Restored ‘Batch ’81’ in Venice
Mike de Leon’s “Batch ’81” is one of the restored films that will be shown in the Venice Classics section of the coming 74th Venice International Film Festival.
The Filipino film will be presented in an eclectic lineup that includes Bernardo Bertolucci’s “1900” (1976), Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert” (1964), Milos Forman’s “Black Peter” (1963), Claude Chabrol’s “The Third Lover” (1962), Jean-Luc Godard’s “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” (1967), and Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977).
“It’s an honor, of course, that after so many decades, the film still manages to interest a new generation of viewers,” De Leon told the Inquirer.
Some critics would surely point out that the revival of “Batch ’81,” a film that delves into the brutal world of fraternities, is particularly timely, considering the resurgence of fascism and conservatism all over the world.
De Leon remarked, however: “I am no longer sure that a film festival is the best place to air or express strong opinions about our present deplorable condition.”
According to De Leon, festivals are “focused on only one thing: the director and his work, or in most cases, his ego. And directors attending festivals make the most of this, as they’re expected to. There is something surreal about walking on the red carpet and then, in some interviews, talk about a ‘presidency bathed in blood.’”
His film, which was produced by Marichu Maceda and showcased in the Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes in 1982, was restored by the L’Immagine Ritrovata (Italy) and the Asian Film Archive (Singapore).
L’Immagine Ritrovata was the same firm that worked on Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag,” which was screened in the Cannes Classic section in 2013. De Leon worked as cinematographer of “Maynila.”
“The restoration is very good, but that isn’t a surprise as it was done at Ritrovata,” De Leon noted. “Ritrovata’s Davide Pozzi really made sure that the original-film look of ‘Batch ’81’ was restored, and he suggested some modifications to remove the digital look that resulted from our own local grading.”
Actor Noel Trinidad, who played a teacher-turned-neophyte in the film, exclaimed: “That’s great news and well-deserved. I’ve always had a soft spot for this movie. I’m proud to have been a part of it. I enjoyed my role and consider it a highlight in my career. Kudos to Mike!”
Actress Bing Pimentel admitted that “Batch ’81” is particularly close to her heart.
“It was my first movie,” she recalled. “And it was directed by the brilliant artist, Mike de Leon!”
Making it all the more special, she shared the screen with Mark Gil, who later became her husband in real life. “He was a remarkable actor,” she said of her late ex-partner. “My first child, Timothy Mark, took the screen name Sid Lucero, after Mark’s character in the movie.”
The Venice premiere is a fitting return to the big screen for the acclaimed movie, Pimentel said. “‘Batch ’81’ is now considered a classic and one of our cinema’s best films. I couldn’t be prouder!”
Told about the Venice debut of the restored film, actress Cherie Gil, Mark’s sister, quipped: “Wow! That’s all I can say… ‘Wow!’ What a great honor it will be for Mark!”
This year’s Venice fest will be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9 in Italy.
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