Photo by Noel Orsal
When director Jade Castro was asked for his opinion regarding the continuing controversy in the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, the filmmaker initially said that the issue has long been present in the competition.
It does not surprise him that the disqualification of filmmaker Emerson Reyes’s full-length narrative, MNL 143, from the New Breed category, spawned a reaction from the film community.
The festival’s Organizing Committee apparently found the casting of Alan Paule and Joy Viado as long lost lovers "not suitable to the material."
(CLICK HERE to read about the issue.)
"Napaka-unfortunate nung mga pangyayari, although hindi naman ako nagugulat kasi parang matagal na na may ganung issue sa Cinemalaya," states Castro in an interview during the press screening of his new mainstream film, My Kontrabida Girl, last night, March 12, at Cinema 3, The Block SM North EDSA.
"Natutuwa ako na ngayon [dahil] maraming nagbo-voice out.
"Dun ako natutuwa kasi napag-uusapan. Maraming filmmakers on both ends ng debate na nag-i-speak out."
Castro straightforwardly voiced out what he thinks Cinemalaya’s Organizing Committee, headed by competition director Laurice Guillen Feleo and monitoring head Robbie Tan, should do next:
"Kung ako tatanungin, since tinanong ako, ang sa tingin ko, dapat magbago muna ng management for now dahil sa gulo."
Castro further says that whoever replaces the presiding committee heads must decide if the competition should or should not push through on its 8th year.
"’Tapos, kung tutuloy man, pagkatapos nila gawin yung Cinemalaya this year, isang mas malaking usapan kung ano man mangyari in the future."
SUPPORTIVE OF EMERSON REYES. Castro does not deny that he recognizes Reyes’s sentiment when the director of MNL 143 decided to stick to his original cast.
"Naiintindihan ko si Emerson.
"Actually, marami na akong filmmakers na nakikita ko yung plight nila kasi dumaan din ako dun, e."
He recalls that he encountered the same interference by the Cinemalaya’s Organizing Committee when he joined the film festival in 2007.
Castro gained recognition for his film, Endo, which won the Special Jury Prize in Cinemalaya that year and bagged the Best Screenplay at the Gawad Urian in 2008.
"Muntik ko nang hindi i-direct yung Endo, which is my first film dahil hindi nila ako kilala," tells the 33-year-old director.
"’Tapos, gusto nilang meron akong co-director for Endo.
"Naiintindihan ko yung kapag meron silang argument, na parang hindi nila ako naiintindihan."
Was it wrong that the Cinemalaya heads meddled with Reyes’s original casting?
Castro answers, "Sa tingin ko, ang casting naman talaga, choice yun ng producer saka ng director. Sila ang may final word.
"Ang problema kasi, hindi malinaw kung sino ba talaga ang producer dahil ang Cinemalaya, for the longest time, ang tingin nila producer sila.
"Kahit na iba sabihin nila, feeling ko, yung ginagawa nilang trabaho is ... a lot of it has stretched on kung ano yung trabaho ng producer.
"So, yung mga things like casting decisions, ganyan, pakita nilang may say sila dun. Kailangan nilang linawin yun."
Castro has directed films that include Zombadings: Patayin Sa Shokot si Remington and My Big Love; likewise, he has also written the screenplays of My Amnesia Girl, Zombadings, RPG Metanoia, etc.
The Rhian Ramos-Aljur Abrenica starrer, My Kontrabida Girl, was solely written and directed by Castro for GMA Films.
STEP DOWN AND REASSESS. Asked who he in particular thinks should step down, Castro states, "A, silang tatlo. Step down muna sila... Robbie Tan, Laurice Guillen, saka si Nestor Jardin.
"Sa kanila nakatutok yung issue, e.
"I think kaya naman nila yun, e.
"Kasi they have their reputation, they have years of work behind them.
"This Cinemalaya is bigger than any of us, kumbaga."
According to the director, the festival’s hard-earned success should not be only credited to the three people.
