Mike de Leon

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Director For The Moment – “…The general public does not really know that Mike comes from the famous de Leon clan of showbusiness, his father being Atty. Manuel de Leon (erstwhile president of the Film Academy) and his grandmother being the late Donya Sisang, famous starmaker of LVN Pictures. Mike indeed grew up in a milieu that is purely showbiz. He is used to being surrounded by movie stars. Kaya naman hindi katakataka na sa kanyang paglaki ay hangarin niyang mapabilang din sa daigdig ng pelikulang kanyang kinamulatan. His first formal brush with moviemaking was in 1975 when he co-produced Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He was also the one who handled the film’s cinematography, and he won a Famas award for his marvelous sifirst job. The following year, he produced and directed his first full length fils, Itim. Mike’s early movies, Itim and Kung Mangarap, were hailed as gems of technical excellence. One can really see the effort to make the cinematograph, the sound recording, the production design, the editing and the musical scoring highly polished. But Mike was chided for the scarcity of relevant content in his films. Itim was merely an excursion to the realms of the occult while Kung Mangarap is basically a small drama about a confused youth and his brief affair with a lonely wife. Some even concluded that Mike cannot be expected to deal with subject that are socially conscious for he was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. With Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, Mike surprised his critics with a musical comedy that is a thinly disguised attack against the enroachment of foreign businessmen in our country. The Chinese and the Japanese were portrayed as wily capitalists earer to pillage their unsuspecting victims. For us, the movie was also a triumph for Armida Siguion Reyna and Johnny Delgado, who portrayed their neocolonialists roles with much fervor and enthusiasm. The movie also attacked organized religion and its involvement in deluding the people. Batch ’81 further enhanced Mike’s growing reputation as a conscienticized moviemakers. It dealt with oppression and tyranny using the basically cruel initiation practices of fraternities as an allegory. In Sister Stella L., de Leon’s politicalization is in full bloom…” – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash Magazine, July 19 1984 (READ MORE)

Focus on Filipino Director: Mike de Leon – “…de Leon spent his childhood in the family owned LVN studio, one of the three major studios of the forties and the fifties. He studied cinematography in Germany and the United States and worked to create the quality that LVN laboratory is known for. In 1975, he formed his own company, CineManila, whose initial offering was the monumental Maynila: sa Kuko ng Liwanga, of which he was also the cinematographer. In 1976, he directed his first film, Itim (Pitch-Black), a psyhological drama of a psychic who is haunted by a past muder, in which the supernatural is suggested rather than exploited. His second film, Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream, 1977) touched on the bourgeois values of the upper class as two lovers meet and separate in Baguio ans Sagada. His film Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba? (Will Your Heart Beat Faster? 1980) is a fine, innovative sppof of the country’s sacred cows, using Mother Goose language to hit at, among others, the Japanese and Chinese presence in the Philippines. His fourth film Batch ’81 depicts the initiation rites of aspiring neophytes into quasi-tribal fraternities, and is injected with so much double meaning that the gory initiation rites become a disturbing metaphor of post-Martial Law Phlippines. His last film, Kisapmata (In the Wink of an Eye) delves into the misuse of authority in a closely-knit family. The Mike de Leon style always hints at meanings otehr than those plotted out and creates powerful, disturbing images. Mike de Leon’s last tow films Batch ’81 and Kisapmata were shown together at the 1982 Director’s Forthnight in Cannes, marking the first time in its history that two films by the same director were ever exhibited…” – Focus On Filipino Films, A Sampling 1951-1982 (READ MORE)

The thin line between genius and sanity – “It’s easy to call Mike de Leon one of the greatest if not the greatest Filipino filmmaker who ever lived; he’s done only a handful (nine features and three shorts), but every one displays an amazingly high level of technical proficiency. In terms of sound design, cinematography, and editing, his films sound and look and flow better than almost any other Filipino filmmakers’; it may be argued that De Leon has never made a bad film–that his batting average runs a near-perfect 95 or even 100%. That said, De Leon does seem to have his blind spots. He’s never done a big-budget picture before (the only one he’s ever attempted, GMA Studio’s “Jose Rizal,” he walked away from after spending so many months and so many millions of pesos preparing). He never does explicit sex scenes, and almost never shows human sensuality in any form. He also seems to have trouble portraying women–they are either passive or impotent or almost totally absent from his films. For all of De Leon’s supposed range and versatility, you could almost chart his career on what he will or will not do, as if some complex formula secretly ruled his life. And perhaps there is. De Leon’s reputation for technical perfection is both boon and bane for anyone trying to assess his films; most critics only see the surface perfection–bow to it, hang garlands upon it, burn incense and chant hosannas to its holy presence. They don’t seem in any way aware of the turmoil beneath that perfect surface, a hidden turmoil the dynamic of which mars as often as strengthens his films, and is the true source of their power….Judging from his recent work, De Leon seems to have exorcised his demons and is content to do clever, even brilliant, comedies; the anguished artist has given way to the urbane, sophisticated satirist. Which is fine and good, unless you happen to catch a screening of “Kisapmata,” either in a retrospective or on cable, and notice how ten years later it still hasn’t lost any of its power to disturb or shock–that, in fact, it’s one of the greatest Filipino films ever made. Then you want to ask: “When is De Leon going to do something worth obsessing over again? When is he going to do films that matter again?…” – Noel Vera (READ MORE)

Miguel Pamintuan de Leon, also known as Mike de Leon (born May 24, 1947) is a Filipino film director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and film producer. He was born in Manila on May 24, 1947 to Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. His interest in filmmaking began when he pursued a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in Germany…De Leon explored subjects such as incest, fraternity violence, and the Filipino workers’ cause. These were themes that were portrayed in the films Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. respectively. These films became cinematic masterpieces in Philippine History of Filmography and were later listed as the Philippines’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1980-1989 by the Philippines’ Urian Awards. Later on, Batch ’81 was voted best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) where de Leon also won a best screenplay award. For Sister Stella L., De Leon won best director and best screenplay in the Philippines’s Urian Awards in 1984. Kisapmata and Batch ’81 were presented during the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film Sister Stella L. was an entry during the 1985 Venice Film Festival…Mike de Leon received the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 1999. His Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. had been among the 25 Filipino films shown in New York from July 31 to August 1999, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Philippine Centennial Commission, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, IFFCOM, the Philippine Information Agency, the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York and the Philippine Centennial Coordinating Council – Northeast USA. These series of Filipino films were presented at the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center, in celebration of the 100th year of Philippine Independence. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

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