed changes in the approved storyline.

"The Executive Committee, after thorough review, found that there is a substantial deviation from the submitted and approved script and that the Film is no longer a faithful representation of the approved screenplay," the festival said in a statement.

The festival, established by Solar Entertainment Corporation and critically acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza, said it reserved the right to disqualify an entry for failure to comply with its rules and regulations as well as terms and conditions of its agreement with the filmmakers.

On Saturday, the film's writer and director Jay Altarejos blasted the festival's reason, saying it was "a flimsy way out to get rid of me and the film."

He urged the festival to spill the truth and he would support it.

"Tayo ba ay Martial Law na at ikaw ang tagapagpaganap sa sektor ng pelikula, Brillante?" Altarejos said in a statement, addressing the multi-awarded filmmaker.

(Are we now under martial law and you, Brillante, is the executive in the film industry?)

"Patuloy kaming makikipaglaban para sa tunay na kalayaan. Kalayaan sa pagpapahayag at kalayaan sa pamamahayag," he added.

(We will continue to fight for true freedom. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech.)

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The movie, which tells the story of a filmmaker turned revolutionary fighter, was introduced on Monday as one of 5 full-length entries in Sinag Maynila this year.

Mendoza, in an interview with reporters Monday, had said the film was loaded with a political statement but that it should not be judged before seen.

"Napanood ko 'yong film. Siyempre may statement 'yong filmmakers. Kami dito bilang festival organizer, as much as possible, we would like to accommodate all filmmakers with their films, regardless 'yong issue, regardless of the story, kaya nga tayo nandito para suportahan sila. So huwag mo muna natin siya i-judge kasi hindi pa natin napapanood 'yong pelikula," he said.

(I saw the film. The filmmakers have a statement. As festival organizer, as much as possible, we would like to accommodate all filmmakers with their films, regardless of the issue, regardless of the story, that's why we're here to support them. So let's not judge it yet because we have not seen the movie.)

"As of now, political siya in nature kasi medyo vocal 'yong filmmaker about the government. The same time, 'yong filmmaker na 'yon, hindi 'yon ang aming stand as a festival," he added.

(As of now, the film is political in nature because the filmmaker is vocal on the government. At the same time, his stand is not the same as ours in the festival.)

Sought for comment Saturday, Mendoza no longer issued a fresh statement and referred to Sinag Maynila's release on Friday.

In the trailer, the film can be seen tackling political issues such as extrajudicial killings, a major criticism on Duterte's drug war, and end of contractualization (endo), his campaign promise.

In the 0:40 mark of the preview, Actress Rita Avila said, "Kung sana naging mas matapang ako, ako mismo ang papatay kay Duterte.”