"It’s also everyone involved," he says.
"Lahat ng sponsors, lahat ng filmmakers, audiences na tumulong sa pagpapalaki ng Cinemalaya.
"I think kaya nila. And then, after this Cinemalaya, puwedeng pag-usapan kung ano mangyayari.
"Mataas ang respeto ko kay Direk Laurice, kay Nestor Jardin, at saka kay Robbie Tan.
"Tingin ko, kaya nilang gawin kung ano yung dapat nilang gawin."
When prodded to elaborate on why Guillen, Tan, and Jardin should step down for the meantime, Castro expounds, "Sinasabi kong sila yung mag-step down kasi sila yung involved sa issue.
"Parang yun yung pinakamalinis na solusyon kasi papalapit na yung date ng Cinemalaya, ’tapos ang daming pressure on them.
"Tingin ko, kung ako yung crisis control manager... parang yun yung solusyon ko, yun yung sina-suggest [ko]...
"Yun po ang aking humble recommendation."
Castro feels that should the July 20 to 29 film festival push through this year, the Organizing Committee must reassess itself and its management.
"Kasi yung iba, gusto mawala yung Cinemalaya. Iba, gusto ng major overhaul. Iba, gustong mag-stay as is.
"Medyo mahirap solusyunan sa ganitong kainit na environment ngayon, ’tapos madalian [pa].
"So, dapat isang malaking usapan pagkatapos."
DEFENDING EMERSON. The film community has been vocal about their opinion and thoughts on the matter.
Some have criticized the festival for not being true to its "independent" filmmaking aims because of its intervention in the filmmakers’ entries.
Others, on the one hand, have strongly hurled remarks at Reyes, saying that the 26-year-old director is only trying to get sympathy and attention.
Castro, during the said interview, defended Reyes.
He doubts that his fellow filmmaker is merely obtaining sympathy and attention.
"Yung pagkuha ng sympathy, [sa] tingin ko, walang masama [dun].
"Kung may mga katulad siyang naapi or nahirapan in the past, at least, lumalabas [na] ngayon...
"Nagkakaro’n ng positive effect para sa akin yung paghingi ng sympathy.
"Yung pagpapapansin saka yung pagpapasikat, sa tingin ko... alam naman niya [at] sa tingin ko, hindi ka naman sisikat ng ganun... [Ang] director? Hindi naman talaga, e!
"’Tapos, may isa pang [negative effect] ’yan, e. Kumbaga, parang nakakatakot pa nga!
"Kasi [paano kung] isipin ng mga producers: ’Ay, ang hirap mo katrabaho!’ Di ba?
"So, nagiging matapang actually si Emerson sa ginagawa niya."
PUBLIC OR PRIVATE. Castro mentions that he agrees on a point made by one member of the film community.
"Nag-agree ako sa isang sinabi na... kung gusto nilang gawing private enterprise ang Cinemalaya, mas maganda kung wala sa CCP [Cultural Center of the Philippines] kasi CCP is for the public."
The annual festival is a project of the CCP where it is also held every July.
"Pero desisyon nila yun kung gusto nila gawing private or gusto pa rin nilang ipagpatuloy... [as a] festival for the people."
A final question was shot at Castro: Should not Guillen, Tan, and Jardin, as veterans of Philippine cinema and founding members of the independent film festival be acknowledged, at least, for the eight solid years they have wrought the prestigious festival to be?
While Castro agrees, he replies, "Kaya nga sabi ko, kung gusto nilang tanggalin sa CCP, tanggalin nila sa CCP ang Cinemalaya.
"And I think, alam naman ng marami na bahagi sila ng success ng Cinemalaya.
"Hindi naman tinatanggal sa kanila yung past eight years’ worth of good things na ginawa nila, e.
"Pero yung issue na ito has been persistent. And actually, sa tagal ng Cinemalaya, nagpe-persist pa rin itong issue na ito.
"Kaya sa tingin kom dapat nilang i-reassess ang kanilang mga sarili."