Sinag Maynila 2020 disqualifies film critical of Duterte from festival lineup, director speaks up

MANILA, Philippines – Walang Kasarian Ang Digmaang Bayan (The Revolution Knows No Gender) has been pulled from the lineup of the 2020 Sinag Maynila Film Festival.

The film follows the story of a young filmmaker on his journey from artist, to activist, to fighter.

The film also takes a critical look at President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war and the human rights abuses under his administration. In the film's trailer, a grieving woman, played by Rita Avila, says “Kung sana naging mas matapang ako, ako mismo ang papatay kay Duterte (If I were braver, I'd kill Duterte myself).”

The film was originally meant to run in select cinemas from March 17 to 24 as a finalist for the festival’s full length category. However, Sinag Maynila announced on Friday, February 21, that they were withdrawing the film from the festival.

“The executive committee, after thorough review, found that there is substantial deviation from the submitted and approved script and that the film is no longer a faithful representation of the approved screenplay,” Sinag Maynila said in the announcement posted on their Facebook page on Friday.

“Furthermore Sinag Maynila reserves the right to disqualify as an entry for failure to comply with its rules and regulations as well as the terms and conditions of its agreement with the filmmakers,” Sina Maynila added.

Sinag Maynila is a film festival created by Solar Entertainment Corporation president Wilson Tieng, and director Brillante Mendoza that “aims to support local independent cinema.”

The film’s director Jay Altarejos spoke up on the issue on Facebook.

"The reason that Brillante Mendoza and Sinag Maynila cited for their removal of Walang Kasarian Ang Digmaang Bayan from the festival is a flimsy way out to get rid of me and the film," he said.

Altarejos addressed Mendoza, and referred to a meeting they had on February 20, presumably when they discussed the film being disqualified. Altarejos reminded Mendoza of his one request at that meeting: for them to tell the truth about the reasons for the film's disqualification.

"Nagsasalita ako ngayon at patuloy pa na magsasalita sa mga susunod na araw dahil nagsinungaling kayo (I'm speaking out now, and will continue to speak out in the coming days because you lied)," the director said.

He then invited Mendoza and Sinag Maynila to meet with him in the presence of media to explain what happened between the Sinag Maynila press conference on February 17 – where the trailer of the film was shown – and their February 20 meeting.

"Tayo ba ay Martial Law na at ikaw ang tagapagpaganap sa sektor ng pelikula, Brillante (Are we under Martial Law already and are you implementer in the film industry, Brillante)?" he asked

"Patuloy kaming makikipaglaban para sa tunay na kalayaan. Kalayaan sa pagpapahayag at kalayaan sa pamamahayag. Makakaasa kayo na sa bawat kasinungaling ilalabas 'nyo, babalikan ko kayo ng tatlong katotohanan," Altarejos added.

(We will continue to fight for true freedom. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press. You can bet that with every lie you come up with, we will respond with 3 truths.) –