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‘BALANGIGA’ team slams CEB for zero rating, says agency must support alt-cinema

Director Khavn De La Cruz and producer Achinette Villamor on Tuesday continued to make a firm stand against the zero rating handed down by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) on their work, "BALANGIGA: Howling Wilderness."

Upon reading the GMA News report on the rating, social media users expressed their surprise that such a rating existed. During the press conference held at a restaurant on Scout Reyes Street in Quezon City, the "BALANGIGA" team further explained the CEB's rating system and what "zero" means.

The rating serves as a guide to measure the tax rebate the film deserves from the amusement tax the government collects and it serves as an incentive for producers to make films that are worth watching.

"The CEB, in theory, it exists to encourage the production of alternative quality cinema. This is outside the studio system. Supposedly, they encourage producers to take more risks on these kinds of stories," Villamor told the press.

She added, "'Yon ang substance ng complaint namin. The CEB was established for films like ours. We see 'Ganda Rapido' getting a B. The studio fare getting an A."

Villamor questioned the CEB's criteria and wondered if the fact that a film is funny or "nakakakilig" or those with big names attached to it are given higher ratings by default.

Support from the audience

De La Cruz, meanwhile, once again called on people to watch the movie in theaters on August 15 and 16.

"'Yong request namin is very crucial 'yong first two days na manood ang mga tao. Manood sila on August 15 and on Thursday because this will determine if additional cinemas will be given to us," he said.

There's little chance of finding "BALANGIGA" after the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, which runs from August 15 to 21 as it is extremely difficult to get non-mainstream movies into bigger cinemas like the SM theaters, Villamor said.

"That's why we encourage people to bring us, work with your local government. If the government wants to support us artists, they should find ways to do so." 

More than a film

In giving "BALANGIGA" a zero rating, the CEB quoted a reviewer saying, "This is a perverted movie masquerading as high art."

"BALANGIGA" debuted at the 2017 QCinema International Film Festival, where it went on to win Best Picture. It went on to win the same distinction at the 2018 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Awards and the 2018 Gawad Urian Awards.

De La Cruz and Villamor indirectly countered the accusation when they faced the press, explaining that the film is fueled by an intense rage.

"Malaking bahagi ng kasaysayan natin ang hindi napagtutuunan ... Na-inspire kaming gawin ang aming pelikula dahil laging napagtutuunan sa libro ang mga namatay na Amerikano. Pero maraming Pilipino ang namatay," De La Cruz said.

He added that he was deeply affected by the merciless "kill and burn" order handed down by the colonizers. "Base sa mga accounts, basta may gumagalaw - bata, babae... patay agad... kalabaw... Lahat ng mga gumagalaw," he said.

Taking the church bells of the town as trophies was tantamount to spitting on hundreds of graves, but some dismiss the act and are willing to "move on" from the massacre.

"I'm a very angry person. Tinanong ko nga kay Khavn, 'Why am I so angry about the Balangiga conflict?' The older I got, the more it occurred to me that there are stories that are not taught in other schools. It was taught to us in Bohol, but it was not taught to them in Ateneo," Villamor said.

"Khavn explained to me the concept of a national wounding. All the wounds that the country has suffered, we inherit them, all of us. We continue to feel it down the line. It sounds so new age but there is something there.

"I don't see the point of a country as big, as massive as the United States coming to a country as small as the Philippines and implementing a policy of benevolent assimilation which is anything but benevolent really," she added.

The movie was made as a reminder of the horrors of tyranny. “Balangiga 1901 may as well be Philippines, 2018. We remain a country occupied, still struggling to come into its own, torn by conflict within and without. We are victims of poverty, capitalism, and globalization, at a time when we have just about convinced ourselves all wars have been fought and won… ‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ is… a plea for peace," De La Cruz was quoted as saying in a statement shared with the press.

Talks of returning the Bells of Balangiga have already ensued. — LA, GMA News, with reports from Gay Domingo