Director Mel Chionglo agrees with Supreme Court ruling regarding recent National Artist controversy

Direk Mel on the National Artist nomination process: “Kasi hindi nasunod yung process [of nomination]. Some of the names were not included in the list. May process ’yan ng pagpili, because it goes thru several committees—1st, 2nd, and 3rd committees. The choice of National Artist depends on the names na sinabmit; at wala sa list nominated by NCCA [National Commission for Culture and the Arts] and CCP [Cultural Center of the Philippines] ang mga pangalan nina


Pabor ang premyadong production designer, manunulat at direktor na si Mel Chionglo sa naging desisyon ng Korte Suprema (Supreme Court) na bawian ng naigawad na National Artist honors sina writer-director Carlo Caparas, theater actor and former NCCA Chairperson Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, architect Francisco Mañosa, at fashion icon Pitoy Moreno.

Ginawaran ang apat noong 2009, sa gitna ng maingay na protesta; maraming taga-industriya, kabilang na ang mismong mga National Artist awardees tulad nina Bienvenido Lumbera at Virgilio Almario, sa mga nangunang magsampa ng kaso sa hukuman dahil sa umano’y "hindi katanggap-tanggap" at kuwestiyonableng desisyon ng dating Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Kasi hindi nasunod yung process [of nomination]. Some of the names were not included in the list,” pagtukoy ni Direk Mel bilang pagbabalik-tanaw.

“May process ’yan ng pagpili, because it goes thru several committees—1st, 2nd, and 3rd committees.

“The choice of National Artist depends on the names na sinabmit; at wala sa list nominated by NCCA [National Commission for Culture and the Arts] and CCP [Cultural Center of the Philippines] ang mga pangalan nina Caparas, Guidote-Alvarez, Mañosa, at Moreno.

“So, merong ganun [discrepancy], kaya nagkaroon ng problema. Kaya there was protest.

“The President is given the privilege to choose. However, the choice should be reflected in the list that was given.

“Bakit pa nga ba magkakaroon ng list [of nominees from the NCCA and CCP], kung mababale-wala rin?” panimulang bungad niya.

This year, inaasahan uling kikilatisin ang mga nominadong ihahayag ng mga kabilang sa NCCA at CCP, at ang magiging desisyon ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino.

“I hope it will be better!” sambit pa ni Chionglo.

“It has been followed naman even before. I was there, sa nominations of [Lino] Brocka and [Ishmael] Bernal [in the ’90s]; so we drew up names. Pinagbotohan. Pina-follow naman talaga yun, e.”

Brocka and Bernal were both honored as National Artists for Film, like their predecessors Gerry de Leon, Lamberto Avellana and Eddie Romero. About two years after he died, in 2004, the late actor-director and film producer, Fernando Poe, Jr., was similarly honored.

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This year, may mga panukala hinggil sa pagluluklok na rin kina Dolphy, o bago pa siya pumanaw noong isang taon.

At hanggang sa kasalukuyan, marami ring taga-suporta ang Superstar na si Nora Aunor na nagsasabing karapat-dapat na itong mabigyan ng parangal bilang National Artist, para sa kanyang mga natatanging kontribusyon sa sining (multi-media arts) at mga parangal ng kahusayan sa pagganap, sa iba’t ibang film competitions sa ibang bansa.

Pero nananatiling palaisipan pa rin ang katiyakan kung matutuloy ngang mailuklok, either si Mang Dolphy o si Nora Aunor, sa pinakamataas na pagkilala bilang Pambansang Alagad Ng Sining Para sa Pelikula.

Chionglo opined, “I think, it’s because it is easier to see the contributions of the director in the art of film. As they say, the film is the director’s medium.”

AS CINEMALAYA MONITORING HEAD. Meanwhile, the 67-year old director and industry practitioner, in his capacity as Monitoring Head of this year’s 9th Cinemalaya Film Festival, informed PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) about the current status of the different entries of this year’s independent film festival.

