Movie critical of Duterte gets disqualified from Sinag Maynila film festival

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A movie critical of the Duterte administration has been disqualified from the Sinag Maynila independent film festival – a move that the director said is comparable to what happens under martial law. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — A movie critical of the Duterte administration has been disqualified from the Sinag Maynila independent film festival – a move that the director said is comparable to what happens under martial law.

Sinag Maynila, led by acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza and Solar Entertainment Corporation, announced on Friday that they are pulling out the film "Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan (The Revolution Knows No Gender)." Directed by Joselito Altarejos, the film was initially a finalist under the festival's full length category.

"The Executive Committee, after thorough review, found that there is substantial deviation from the submitted and approved script and that the film is no longer a faithful representation of the approved screenplay," Sinag Maynila said in a statement.

Starring Oliver Aquino, Rita Avila, Arnold Reyes, and Sandino Martin, the film tackles pressing national issues, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs.

Avila, for instance, plays the role of a woman who lost a loved one to the drug war. The three-minute trailer shows a grieving Avila saying, "“Kung sana naging mas matapang ako, ako mismo ang papatay kay Duterte (If I were just a bit braver, I will kill Duterte myself)."

The film's director protested the disqualification on his public Facebook page, calling it a "a flimsy way out to get rid of me and the film."

Altarejos said he is speaking out on the issue because Mendoza and Sinag Maynila did not tell the truth on why the movie was suddenly rejected.

"Tayo ba ay Martial Law na at ikaw ang tagapagpaganap sa sektor ng pelikula, Brillante (Are we under martial law already and you are working under the film sector, Brillante)?" Altarejos said. Mendoza, who has been directing Duterte's State of the Nation Addresses, has not issued a statement on Altajeros' claims.

"Patuloy kaming makikipaglaban para sa tunay na kalayaan. Kalayaan sa pagpapahayag at kalayaan sa pamamahayag (We will continue to fight for genuine freedom. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression)," Altajeros added.