Restored ‘Batch ’81’ to close this year’s QCinema festival

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A scene from 'Batch '81.'

The long awaited restored version of Mike de Leon’s acclaimed fraternity drama “Batch ‘81” will be the closing film of this year’s edition of the QCinema International Film Festival.

According to a recent post on the Facebook page of De Leon’s new film, “Citizen Jake,” the restored “Batch ‘81” will be screened on October 28, 9PM at Trinoma Cinema 2. Another post said the 4K restoration of the film that was done by L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy premiered last month in the Venice Classics Section of the prestigious Venice International Film Festival.

Originally released in 1982, the film was first screened at the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes International Film Festival that year. It went on to win the Film Academy of the Philippines’ Best Picture and Best Screenplay awards for De Leon, Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. and Raquel Villavicencio the following year.

“Batch ‘81” also won the 1983 Gawad Urian awards for Best Screenplay and Best Editing for Jess Navarro.

A joint production of LVN Pictures, MVP Pictures of Marichu Vera Perez Maceda and Sampaguita Pictures (before the latter studio finally closed down), “Batch ‘81” followed the harsh initiation of seven neophyte members of the fictional fraternity, Alpha Kappa Omega or simply ΑΚΩ.

Its upcoming screening becomes timely in the wake of the recent hazing death of University of Santo Tomas law student Horatio Tomas “Atio” Castillo III allegedly in the hands of his own fraternity brothers. The case is being investigated by the Department of Justice.

The famous electrocution scene and, right, the deleted dancing scene featuring Nanette Inventor as an Imelda Marcos-like character.

But more than just a film about a fraternity’s tough initiation rites, “Batch ‘81” was also a metaphor for the Martial Law regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos. In his own “Director’s Notes: Politics, Protest and Religion: From Maynila to Citizen Jake (Part 2 of 5)” post on the Facebook page of ‘Citizen Jake,” De Leon wrote that “Batch ‘81” “explores the loss of identity, and a full course on how to become a fascist.”

“Martial Law was still in full swing although the game had changed. Imelda was now calling the shots, taking advantage of a sick Ferdinand, and eager to succeed him in case he croaked. The integration of Stanley Milgram’s electrocution experiment (Obedience to Authority) into the story by Doy Del Mundo was brilliant, to say the least. I did not change a line but added the dialogue about Martial Law, spoken by no less than Chito Ponce Enrile, the brother of the then Defense Minister, Juan Ponce Enrile,” De Leon further recalled.

“My producer, Marichu Maceda, proposed an exchange of sorts. In order to retain that piece of dialogue, she asked me to delete a fun disco number featuring Nanette Inventor singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from the musical “Evita.” It was obviously meant to poke fun at the delusional Imelda. Magagalit na talaga si Ma’am, Marichu told me.”

When the film was submitted to the then Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (now the Movie and Television Review Classification Board), “Batch ‘81” also encountered several obstacles before it was finally approved for commercial exhibition.

“One member of the board of censors (a military officer) walked out during the electrocution scene screaming that the director was a manipulative so-and-so. One censor even counted the number of ‘Putang-ina’ in the film. 50 plus I think. I was beginning to learn more about small-minded people. They can be rude, mean, vicious and when placed in a position of power, downright dangerous. Unfortunately, they’re still around, this time spewing their venom on social media,” De Leon added.

The film’s original poster designed by production designer Cesar Hernando was posted on the “Citizen Jake” Facebook page last June. Two months later, a new poster designed by Hernando and Tom Estrera III was introduced “to commemorate the restoration of the film, together with a book written by Jerome Gomez and designed by Cesar Hernando and Tom Estrera…also to celebrate the return of fascism to this country,” according to De Leon.

The film’s cast included Sandy Andolong, Ward Luarca, Noel Trinidad, Ricky Sandico, Jimmy Javier, Rod Leido, Bing Pimentel, Dang Cecilio, Mike Arvisu, Vic Lima, Dodo Cabasal, Edwin Reyes and in the lead role, the late Mark Gil.

In honor of what is arguably his father’s greatest role, his son Timmy Eigenmann took on the stage name Sid Lucero, after Gil’s character in the film.

“Batch ‘81” is only one of several restored films that will be screened in QCinema along with Gil Portes’ “High School Scandal,” Danny Zialcita’s “Karma” and Mario O’ Hara’s “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” as well as foreign classics like Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother,” Michaelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow Up,” and Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate.”

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/QuezonCityFilmFest/.

Watch the trailer here: