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A history lesson

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TWO MONTHS after Kip Oebanda’s indie feature Liway was shown nationwide, another Cinemalaya 2018 alum — director Benedict Mique’s ML — is currently on wide release.

Aside from both being Cinemalaya entries (and award-winning ones at that), the two films also share a common theme: Marcos’ Martial Law. But while Liway focused on the drama and family, ML hones in on the bloody and violent face of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ dictatorship.

“This is something I did for me, after having spent more than 20 years in the industry,” Mr. Mique told the media in vernacular during a Nov. 6 press conference on at Limbaga 77 restaurant in Quezon City.

In the film, a college student thinks that Marcos’ Martial Law was not all that bad. When he is confronted by a history professor, he sets out to prove that he is right and comes across a retired METROCOM officer — played by film veteran Eddie Garcia — to interview. Turns out, his history professor was not wrong at all as the soldier decides to show the student and his classmates just what he did during Martial Law.

The film also stars Tony Labrusca, Lian Valentin, Henz Villaraiz, Jojit Lorenzo, and Rafa Siguion-Reyna.

Mr. Mique said that he got the idea for the film when he saw a Facebook post from one of his younger relatives which said “Martial Law isn’t so bad after all.” He said he wants to show the younger generation, and his own children (he has a nine-year-old and a three-year-old), the horrors of Martial Law and why it should be seen as a bad thing.

As for why he chose to do a thriller, Mr. Mique offered two reasons during his interview with BusinessWorld prior to the press conference: one, he likes the genre; and two, “the younger generation won’t get it unless it hits them in the face.”

This idea resulted in a visceral film which shows the “tamer” tortures that activists and political adversaries faced during the Marcos regime.

(It also helped that Mr. Mique had a reclusive neighbor who was a former soldier on whom he based partly based the character of Eddie Garcia).

“I talked to a few Martial Law victims and they told me the tortures they faced were far more brutal than what was shown in the film,” he said.

UPHILL BATTLE
ML’s Cinemalaya run was a successful one as it took home a Best Actor trophy for Eduardo “Eddie” Garcia and a Best Editing trophy. It was also the second-highest grosser during the independent film festival run. The highest grosser was Liway which won Special Jury Commendation, a Special Jury Award for Acting given to Kenken Nuyad, and Audience Choice Award.

“I’m happy the two Martial Law films were the highest grossers in Cinemalaya… but there’s still so much more to be done in trying to open people’s eyes about Martial Law,” Mr. Mique told BusinessWorld, adding that he is also happy that his film has spurred conversations about Martial Law as evidenced by the discussions on social media by people who watched the film — most of whom, he said, were too young to have ever experienced Martial Law.

“This is probably my legacy film… it’s something I made for Filipinos,” he said during the press conference.

The film, made with a budget of P3.5 million and shot over seven days, was rated by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) as R-16 and with no cuts.

“We got [the rating] we wanted,” Mr. Mique said before adding that the screening committee congratulated him for making the film.

While the MTRCB gave ML a favorable ruling, theaters are not so keen — Mr. Mique said many are hesitant about showing the film in light of the political climate, but he points out that “This is, undoubtedly, the best time to have a film like this shown.”

ML is showing in select cinemas nationwide.


COLLEGE jock Carlo thinks that the period of Martial Law was not all that bad. When he is confronted by a History professor, he sets out to prove that he is right and comes across a retired soldier to tell the tale. Directed by Benedict Mique, Jr., it stars Eddie Garcia, Tony Labrusca, Lian Valentin, Henz Villaraiz, Jojit Lorenzo and Rafa Siguion-Reyna.

MTRCB Rating: R-16