Mike de Leon’s restored ‘Itim,’ ‘Kisapmata’ to have back-to-back local theatrical screening
As he turns 75 this May, acclaimed veteran filmmaker Mike de Leon remains active in the industry he grew up in.
This year, he laid out his plans for a back-to-back live theatrical screening of his newly restored film “Itim” (1976) and “Kisapmata” (1981), which will also coincide with the book launch of his 600-plus-page photographic memoir titled “Mike De Leon’s Last Look Back.”
There’s no definite date yet, but by sheer coincidence, the venue being considered is also the newly restored Metropolitan Theater in the city of Manila.
“It is a suggestion worth considering because it’s a large venue, so even with social distancing, a good crowd may be accommodated, and LVN’s first film, ‘Giliw Ko, was premiered there, with President (Manuel Luis) Quezon as guest of honor,” De Leon told this writer in an e-mail exchange.
“Giliw Ko” was released in 1939, topbilled by Ely Ramos, Fernando Poe Sr., Mila del Sol and a young Mona Lisa, whose screen name then was Fleur de Lis. Directed by Carlos Vander Tolosa, “Giliw Ko” is a romantic musical made in the tradition of the zarzuela, featuring classic songs like “Tunay na Tunay” and “Ang Buhay ng Artista.” The film has been made accessible online since 2020 for free via a “Citizen Jake” Vimeo account.
De Leon shared the good news that “Itim” has been included in the 2022 Classics section of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, which happens from May 17 to May 28. The restoration was finished only this April at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy.
The live screening at Cannes will also serve as its world premiere. “Itim” is described as a ghost story that tackles occultism and Catholic fanaticism. Topbilled by Tommy Abuel, Mario Montenegro and Mona Lisa, the film also introduced Susan Valdez and Charo Santos in her very first starring role.
As the pretty, possessed barrio lass Teresa, Santos bagged the best actress trophy in the Asian Festival Awards in 1977, tied with a Korean actress.
“Kisapmata” was restored in the same laboratory in 2020 and had a live theatrical screening on Aug. 31 of the same year as part of the 34th Il Cinema Ritrovato (Recovered Cinema) festival held in Bologna.
Also topbilled by Santos, “Kisapmata” is the screen adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s reportage “The House on Zapote Street,” which tackles the true-to-life story in the early 1960s of a retired policeman who shot his daughter and wife before committing suicide.
After it won major awards in the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival, “Kisapmata” was shown in Cannes at the Directors’ Fortnight, together with De Leon’s “Batch 81.”
The film is described by critics as an indictment of the Marcos dictatorship and strongman rule. De Leon recounted in his memoir how he encountered problems with the local censors.
De Leon is also finishing the revision of the script for his new film “Sa Bisperas,” a loose adaptation of a ghost story by Robert Hichens titled “How Love Came to Professor Guildea.”
There are two lead actors for the father-and-son roles. De Leon had already chosen Teroy Guzman to play the father but is still searching for the actor who will play the son. He is eyeing someone from theater in his late 30s. Before venturing into film and television, Guzman has been known as a Shakespearean actor.
“I want to work with those who look like real people. If I’m lucky enough to get to make more films, I will no longer work with “stars” or celebrities. They carry so much emotional baggage that wears me down and affects my work. But I will never make arthouse movies. I still believe in good stories. That, to me is cinema,” De Leon said.
“Itim” being his first feature film, it is also pure coincidence that his latest and hopefully not yet final work is a ghost story.
The hottest entertainment news straight to your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.