By: Jordan Chua
The Philippines showcased Filipino film talents at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival with multinational production Plan 75 and restored horror classic Itim.
Plan 75 takes place in a dystopian Japan where the elderly are euthanized in a government program as a solution to the nation’s high elderly population, spotlighting the grisly injustice of weighing the value of human life.
The film was written and directed by Tokyo filmmaker Chie Hayakawa, produced by Filipino producer Alemberg Ang and features Filipina actresses Stefanie Arianne and Sheryl Ichikawa alongside Japanese veteran actress Chieko Baisho, among others. The film was co-produced by Filipino, French, and Japanese firms and received a special mention for Camera d’or in the Un Certain Regard portion.
In an interview with Rappler, Hayakawa said about making a Filipina character, “I wanted to contrast the warm Filipino community with the apathetic community in Japan. I also wanted to include the eyes of a foreigner who looks at Japanese society objectively.”
In 2016, a man murdered 19 persons with disabilities, claiming that the crime was an act of mercy and that persons with disabilities held back economic progress. This chilling incident was what pushed Hayakawa to create Plan 75.
“I don’t believe that this way of thinking is confined to one deranged murderer […] Our capitalist society, which values rationality and productivity, creates the distinction between “worthy lives” and “worthless lives” […] My anger and anxiety toward such intolerance of society motivated me to make this film,” said Hayakawa in an interview with GMA.
Stefanie Arianne, who takes the role of OFW Maria in the film, echoed similar sentiments in her interview with GMA.
“Everyone will get old. The film is about human dignity, and how we live and how we die.”
Meanwhile, Filipino horror Itim featured in its restored glory under the Cannes Classics portion. Itim, by Filipino filmmaker Mike de Leon, is a psychological horror about a woman who is possessed by her sister’s ghost that uncovers the truth behind her sister’s disappearance.
In a rare interview with Rappler, de Leon gave his reaction to Itim’s entry into Cannes.
“I’m happy, of course, but did not expect it, Itim being my first feature [film],” said de Leon. “Vincent Paul-Boncourt of Carlotta Films believed in the film, and in spite of my protestations, submitted it to Cannes Classics. I was told that the initial reaction to the film was very good.”
This isn’t de Leon’s first foray into Cannes. In 1982, he had both of his films, Kisapmata and Batch 81, featured at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.
De Leon is familiar with tense, oppressive, and skin-crawling work; Kisapmata and Itim have been celebrated in the Philippine horror scene. But De Leon might disagree with labels of ‘horror’ or ‘genre’ when all is said and done.
“But at the end of the day, these terms are meaningless to me,” said de Leon in an interview with Cannes. “But I have never made films just for the sake of making one. That’s why my output is relatively meager in the span of my life in cinema. I don’t think labeling films helps in understanding them. Film is something to experience, not to understand.”
While unable to attend the festival in-person, de Leon shared a powerful statement on the current state of Philippine politics ahead of the Cannes screening.
The statement, which was published by film distributor Carlotta Films, was made during the country’s presidential elections, where Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr., son of former president Ferdinand Marcos, was at the top of the polls. For someone like De Leon, who had begun his film career during the Martial Law era under Marcos Sr.’s administration, ‘horror’ can no longer be defined as a mere genre of film.
“[…] Horror has now acquired a more sinister meaning,” wrote de Leon. “It is no longer about a ghost but about the monsters of Philippine politics, monsters that […] have returned to ravish and rape my country all over again.”
“I am happy that my film is participating in this great festival, but I feel utterly humiliated to be a Filipino today.”
Have you watched any selections from Cannes this year? Are there films that you think should have been included in Cannes? Let us know in the comments!