Mike De Leon admits making Citizen Jake was a bumpy ride

by Bubbles Salvador
Jan 11, 2018
It was a bumpy ride for Citizen Jake director Mike De Leon and first-time actor Atom Araullo, "what with all the malicious naysayers who would just love to see us crash and burn."

Have you ever wondered what happened to the film, Citizen Jake, which did not make it to the Metro Manila Film Festival in 2017?

Lst October, Citizen Jake’s director Mike De Leon revealed his decision not to submit the film for consideration to the film festival, citing the “anomalous selection process” of the MMFF.

He said this after four films had been selected by the MMFF based on scripts.

Citizen Jake marks the return of the well-regarded De Leon, whose last movie, Bayaning 3rd World, was released 18 years ago.

Bayaning 3rd World (1999), critically acclaimed for its unique depiction of the heroism of Jose Rizal, had a powerhouse cast led by Ricky Davao, Cris Villanueva, Joel Torre, and Daria Ramirez.

The film won six Gawad Urian Awards in 2000, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Other notable films by the esteemed director include Kisapmata (1981) starring Jay Ilagan, Vic Silayan, and Charo Santos-Concio; Sister Stella L (1984) starring Vilma Santos, Laurice Guillen, and Jay Ilagan; and Batch ’81 (1982) starring Mark Gil and Sandy Andolong.

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All are now considered iconic local films.


“After Bayaning 3rd World, I felt I had enough of movies and the obligatory showbiz side of it. I realized I had nothing else to say or obsess about,” De Leon said in a post dated December 24, on the official Facebook page of Citizen Jake.

What triggered this monumental comeback?

“I cannot say with absolute certainty. Perhaps it’s because the specter of the Marcoses returning to power spooked me, and at that time we were conceptualizing Citizen Jake we had just elected a President who believed that the regime of Marcos was not so bad.”

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De Leon relates how it came about: “I made a series of short anti-Bongbong Marcos videos with the help of Sarge Lacuesta and Tom Estrera III, and they were posted on social media.”

He continues, “The sad fate of LVN which the family eventually lost weighed heavily on my mind.

"I pondered long and hard how a family blessed with such a unique cinematic legacy could squander it and not even blink.

"So I thought of making one last attempt at cinema.”

De Leon is referring to LVN Studios, once one of the biggest film studios in Philippine cinema, which started making movies in the late 1930s.

First-rate stars like Fernando Poe, Sr. (father of FPJ), Rogelio de la Rosa, Nida Blanca, Nestor De Villa, and Eddie Rodriguez, among others, were housed in LVN.

The company ceased movie production in the 1960s, and began operating only as a film laboratory. It was finally sold in 2005.

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This latest movie attempt, De Leon says, is “a multi-generational epic saga of a family loosely based on my own.”

“I knew after a few months of work like RIZAL, I could never get it off the ground. Not at my age,” De Leon continues.


Nevertheless, the desire to make a film remained. As fate would have it, De Leon stumbled upon the idea of Citizen Jake, whose original title was Citizen Journalist.

“I also chanced upon a news article saying that a young journalist named Atom Araullo had just resigned from his job as a news reporter.”

In 2017, Araullo left ABS-CBN after a decade of working as a reporter and TV host for the network.

“I have never been interested in television and I guess I was one of the few who had never heard of this guy.

"I read that he was interested in exploring new areas of filmmaking (actually documentaries) and had had some experience in theater when he was a young boy.”

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During their first meeting, De Leon asked Araullo if he wanted to play the lead role in a film “whose story was still non-existent.”

“He seemed receptive to the idea and it was only much later that I found out how my straight-to-the-point question affected him.

"Anyway, I thought he was just in his early thirties, I felt that that was old enough to have a past because Jake had a past and I wanted to do a film where the past weighs heavily on the present, a sort of film-noir.

"And I knew I had found my lead actor; I had found Citizen Jake.”

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For his part, Araullo has described his foray into film as a “humbling experience,” saying that it changed him in a lot of ways.

“Pag nabubukas ang mundo mo sa ibang klaseng field of expertise kung saan wala kang alam, I’ve said this before, it’s a very humbling experience.”

In making the movie, De Leon admits it was a “bumpy ride” for both him and Araullo, “what with all the malicious naysayers who would just love to see us crash and burn.”

He adds, “But I think when the film is ultimately finished, and shown, all that would be water under the bridge.

"We would have acquitted ourselves quite well. And getting Alfonso Tomas Araullo would turn out to be no risk at all.”

Citizen Jake, which features the onscreen debut of Atom Araullo, tells the story of a 34-year-old journalist, Jake Herrera, who finds himself at odds with his older brother, a congressman, played by Gabby Eigenmann.

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Citizen Jake also stars Cherie Gil, Dina Bonnevie, Luis Alandy, Max Collins, Teroy Guzman, and Nonie Buencamino.

The movie will be screened on March 10 at Cine Adarna in U.P. Diliman.

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It was a bumpy ride for Citizen Jake director Mike De Leon and first-time actor Atom Araullo, "what with all the malicious naysayers who would just love to see us crash and burn."
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