Sakop ng grupo nina Direk Mel Chionglo ang mga full-length entries na nasa dalawang kategorya: New Breed at Directors Showcase.

Sa Short Films category, hindi na ito nangangailangan ng monitoring, dahil mga tapos nang maiikling pelikula ang pinagpipilian.

Ani Mel, “So far, everybody has finished shooting, including Adolf Alix, Jr., who was the last to grind [with his Porno].

“Into post-production na [rin] siya. I still have to see the final edit and rushes, for approval.”

Ayon din kay Direk Mel, ang mga nale-late sa pag-submit ng edited film entries ay nagbibigay ng kaukulang problema sa kanilang team.

“But we can’t do anything about it. Like in the case of Adolf, he had to grind late because he came from Cannes Film Festival.”

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May naging entry si Alix sa Cannes noong May 2013, ang Death March, na nakabilang sa Un Certain Regard Section.

“Mabilis naman [mag-trabaho] si Adolf,” wika ni Mel. “Tapos, yung iba naman, hindi late, but there were two replacements.”

Direk Mel talks about the New Breed entries, Instant Mommy by Leo Abaya, which replaced Primera Bella (by Richard Legaspi, who had to leave for a grant abroad) and David F by Manny Palo, which took the slot of Tyrone Acierto’s The Legend of the Black Rooster.

“Yung kay Tyrone Acierto, yung director ng The Grave Bandits [MMFF’12 New Wave entry], he had to pull out because of... parang feeling niya, he was having difficulties in getting co-financiers, at masyadong late na, kaya hindi niya matatapos,” tugon niya.

Wala naman daw masyadong hirap sa pamumuno ng monitoring team, ayon pa kay Chionglo.

“Esentially, ang trabaho ng monitoring is you have to make sure that all the films will be ready and on time, for their opening [Cinemalaya opens on July 26; some films open on this date, others the day after].

“May timetable yan. Ngayon, there are some who have more difficulties looking for co-financing and casting than the others; yung iba, mabilis.

“So, ang nangyayari, once they have been approved, they start looking for co-financing and casting.

“Once started, we are there to guide, kung may problema, or sometimes we will help recommend co-financiers.

“Sometimes we make suggestions on casting,” pagtukoy din niya.

Mel Chionglo made sure there was no repeat of last year’s Robbie Tan vs. (New Breed director) Emerson Reyes controversy, over Reyes’ MNL 143 choice of lead cast Allan Paule and Joy Viado (to portray as lovers).

“Last year was very explosive!” pag-alala ni Direk Mel. “I don’t know... there was a misunderstanding... parang na-offend... ewan ko ba!

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“They took offense, I don’t know. The filmmakers’ choice yun, e..."

Looking back, though, in Mel Chionglo’s opinion, “Tama yung ginagawa [noon] ni Robbie Tan. He has been there [with the monitoring team] for 8 years, e."

Hindi ba nagka-problema when he replaced Robbie Tan, upon the latter’s resignation?

“No,” said Direk Mel, who took over the Monitoring Team Head this year, “because I was with the Selection Committee [of Cinemalaya] for about three years [prior to Robbie’s resignation].

“Yung pumipili ng scripts, I was part of it. Ibang aspeto—kumakausap ng ibang would-be directors, regarding their scripts.

“Sometimes, there would be revisions needed before you grind.

“I had been involved, sa creative aspects [ng Cinemalaya] ... hindi lang sa pagmu-monitor.

Between his and Robbie’s monitoring team, Chionglo assured, “There was not much difference, at all.

“If anything, tulad namin ngayon, there are some castings [by the directors] we may not like, so we will give an advice. If they take it, fine. If they don’t take it, bahala na sila.

“I always tell the directors, ’you are the director. We will only recommend. Kung ayaw n’yo it’s your responsibility.’”

HIGH HOPES FOR CINEMALAYA 2013. A week before Cinemalaya opens (on Friday, July 26), Direk Mel was told na mabilis ang bentahan ng mga ticket (including season festival passes, na may presyong two thousand at three thousand pesos ang pinakamataas).

