Directors Mike de Leon, Chris Martinez argue over MMFF 2017 selection process

by Kaye Guerrero
Nov 8, 2017
Directors Mike de Leon (left) and Chris Martinez had a discussion online regarding MMFF 2017. Direk Mike of Citizen Jake fame asks: "How can a Vice Ganda script be chosen over, say, buy bust or even larawan?" 

Veteran director Mike de Leon used social media once again to criticize the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival, which he now described as a "virtual cartel."

The filmmaker behind the classic Pinoy films 'Batch 81 and Kisapmata decided not to submit his comeback movie, Citizen Jake, for consideration to the annual Christmas season film festival.

Last October 31, Direk Mike accused the MMFF of being tainted by "corruption."

(Read: Atom Araullo-starrer Citizen Jake not submitted to MMFF; directordescribes selection process as "anomalous")

In a November 4 Facebook post titled “Random Thoughts about the MMFF from Mike De Leon and the Citizen Jake Team,” Direk Mike expressed worry that one of the MMFF 2017 entries might turn out to be an "artistic dud."

He even singled out Vice Ganda, who is one of the stars of The Revenger Squad.

The four entries selected based on scripts alone were: Ang Panday, The Revenger Squad, All Of You, and Meant To Beh.

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Coco Martin is the star and director of Ang Panday. All Of You features the love team of Derek Ramsay and Jennylyn Mercado while Meant To Beh stars Vic Sotto and Dawn Zulueta.

Four more MMFF entries will be chosen this month based on their finished versions.

Here is the statement of Direk Mike (published as is):

"Now that we are no longer participating in the MMFF, perhaps it is time to start asking questions about certain aspects of this festival that continue to bother us, in the spirit of continuing the discussion on an issue of public concern.

"First, what would happen if any of the first four entries selected on the basis of their scripts alone turns out to be an artistic dud? Or just plain bad? Think Vice Ganda.

"Isn’t that a loss for the audience? Because, in our opinion, a script is nothing (no matter how brilliant or ordinary) unless it is made into a film.

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"Oh yes, there’s supposed to be an answer to that – another of those nebulous criteria – commercial viability.

"So secondly, in the long history of world cinema, has anybody been able to predict a film’s commercial success or failure? It’s like chaos theory; there are so many random factors that contribute to the final result.

"We have nothing against films whose sole purpose is to entertain. But why are we skewing the odds in favor of big producers who have continuously made the festival a virtual cartel. Are they the only ones who know how to entertain?

"This festival is being subsidized by our taxes, so we have a right to ask questions about how these funds are used.

"We see the festival as a microcosm of what is wrong with this country – how unbridled consumerism has taken over our lives (like malls having monthly weekend sales not caring that they further aggravate the already horrendous traffic situation everywhere), how the Filipino trait of delicadeza has been relegated to the dustbin of the unwanted and irrelevant (kapalmuks na lang ngayon).

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"Sure, you can laugh your head off for a couple of hours of slapstick or toilet humor and perhaps even feel good about it while roaming the mall afterwards. But if you think about what really happened in those couple of hours at the cinema, these so-called entertaining movies have just taken your money and not given you anything worthwhile in return.

"The biggest problem facing the industry right now is its refusal to acknowledge the rise of independent cinema as a viable alternative to the mainstream films of the big studios. There are enough festivals for that, they claim, like Cinemalaya, Cinema One etc. But these “indie” festivals are designed to subsidize (even in part) the production of the films that they have chosen to participate in their events. The MMFF does not do that, which makes it, ironically, a film festival in the classic mode, one that should select its entries among finished films and finished films alone.

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"In a developing country like ours, films or even television should play a more responsible role in enriching popular culture. This is our country, this is our cinema. Let us demand to be heard. It is not a privilege granted to us by the ruling elite, it is our right. – Mike De Leon and the Citizen Jake Team."

VETERAN DIRECTOR AS MESSIAH? One filmmaker who did not agree with Direk Mike De Leon was Chris Martinez.

Direk Chris helms the MMFF 2017 entry Meant to Beh starring Vic Sotto and Dawn Zulueta.

In the comments section of the Facebook post, the 47-year-old fimmaker claimed that Direk Mike was resting on his laurels. Direk Chris called out the 70-year-old veteran director: "After your long hiatus, you come here armed with one film and you expect us to treat you like a Messiah?"

