“Malan” pulled out from film fest by FDCP chair; cites row between producers and director

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) —   Malan, a  Mindanawon film entry in the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival with six scheduled screenings was pulled out from exhibition showing on Saturday, the second of the five-day festival, without prior notice to the public.

Briccio Santos, chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), the festival organizer, reversed an earlier decision of  the FDCP’s Competition Technical Committee which approved the showing of the Producer’s Cut of Malan.

In a press statement dated June 30 but sent to  Davao City’s media outlets only on July 2, Santos announced the pull-out of  Malan “pending settlement of dispute between producers and director.”

The FDCP committee had earlier approved the showing of the Producer’s Cut after  Malan’s producers, the Buhilaman Visions Davao, Inc.. (BVDI)  wrote FDCP, withdrawing the Director’s Cut as it allegedly contained a torrid kissing scene deemed “not acceptable to the B’laans… not culture sensitive and demeans the stature of IP (indigenous peoples) women.”

In statements posted on its Malan Facebook page, BVDI said they had asked director Benjamin Garcia to remove the “unacceptable” scene in deference to the B’laans but the latter retained it.

It also objected to the exclusion in the Director’s Cut of a “compelling massacre sequence that is integral in the dramatization of martial law” in Mindanao.

In his letter to FDCP executive director Ted Granados on June 4, Agustin “Don” Pagusara,  the FDCP grantee and writer of  Malan,  said that immediately after viewing the rough cut on May 23,  they “registered our stand that we wanted the ‘torrid kissing scene’ deleted or cut on the grounds of  its being unacceptable” but Garcia, he said, “reasoned that it is his prerogative as the director to incorporate it in the film.”

Pagusara said they invited some B’laans to view the rough cut of the film and “they concurred with our stand to cut the said scene as it insults the dignity of their tribe.”

Film enthusiasts who went to Abreeza Mall’s Cinema 3 for the supposed 9:15 p.m. screening of Malan on Saturday, June 30,  were shown another Mindanawon-produced film instead – Gutierrez Mangansakan’s “Qiyamah” (The Reckoning). No explanation was made as to why Malan was pulled out.

At the awards night at the Abreeza Mall on Sunday evening, some members of BVDI staged a  “silent protest,” taping on their red shirts a white bond paper raising questions like “Nasaan si Malan?” and “FDCP: why pull out Malan?”

BVDI dubbed the pull-out of Malan as “outrageous” and blamed FDCP for its alleged “indecisiveness.”

It noted that days before the festival, they were “assured and reassured by the FDCP” that it would be the Producer’s Cut that would be shown.  The film had two screenings on Friday, Day One of the festival.

Malan is a story about an activist from Manila who moved to Polomolok in South Cotabato in the late 1960s, falls in  love with a B’laan and gets involved in the  B’laan tribe’s struggles until the martial law years, including the entry of multinational firms into their ancestral domain.

BVDI alleged that the pull out was “simply because its erstwhile director threatened a court action against FDCP for not using his version … of the film.”

Decision reversed

MindaNews sought FDCP’s Granados for comment early Monday morning. He opted to send their ““official press statement” by e-mail.

In that press release, FCDP chair Santos announced the pull-out of  Malan “pending settlement of dispute between producers and director” and said he regrets the unfortunate turn of events.

“To forestall any further controversy, I have decided to exercise my prerogative as Chairman of the FDCP, and I am hereby reversing an earlier decision of the FDCP’s Film Competition Technical Committee approving the showing of the film Malan in its current form,” Santos said.

He said the FDCP is “exerting all efforts to  bring together the contending parties in the dispute so that they can amicably settle their differences regarding their creative rights and artistic credits arising from the making of the film.”

Santos apologized to the “viewing public, to the owners of the cinema houses where Malan is currently being shown, and to the producers, directors, and film artists” for any “inconvenience or unhappiness this decision may entail.”

“The FDCP only wants to be an instrument of progress and will do everything it can to help our Filipino filmmakers, including mediating in conflict cases and helping find solutions to problems,” he said.

He added that the FDCP’s guiding policy is “to uphold always the creative integrity of every filmmaker joining the festival” and protect the interests of all stakeholders in the making of a film.

Santos assured Malan’s producers that the film “remains eligible” for Phase 2 of the FDCP’s National Film Festival which will be held in November also in this city.

But Santos did not say which version of Malan would be included in the November filmfest.

Revised versions

Curiously, the FDCP’s six-paragraph press release e-mailed to MindaNews at 9:27 a.m. on July 2  and whose filename indicated it was “revised,” was dated June 30, the very same day Malan was pulled out. But no such copy  reached members of Davao City’s media until  Monday, July 2.

A number of BVDI members did not know their movie had been pulled out until they received complaints about the non-showing of Malan in its supposed 9:15 p.m. screening.

At 11:51 a..m. on July 2, two hours after MindaNews received FDCP’s e-mailed “revised” statement,  another “revised” FDCP press release was sent to MindaNews,  also dated June 30, this time consisting of seven paragraphs, the additional inserted as second paragraph indicating that in a meeting at the FDCP Cinematheque Davao on June 30, “both contending parties have agreed that neither the producer’s cut nor the director’s cut will be shown.”

Pagusara, however, wrote Granados on July 2 that no such agreement was made.

“We did not have an exchange of opinions that could be the basis of  a compromise agreement or whatever that can be called a meeting of the minds without reservations from any party,” he said.

Pagusara also said he “never wanted, nor ever contemplated agreeing to what I consider a non-negotiable matter, namely: that  the Producer’s Cut should be the version of Malan to be shown during — not first day of — the Festival. And never will I compromise that position.”

Pagusara said the root cause of the problem is the “wishy-washy stance of FDCP which should have put its foot  down and pursued firmly its commitment to us Producers, dreading not any fear of threat from Mr Garcia dangling the idea of going to court against the FDCP.”

MindaNews sought Garcia for comment but as of  11 p.m. of July 2, he had yet to reply to questions sent by e-mail and as private message to his Facebook account.

But in a message posted on Facebook on June 29, Garcia said the BVDI producers re-edited his rough cut and stamped it as the “producers’ cut” of the film. The next day, also on Facebook,  he thanked Santos for pulling out from public viewing the Producer’s Cut or what he described as a  “pirated version of Malan” and for “acting with dispatch on a moral, aesthetic, cinematic, and cultural issue.” He refered to his version of the film as “My Malan.”

“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 wrote.

The other issues raised by BVDI against the Director’s Cut was that Garcia allegedly “unilaterally designated some members of his family as producers of the film” yet excluded from the Credits, the name of Pagusara, the FDCP grantee, as screenwriter.

“The Producer’s Cut is the official and only authorized rendition of  ‘Malan,’ as written by Mr. Pagusara, based on the story of Mr. Peping Domingo, and as conceptualized by Mr. Nestor Horfilla. With it, we are declaring that Mr. Garcia has ceased to be connected with the Buhilaman project. He is not, in any manner whatsoever, authorized to come out with his so-called director’s cut, or else face the sanction of the law,” BVDI said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)