“We hope it picks up [some more],” sambit ni Direk Mel.

As early as some 3 or 4 years ago, observers noted, mainstream stars have already participated in the annual film event at the CCP.

“Oo, except that this year, mas malalaki [ang stars]; [for instance] we have Vilma Santos [lead actress in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra/The Bit Player] and Gretchen Barretto [as a journalist, in Christopher Ad Castillo’s The Diplomat Hotel]."

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Higit din daw na mataas ang expectations para sa ika-9 na taon ng Cinemalaya ngayong 2013, ayon din kay Mel Chionglo: “Oo, because the films this year, e, parang wala kang itatapon.

“Everybody si trying to be competitive!

“I’ve seen them all, including Porno, with the rushes. Pero yung final cut, hindi pa. Mga palaban silang lahat!"

Are there entries with social realist themes?

“Meron din, pero ibang take. Iba’t ibang klase,” pagtukoy pa niya.

“Two are small family dramas; may isang horror thriller [The Diplomat Hotel], yung sa anak ni Celso Ad Castillo, si Christopher; yung Rekorder, sa anak ni Raymond Red.

“Merong mga repeaters [among them, Manny Palo of David F, who directed last year’s new breed entry, Sta. Niña; and Joseph Israel Laban, of Nuwebe; who directed Cuchera, in 2011].

Four films have sexual content (three of which are Nuwebe, Porno, Amor Y Muerte and another one Mel Chionglo chose not to divulge.

Sa mga entries, ayon din kay Direk Mel: “There’s one which has been given R-18 dahil "talagang grabe." Ito yung Quick Change ni Eduardo Roy.

“Three others are given R-16 rating, forgot which ones.”

Kabilang sa mga entries na may maselang tema (nauukol sa sex) at execution, base sa teaser at trailer ay ang Amor Y Muerte (Love & Death) ni Cesar Evangelista, at ang Porno, ni Adolf Alix, Jr..

Bakit hindi puwedeng X-rated ang Cinemalaya entries?

Aniya, “Dalawang beses ka lang ipapalabas, outside of CCP [or in satellite venues, such as Green Belt 3, Trinoma, and Alabang Town Center Mall Cinemas].

“Sa CCP, walang problema. Pero kung dalawang sinehan ka lang, at fifteen yung umiikot [na entries], dalawang beses ka lang ipapalabas, sa loob ng sampung araw, it’s very limited [screenings].

“So, it’s not considered a commercial release. After the Cinemalaya Filmfest na lang, [starting on August 5], kung gusto ng producer i-commercial run [ang pelikula nila].

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Porno has no rating yet, hindi pa kasi tapos ang final cut. It has scenes in a motel, has Rosanna Roces in the cast.”

Kung na-X ang film, using the Guidelines of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), under Chairman Eugenio “Toto” Villareal, said Chionglo, “Hindi siya puwedeng ipalabas; it needs to be re-classified.”

Hindi ba maituturing na infringement of the artist’s freedom of expression ang ganun?

“Infringement lang yun, kung hindi siya ipapalabas. Ang ’X’ [rated film entry] is not supposed to be shown.

“So, the Cinemalaya monitoring committee would talk to the director to re-edit, or reshoot scences, for re-classification purposes.

“Sa America ang ginagawa nila, ’Un-Rated.’ Meron din silang Classification Board. They give "No rating," pero delikado rin yun,” dagdag niya.

What does Mel Chionglo think about X-rated pornographic films that proliferate in the sidewalks, in some obscure malls, and in neighborhood corner stores that consumers patronize?

“Well, that’s your freedom to show it in your house,” aniya. “Freedom mo yun, e. Hindi ka naman magpapalabas in public.

“So these [X-rated; triple-X rated] films are sold in public, but [they’re] not shown in public.

“Yun ang freedom na hindi mo puwedeng i-touch.”

LAURIANA. After Cinemalaya, what are his plans?

Direk Mel informed, “I have an entry for the 1st Sineng Pambansa All-Masters Edition. This is a project of the FDCP [Film Development Council of the Philippines] under Briccio Santos.

“Sa September naman yun. The title of my entry is Lauriana, with Bangs Garcia, Allen Dizon, Rich Asuncion, and Victor Basa.

The film, which Mel Chionglo has finished shooting (and is into post-production now), is based on the screenplay by Ricky Lee.

“Actually, it’s based on a true story. It’s a love story na may political context; parang sa environment lang, kasi 50s, e.

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“Time ng Huk [Hukbalahap; Hukbo Laban sa Hapon, which existed even after the Liberation, by the end of WWII in 1945]; then it flashes forward to the 70s, time naman ng Martial Law.

“Essentially, it’s... hindi naman family drama. Well, may mga bata, it’s a boy [named Adrian] who got involved with a soldier and his common-law wife. Twisted kind of relationship.

“We had eight shooting days in Quezon, sa Padre Burgos, and two days in Manila na, for the martial law years,” Direk Mel happily narrated.

Egay Littaua did the production design; with cinematography by Nap Jamir.

Bukod kay Chionglo, participating directors sa Sineng Pambansa All-Masters Edition din sina Peque Gallaga, Joel Lamangan, Elwood Perez, Maryo J, Gil Portes, Chito Roño, Joey Reyes, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Tikoy Aguiluz, Romy Suzara. Eleven directors na lang sila, dahil nag-back out si Jun Urbano.

Sa 1st week of September ang festival run; opening on September 7. Week-long festival ito, to be shown in SM Cinemas.

“Ewan ko kung nationwide. In addition, there will be an international Congress, two days before opening,” pag-inform pa ni Direk Mel.

“Then, after the Sineng Pambansa, magmi-meeting na kami for the Metro Manila Filmfest-New Wave.

“Part ako ng organizers for the indie [entries], deadline of submission is October 4, pero finished product na, financed by the filmmakers themselves.

QUEZON CITY AND CINEFILIPINO FILMFESTS. The revived Quezon City Film Festival is also pushing through this October, ayon din kay Mel Chionglo.

“Nine Cinemalaya enties have been invited, to add up to the three subsidized indie entries making up the festival line-up. Two of the subsidized entries are by Alvin Yapan and John Torres,” banggit niya.

Not to forget, there’s also the first CineFilipino Film Festival, with eight indie film entries to be shown also in September, probably after the 1st Sineng Pambansa, if it unreels on the first week of Sept.

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The CineFilipino entries to finish shooting early are the Nora Aunor topbiller, Ang Kwento Ni Mabuti, written and directed by Mes De Guzman; Sigried Andrea Bernardo’s Ang Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita, Ato Bautista’s Alaala Ng Tag-Ulan, and Sari Dalena’s The Guerilla Is A Poet, with Angeli Bayani, among others.

NO COMPETITION WITH NEW INDIE DIRECTORS. How does it feel to be back as film director?

The veteran director remarked, “Ayun, parang hindi ka rin umalis. Gano’n din.

“Masaya naman ang mga veteran directors. No competition with the new [indie] filmmakers. Wala.

“It’s just that the veteran directors are given the chance to do all the films of their choice [indie style], tapos, naghahanap din ng co-financiers.”

Doing an indie film isn’t new to Mel Chionglo, having done Bente in 2009.

Mel Chionglo’s first indie film, shown in 2009, was a political thriller, with a cast lead by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Iza Calzado and Richard Gomez, for APT Entertainment.

Would he consider the succession of local indie filmfests as an indication of progress in Philippine cinema?

“At this point in time, the independent film directors are very active.

“Ang laging sinasabi nila, we are still looking for an audience [for independent cinema].

“I think, ang tamang statement o question diyan e, ’Is the audience ready for them?’” pagtatapos ni Direk Mel.


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