DAVAO CITY – The Sineng Pambansa Film Festival was marred by controversy when the organizer, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, stopped the screening of “Malan”, a film about the love affair between a B’laan girl and a political activist.
The screenwriter, Don Pagusara, a Palanca awardee and professor at the Ateneo de Davao University, and the producer of the film, Buhilaman Visions Davao, staged a protest Sunday night outside a cinema of a mall here after the FDCP stopped the exhibition of “Malan”.
The protest happened while the filmfest awards night was being held inside.
“We had differences (with the director). He deleted important scenes and included some that we have been objecting to,” said Pagusara.
At the start of the film festival last week, the director, Benji Garcia, said Sineng Pambansa was screening a “pirated version of my film”.
At the opening rites of the film festival, which was attended by foreign dignitaries, including US Ambassador Thomas Harry, talks were going around that Garcia would ask FDCP to pull out “Malan”.
This came after Pagusara and the producers of “Malan” submitted to the screening a copy labelled as the producers’ cut.
In a social networking site, Garcia said: “A gloomy day for the Philippine and the world cinema!”
He also assailed the producer, Buhilaman Visions Davao, for submitting a different version of the film.
“How dare Nestor Horfilla and the Buhilaman monsters re-edit my rough cut and stamp it as the producers’ cut of the film. Twelfth day into the shoot, they already ran out of money and I had to invited the actors, staff and crew to my parents house for dinner,” Garcia said.
The conflict between Garcia and the producers was sparked by the insistence of the director to include a torrid kissing scene, which, according to the producers, was insensitive to the conservative culture of the lumad group B’laan.
The producers also said Garcia’s version included an “unacceptable love scene” and excluded a summary execution scene.
“We are protesting because we cannot allow this to happen. We also cannot allow the showing of the director’s cut that disrespected B’laan women,” said Pagusara.
Motom Bandole, who joined the protest, said: “What the film (Garcia’s cut) showed as embarrassing to B’laan women.”
“The film (Garcia’s cut) disrespected us. It is painful for us as B’laan women,” said Jodelyn Bandole.
On Sunday night, Garcia said: “Thank you for acting with dispatch on a moral, aesthetic, cinematic and cultural issue. Sorry to all those who anticipated seeing MY ‘MALAN’ here in Davao. There will be another time, another festival…when the dark, Buhilaman smoke clears the way for all,” he said.
This fiasco apparently distressed the actors of the film which was reportedly the top grosser during the opening of the film festival.
“Well, personally, it saddened me,” said Martha Comia, the lead actress.