QCinema insists change of ‘Balangiga’ rating from GP to R-13 ‘more appropriate’

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A scene from 'Balangiga.'

Following the social media furor raised by the makers of the QCinema feature entry “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” over the sudden re-classification of their film’s rating from GP to R-13, the organizers of the Quezon City-based film festival has fully addressed the issue with a lengthy statement furnished to InterAksyon.

“The decision to change Balangiga’s self-rating of GP to R-13 was arrived at taking into consideration that all films exhibited during QCinema must conform with MTRCB’s standards of classifying movies. The festival deemed it necessary to change it to a more appropriate R-13 rating due to the film’s mature theme and to several scenes depicting nudity, violence, gore, and frequent use of mature language and expletives,” the statement read.

The statement further elaborated on the festival’s initial statement on the matter issued last Monday that simply read, “After a meeting with the Balangiga: Howling Wilderness filmmakers, QCinema is upholding its prerogative to maintain its recommended rating of R-13 during its festival screenings.”

The Movie and Television Review Classification Board has given QCinema the power to self-regulate its entries, and it has been allowing participating filmmakers to give their own ratings to their respective films for the last three years. QCinema, however, stresses that “the MOA with MTRCB stipulates that QCinema may self-regulate with the understanding that the festival abides by the latter’s parameters and guidelines.”

Prior to the start of the festival, “Balangiga” director Khavn Dela Cruz and producer Achinette Villamor assigned a rating of GP or General Patronage for “Balangiga,” a drama set during the Balangiga massacre of 1901.

But after just two theatrical screenings following the start of QCinema’s run last October 20, the GP rating of “Balangiga” was changed by QCinema to R-13, a decision that Dela Cruz and Villamor said was not explained to them right away.

This was acknowledged by QCinema in its latest statement and explained why the GP rating was changed.

“Balangiga failed to submit their final cut in time thus the festival only got to see it during its very first screening, leaving no time for a proper review. It was only then that the festival recommended a change to a more appropriate R-13 rating. Unfortunately, the matter was not formally discussed with the filmmakers before the change was made due to the urgency of the situation. A post review was conducted by the organizers and it was decided that the R-13 rating be maintained for the duration of its festival screenings.”

“We realize the lapse in the rating procedures that we are now addressing so that changes may be implemented in the future.”

Following the ratings change, Dela Cruz said it took another three days before QCinema officials, namely festival director Lejano and QCinema Film Foundation president Manet Dayrit, were able to meet with him and Villamor at Novotel Manila to explain the decision.

As detailed in his Facebook note titled, “Howl,” Dela Cruz said he was told by Lejano that the reason for their film’s change of rating was due to “slaughter of animals.”

Dela Cruz said Lejano made reference to the dog that was slaughtered in Alvin Yapan’s 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Oro” which resulted in the controversy that led to the one-year suspension of Yapan and producer Shandii Bacolod from participating in the MMFF.

“My reaction: “Huh? Iba naman ang ‘Balangiga,’ at iba ang mga hayop na pinatay—manok, baboy, livestock—na pinapayagan ng batas dahil nga kinakain natin ang mga ito.” (Balangiga is different because the animals killed were livestock—chicken, pigs, a goat, a carabao. We ate their meat because it’s allowed by law). Republic Act 8485, the Animal Welfare Act of 1988, specifies the animals that are not subject to regulation,” the director added.

In its post-review report that accompanied its latest statement, QCinema enumerated several objectionable scenes that led to its decision to impose an R-13 rating on “Balangiga” starting with its “mature theme.”

“The movie tackles the atrocities of war and its effects on children. There was frequent use of mature language and expletives throughout the film. There were scenes of nudity. Scenes depicting a man masturbating under his robe while praying in front of a religious icon and another scene with a man dry humping a goat.”

“Frequent scenes depicting violence, animal cruelty and gore such as the beheading of a chicken, disembowelment of a carabao, a writhing and squealing pig impaled on a stake, a child hacking and shooting a man, a mob hacking to death a man, and many bloody scenes. Other gory scenes of dead humans and animal corpses.”

“All these gory scenes in context with the mature theme may be too disturbing and traumatizing for young children. Therefore, only viewers 13 years old and above can be admitted into the theater,” the post-review concluded.

In his Facebook note, Dela Cruz wrote that he later learned that the ratings of the other seven entries were also changed by QCinema. The R-13 rating for his film would also mean that the intended audience for it would be further limited.

“MTRCB nga nahihingan ng tulong ng filmmaker para mapababa ang rating nila. Being given the R-13 rating means that ‘Balangiga’ would leave out a lot of audience, including the classmates and friends of our lead actor, eight-year-old Justine Samson of Tacloban City,” Dela Cruz further lamented.

Recalling the Monday Novotel meeting, Dela Cruz said he and Villamor then asked what they can do to lower the rating as they expressed willingness to do the necessary edits to make “Balangiga” “GP-worthy or even PG.” “What specific scene/s do you find objectionable and deem unsuitable for children, with or without parental guidance?,” they wondered.

“Miss Dayrit said there are too many to enumerate: The killing of the chicken; the kids in the war,” Dela Cruz further shared.

Dela Cruz then quoted Lejano as saying that “Balangiga” will remain R-13 for the rest of the QCinema festival run, which ends on October 28.

Saying that his film is about “the atrocities of war as experienced by kids,” Dela Cruz said he made “Balangiga” “not only for kids everywhere, not only for Filipino kids, but also for my own kids.”

Recalling their initial screening, Dela Cruz pointed out that children and even some parents also watched “Balangiga” and enjoyed the film.

“Remarkably, on the next day, these parents returned and even brought their young children to watch “Balangiga”…Even my two-year old son watched the whole two hours without crying and fidgeting. The 2-year-old actor from Botolan, Zambales, was also there with his parents. They were on the second row. I was afraid that he’d cry and make noise, but he didn’t. He watched it through and through.”