MANILA -- The 2020 restored version of the Filipino classic “Kisapmata” will have a live theatrical screening on August 31 in Bologna, Italy, as part of the 34th Il Cinema Ritrovato (Recovered Cinema), a festival of recovered and restored classics.
Among other masterpieces of world cinema to be shown are Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” Jean Luc-Goddard’s “Breathless,” Fritz Lang’s “You Only Live Once,” David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man,” Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man,” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Spider’s Stratagem.”
Wholly funded by director Mike De Leon, the restoration was done in L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, which is also based in Bologna. L’Immagine Ritrovata is the same film lab behind the restoration of De Leon’s “Batch 81,” Lamberto Avellana's “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,” and Lino Brocka’s “Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag,” on which De Leon was cinematographer and co-producer.
“Davide Pozzi, who heads the laboratory, is my good friend and he’s been working on the DCP (digital cinema package) for the live screening,” De Leon told ABS-CBN News in an email.
“Yes, ‘Kisapmata” is back. The 2020 restored version was never screened online or elsewhere as the restoration took very long. The ownership has only been clarified early this year, before the pandemic,” De Leon added.
De Leon is referring to Bancom Audiovision, which is also credited as producer of “Aguila,” “Jaguar,” “Salome” and “Brutal,” among others.
“I am now in communication with them. It may result in co-ownership because although they own the copyright, I own the restoration and the film elements kept in Singapore,” De Leon added.
As for the online screening, cinephiles and fans of De Leon’s films would have to wait until December.
“The Asian Film Archive in Singapore has offered to sponsor the free online premiere in December followed by two theatrical screenings in Singapore,” De Leon said.
The live screening of “Kisapmata” in Bologna was earlier announced through Casa Grande Vintage Filipino Cinema Facebook Page on July 31. Five days later, August 5, De Leon uploaded the teaser on the same Facebook page and also shown on the “Citizen Jake” Vimeo account.
De Leon said he had been asked by Cecilia Cenciarelli, the section programmer, to introduce “Kisapmata” on video for the August 31 theatrical screening.
“She said that Martin Scorsese, Angelica Huston, others, will also have video messages but I told her that I just can't appear before a camera, even if I just use a phone,” De Leon said.
Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” is also among the films to be shown.
The exact date in December and venue in Singapore are still being finalized for the live theatrical screening and on which online platform “Kisapmata” will be streamed. De Leon said the streaming will be up only for a limited time.
For a couple of years now, the un-restored version of the film has been made available on iWant. For those who have seen it or about to check it out, it’s obvious how its color grading needs major surgery.
Like in old films with negatives that have been seen better days, there are scratches as shown by white dots and black lines framing each scene.
De Leon shared that the restoration was made possible through the use of the incomplete 35mm original camera negative, a positive print and the original optical soundtrack negative from the Asian Film Archive. The film elements are preserved at the vaults of the National Archives of Singapore.
It was found out that the negative was heavily affected by the vinegar syndrome. “It had developed halos and mold, and the emulsion carried dominant green-hued defects. With parts of the negative unusable, the restoration team was compelled to integrate it with material from the positive print, which had been made when all the effects had begun to manifest themselves,” De Leon explained.
“Kisapmata” was filmed in three months during a forced break from the shooting of “Batch 81,” De Leon said. It was shown as part of the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1981, where it won 10 awards, including best picture and best director.
In 1982, De Leon made history when both films were shown in the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes Film Festival. He remains the only Filipino filmmaker who achieved that.
MMFF to CANNES
De Leon said the version being streamed online and was shown on cable TV years ago was the MMFF copy, which was sold to ABS-CBN. The one submitted to Cannes had additional scenes.
“I also supervised the MMFF version entirely but I do recall one or two additional scenes that were removed when I re-edited and remixed the film for foreign screenings. Many sound effects were present in the MMFF version because I thought the film was too quiet and even more noncommercial. I cleaned it up when I made the definitive mix after the MMFF,” De Leon said.
“What I was told was the one sold to ABS-CBN was the MMFF version, on U-matic Tape. When I was able to retrieve the negatives much, much later and made a new print (although full of green mold), I made a new telecine on betacam tape, which I used for a personal DVD copy,” he added.
“Kisapmata” stars a young Charo Santos-Concio in the lead, playing Mila, the abused, oppressed, corrupted daughter of Vic Silayan’s character, a retired policeman named Dadong Carandang.
Charito Solis plays Dely, the submissive mother of Mila. Jay Ilagan plays Noel Manalansan, the distraught lover turned husband of Mila. Ruben Rustia plays the father of Ilagan’s character.
De Leon clarified Charo's character is Mila, not Milagros as some online sources claim, Solis’s is Dely not Adelina as the same sources have perpetuated, and Silayan’s is simply called Tatang Dadong.
“Perhaps the character names of Milagros and Adelina are from the end credits of the film. Cesar (Hernando) made them and did not realize that the names spoken in the film are Mila and Dely and the family name of Carandang is never heard in the film, although Manalansan was. We were in a rush for the MMFF so by the time the film was completed and we saw the error, it was too late to make a new end credit roll,” said De Leon.
Hernando was production designer of “Kisapmata,” among many of De Leon’s films. He succumbed to cardiac arrest on May 7, 2019.
“I think ‘Kisapmata’ was Cesar’s best work among my films,” De Leon said.
In the opening break bumper (OBB) of the restored version, De Leon included a dedication to Hernando and the other lead actors who passed on -- Charito Solis, Jay Ilagan, Vic Silayan and Ruben Rustia.
The story is based on a real-life tragedy in 1961 reported by Nick Joaquin for the Philippines Free Press weekly magazine using his pen name, Quijano de Manila.
Titled “The House on Zapote Street,” it was re-published in 1977 as part of “Reportage on Crime,” Joaquin’s collection of crime stories.
De Leon thought of adapting the story as early as 1978 but was rejected by several producers because of the subject matter’s sensitivity.
Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr., Raquel Villavicencio and De Leon worked together in writing the screenplay.
CREDITING NICK JOAQUIN
Cinephiles and other eagle-eyed film enthusiasts who have seen the un-restored copy would notice that despite almost all articles about “Kisapmata” acknowledging Joaquin’s reportage as inspiration, his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the film.
“Nick was not given due credit in the film, because the producers wanted to avoid any explicit reference to the writer’s factual account of the case. I argued against this decision because it would be quite difficult for a viewer to suspend one’s disbelief if the film was presented as fiction,” De Leon said.
After almost 40 years, Joaquin’s name now appears in the film.
Shot and shown during Martial Law, the film is an allegory of the strongman rule.
Silayan’s character is the despotic padre de familia who reacts violently to criticisms, has no respect for human rights, even his own family members’ rights. The incestuous part, De Leon added, is the ultimate form of corruption.
“The story was so bizarre that I feared it could be mistaken for an experimental or artsy film. And that was the last thing I wanted the film to be,” De Leon added.
The return of “Kisapmata” has never been so timely and relevant than now.