Direk Chris wrote: "For someone who has been gone for 17 long years, all of a sudden, you have a lot to say about this industry and its problems.

"Why choose to speak only now and be suddenly concerned about this industry you left for almost two decades? Is it because you have this movie to promote? Wala kang pakialam kung sagasaan mo ang ibang direktor sa mga statements mo? What did you do while you were gone? What have you done besides resting on your laurels?

"Peque taught. Ricky Lee held workshops. Joey Reyes is a film professor.

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"We remained in the industry and tried to solve the problems by continuing on and holding the line on all fronts - indie and mainstream. So after your long hiatus, you come here armed with one film and you expect us to treat you like a Messiah?

"I find this promo slant of yours opportunistic and antagonistic. Promote your work based on its own merits. Stop picking fights."

In response, Mike De Leon explained why he quit making films. He also disclosed that during his hiatus, he decided to focus on film restoration.

He wrote: "Mr. Martinez, for your information, I did not just stop making films 17 years ago. I quit. I had been in the industry making films since 1975 and after Bayaning 3rd World in 1999, I decided I had had enough and so I quit.

I decided to make one film last year for reasons I have already explained enough on this page.

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"I was spooked by the return of the Marcoses and that we had just elected a President who thought that the Marcos regime was not all that bad. So I thought I would make one more film to express what I felt and still feel presently.

"Im not picking fights but how would you feel if you are practically offered a bribe to join the December festival which I had giving up joining after the first four entries were selected.

"The industry landscape has changed considerably, I admit that, but the corruption has not.

"You judge me too harshly just because I have chosen to make another film at this advanced stage of my life.

"Does my age imply that I'm trying to be the industry's messiah? Far from it.

"I am no leader, I am just one person who speaks my mind and happens to have made films that stand the test of time.

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"Will you be able to say the same when you reach my age?

"Why didn't I teach? Well, because I didn't want to and I am not a teacher. Does that make me less of a cinema person?

"I chose to quietly work on film restoration, trying to save the films of my

family's studio. And that took a lot of years.

"Yes, right now, I am armed with only one film that I am hoping will be shown to a wide audience. So I have a right to promote it. Then after that, I will probably disappear again for the next 17 years but I know I will no longer be around to wait for that. In the meanwhile, whether it is 5, 10 17 or 20 years, I will always remain a film director. So I deserve to be heard."

RETURN OF A GENIUS. At that point, Direk Chris offered advice for one of his "lodis" (colloquial for idols).

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He wrote: "Dear Direk Mike, Know that I always look up to you. Your films have inspired me to pursue filmmaking. I admire your body of work. Believe me when I say you are one my 'lodis.'

"And nothing is so tragic to let your promo people show you unravel like this.

"Why can't your people just focus on the return of a genius rather than sounding like it's the second coming of the savior of Philippine cinema?"

BULLY? Direk Chris strongly denounced the label given by the seasoned filmmaker.

Direk Chris wrote: "When you post in big bold letters: artistic duds - that's offensive, malicious and totally uncalled for. You sounded like a judgemental bully out to bulldoze all four films."

Still defending himself, Direk Mike questioned the slot that was given to the Vice Ganda movie instead of other entries in particular, Buy Bust (directed by Erik Matti) and Ang Larawan, the movie musical (directed by Loy Arcenas).

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Direk Mike wrote, "But you must admit, its a valid point. how can a vice ganda script be chosen over, say, buy bust or even larawan?"

Direk Chris repeated his plea for the director to stop antagonizing other filmmakers.

"My point is - promote your film based on its merits. Wag mo naman kaming awayin. Inaabangan nga namin pagbabalik mo tapos ganyan ka. I still wish your film and your return all the best. But, Direk, pls. relax. Marami kaming lumaking iniidolo ka."

Direk Mike eventually apologized and said it was not his intention to fight with other people in the movie industry.

"Ok im sorry if you guys took it that way. believe me wala akong ganong intensyon. its just that i get so many conflicting comments and conflicting advice and we do have to use social media, something that is very new to me. peace. right now, it's me, mike, answering, not anyody else."

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When their discussion ended, Direk Chris promised that he and his team will watch Citizen Jake.


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Directors Mike de Leon (left) and Chris Martinez had a discussion online regarding MMFF 2017. Direk Mike of Citizen Jake fame asks: "How can a Vice Ganda script be chosen over, say, buy bust or even larawan?" 
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