MANILA – The team behind the upcoming movie “Citizen Jake” starring broadcast journalist Atom Araullo wrote an open letter to the selection committee of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) on Thursday.
According to earlier reports, "Citizen Jake" was among the films whose script was submitted to the MMFF for consideration.
But in a Facebook post, the team behind the film said they did not submit the script because they believe that a film festival entry “should always be a film, not a script.”
Furthermore, they do not know who makes up the selection committee.
“Aside from a handful of names, the identities of the 24 or so members of the selection committee were never revealed to the public,” they said in a statement.
“Why? Who are they? What are their credentials? They may be qualified (or not) to solve Manila’s traffic nightmare but does this qualify them to pass judgment on film scripts and finished films?” they added.
Moreover, the team is doubtful if all the members of the selection committee indeed read all the submitted scripts.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Araullo, the film’s lead star, reiterated why they did not submit the script.
“Hindi talaga nag-submit ng script because I think ang pananaw ng director namin and also the producer that if it’s going to be a film festival, the submission should be a finished film and not just the script. That’s why the team decided not to submit the script. He’d rather submit the finished film. 'Yun lang naman 'yun. We didn’t join the first round of selection,” he said.
But on whether they will submit the finished version of “Citizen Jake” for consideration at a later date, Araullo said the decision is not really up to him.
“I don’t know. That’s not my decision really. There are a lot of things to consider. Some of those considerations, I don’t understand kasi I’m just an actor. It really depends. Ako personally, I hope we make it. If that’s not the best option for the film, okay lang din,” he said.
Araullo, who co-wrote the script of the movie, also weighed in on the controversy that the MMFF is currently embroiled in. In a joint statement on Wednesday, former MMFF executive committee members Ricky Lee, Rolando Tolentino and Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala expressed their disappointment that this year's festival "took a different direction, by putting too much emphasis on commerce over art."
As part of the creative team of “Citizen Jake,” Araullo said: “Nakakalungkot actually na kailangan pa nating ipaghiwalay 'yung aspeto ng commercial success at 'yung artistic merit because ideally, those two things should be the same.”
“I’m really not an expert on this. Hindi naman ako producer. Hindi ko masyadong naiintindihan kung gaano kabigat 'yung commercial consideration but I hope that they are able to balance it because kung puro komersyo lang ang pag-uusapan, ano naman ang mapapala natin sa ganun,” he added.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Mike de Leon, “Citizen Jake” is the first-ever movie of Araullo. In the film, the 34-year-old reporter plays Jake Herrera, who is also a journalist.
Speaking on ANC’s “Headstart,” Araullo opened up about how much of this character is actually a reflection of himself.
“Being one of the co-writers, definitely, I have some influence there. I guess, unang-una sa profile pa lang ni Jake, he’s 34 years old, he’s a journalist. May elemento doon na that’s me. But honestly, after writing the whole script and taking a step back, I realized that he’s very different from who I am,” he said.
Araullo admitted it was aslo a struggle for him to portray Jake Herrera because he had to dig deep and find connections within his own experiences. He also confessed that he had a hard time transitioning from being a journalist into an actor.
“I thought that it would be easier but during the process, I found out that actors and reporters have totally different tendencies. It took a while for me to kind of break down all of these barriers for me to at least achieve the minimum competency for acting,” he said.
There was also that pressure working with De Leon, who is credited for modern masterpieces such as "Kisapmata" and "Batch '81."
“I’m a fan of Mike and his work. I always say I couldn’t say no to the opportunity but I knew that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Mike was very generous with giving me instruction, very patient as well to a newcomer. At the same time, he was also demanding. He expects me to give it my all and I didn’t want to disappoint him,” he said.
Araullo is also grateful to have been given the opportunity to act with screen veterans who pushed him to elevate his performance.
Now that he has starred in his first film, is he willing to star in another one in the future?
“I don’t know. Parang at this point, I just want to finish this film,” he said.
-- with report from Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News