Film: Mike de Leon talks about Philippine horror in today’s political landscape, in a statement about his Cannes Classic film “Itim”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — It’s that time of the year again where some of the most highly acclaimed films are celebrated at one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals — the Cannes Film Festival. This year, one of the spotlights is on the horror classic “Itim” by veteran Filipino filmmaker Mike de Leon as it is featured as part of Cannes Classics, a selection of historically important titles.

While “Itim” is a horror, it also explores the grimmer and oppressive realities of the Filipino experience. And in de Leon’s recent statement on the film’s inclusion in Cannes, released via film distributor Carlotta Films, he also touches upon how “Itim” fits into the political landscape during its releases.


De Leon shared how during a Q&A for “Itim” back in Los Angeles in 1979, he made a remark about how the “government’s sole commitment to filmmaking was documenting the daily existence of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.” Because of this, he had his passport pulled and wasn’t able to attend international film festivals during the dictatorship.

Now, as it is being screened again right after Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., leads the presidential elections and is now the presumed president-elect, he reflects on what horror now means in the Philippine’s political landscape today.

“Horror has now acquired a more sinister meaning. It is no longer about a ghost but about the monsters of Philippine politics, monsters that, after a long wait in the subterranean caverns of hell, have returned to ravish and rape my country all over again. The crazy thing is that we invited them back,” de Leon said.

“Morally, I can never give my trust to people who are nothing more than the barest of criminals,” he added. “I am happy that my film is participating in this great festival, but I feel utterly humiliated to be a Filipino today.”

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