How important is a PG rating? Let’s hear it from the director of the controversial film and the lead actor.
Per the letter from the Movie, Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), they stated: “We regret to inform you that the aforementioned film was classified as ‘not for public exhibition’ by the Committee on First Review, as follows:
“The gravity of too many violent / bloody scenes in the film out-weighted the important social economic and political issues that the filmmaker wants to impart to the viewing public.
“Note: Significant violent scenes:
1.) Young children killing soldiers using knives and guns
2.) Amputations of body parts during torture scenes
3.) Headshot of a soldier
4.) Killing of a corrupt mayor with a grenade launcher.
The correspondence was officially signed by Ms. Maria Rachel Arenas, Chairperson of the MTRCB.
Is the advocacy motion picture as good as dead? Not really. Ang Guro Kong Di Marunong Magbasa is now rated parental guidance (PG).
Portions of the official statement of director Perry Escano states: “First of all I just want to thank everyone for your support. I’m thankful and blessed that we got PG-13 rating after the second review by the MTRCB. Yes, our film Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa is approved with very minimal cuts and will be shown in cinemas nationwide on December 6. The message of the story is intact, nothing has changed. The integrity of the storytelling is not affected.
Our dear viewers will also witness scenes like revelation of corruption in the government. A million thanks to MTRCB for being lenient and for the opportunity that the younger viewers will learn the value of education and have the chance to watch mature and socially relevant themes on the big screen.”
In this exclusive interview with the writer/director and the lead actor, they shared their thoughts and their journey to what they fought for.
Ang Guro’s writer/director and lead actor sits down with this gololy.ph. ph correspondent as they share their film’s rating journey.
“For us to achieve this rating, sobrang grabe ang sacrifice,” director Escano declared. “Almost every day, I was in the editing house. When we got the X mark, I studied the whole film and see what can be done.”
“I want the film to have a wider audience so we really want a PG-13 rating,” Escano went on. “We want more childrento know and understand that there are some aspects in other people’s lives that are harsh and dangerous. And the biggest threat of course, is being uneducated. With this film, hindi lang ma-bo-bolster yung awareness nila kundi matuturuan sila about compassion, na ang mga bata, they must not become war casualties. And para matapos ang cycle of violence and poverty na ito, dapat may opportunities para sa mga bata na makapag-aral.”
Perry said, “We trimmed some scenes. With the violent scenes, I studied the guidelines of the MTRCB and I worked within the parameters of their guidelines. Hindi naman na-sacrifice yung kwento at yung lessons that we want to impart.”
The critics chewed the motion picture to bits, when it was shown in Cinemalaya. From Rogue’s Philbert Dy,”The problems of this film are so basic and so obvious that there’s no real need to get into how it fails at delivering its themes. There’s amateurish work, and then there’s this. There’s just so little sense that anybody behind the camera knew what anyone was supposed to be doing. It’s just really bad. It’s the kind of bad that should belong to a festival like CInemalaya at this time.”
Oggs Cruz, Rappler’s resident film critic wrote, “All the senseless histrionics could have done wonders if Escaño intended for his film to be a comedy. However, the film is clearly meant to be taken seriously. It endeavors to relay a message that admittedly deserves to be heard, except that it does so without a sliver of elegance or clarity, resulting in something so skewed, it may prove to be more damning than inspiring. Escaño can’t claim to justify his film’s faults with all the good intentions he has. Sure, the film was borne out of a very worthy advocacy, but when its most effective scenes are the ones where it seems to strangely promote vengeance, vitriol, and violence, its message of hope and perseverance simply gets lost in the hilarity and the fray.”
The embattled Escano’s reactions to these, “Of course, I respected all their opinions. I read all the reviews. I did not take it against them, they are just doing their jobs. Natuto naman ako sa kanila. May pagtataka rin ako, kasi ang feeling ko, naging judgmental yung iba at naniwala sa mga sabi-sabi. They did not even watch it. Okay lang sa akin na sinasabi nilang hindi nila gusto yung pelikula pero para sabihin nilang huwag itong panoorin, hindi naman fair yun.”
The “direktor na hindi marunong mag-direk?” Perry replied: “I chose to ignore it. I will not deny that it was upsetting to be called as such but I want to think that there are more people who believe in my talent, mas dun ako nanalig. This is my first film and the learning process is continuous. Yung mga pamumunang constructive, I treasure them all, and pinag-iisipan ko talaga. I put them to heart, as well. Sa mga susunod kong films, I will employ all my learnings.”
As his first film, he had altercations with a friend and film editor and a female blogger. Escano divulged, “The altercations happened for a reason. It made me realize many things. Right now, yung tungkol sa kanila, I don’t want to expound on it. May tamang panahon at tamang forum for them.”
Positive raves coming from teachers and students, dissipate all the negativity that hounded Escano’s debut film. He enthused, “It felt good to know that yung target audience mo, sila ang mas nakaka-appreciate. As a new director, heaven for me to read the good and kind words. Emotionally uplifting yung mga messages. Nakaka-inspire. Nakaka-gana.
“The teachers and students, in the 20 campuses that we have visited and shown the film, they were all moved, and satisfied sa napanood nila.”
Escano is feeling a little nervous and upbeat at the same time, “All the human factors na part of the film, ginagawa namin para mas marami ang manood. The message that we have is not only timely but timeless. When people watch it, ang dami nilang iuuwing aral. Right now, honestly, tinaas ko na kay God ang lahat. We are working. We are doing our best. And we are letting Him do the rest. Kapit lang ako, kami sa Kanya. We know, that our audiences will come and watch.”
Congressman and dramatic actor Alfred Vargas portrays Aquil, the farmer with a heart of gold and has great intentions for the kids, also shared his thoughts with this controversial movie.
Vargas said,”A movie is a movie. You have to respect the critics if that is how they see it. Ang mindset naman dito, this is an advocacy film. Our target market is really the teachers and students. When they reacted warmly to the film, our main market, wow, okay, that feels great, if not wonderful.”
“Ang strength of the film, malinaw na malinaw yung message,” the dramatic actor continued. “It could be a very good tool to be used for teaching, especially on matters that are political, or even universal, since conflicts and chaos are almost everywhere. With that alone, we are reaching our targets. Beyond that, lalo na yung movie goers flocking the cinemas to watch it, tapos magka-strong word of mouth tungkol sa pelikula, bonus na lang yun.”
The lead star is also very aware of the film’s polarizing effect.
He shared, “At first, when the reviews were coming in, I will not deny I was disheartened, a little discouraged, I guess. Doing this film was definitely not a walk in the park, let me just say. Pero you know, after all the challenges we have been through, when I see the reactions of students, when I hear the congratulations coming from teachers, feeling their sincerity, I want to believe na we have made the film powerful enough kasi it affects people.”
He added, “Ang Guro… obviously triggers the mental faculties, it pushes people to go out of their comfort zones, it challenges those who have seen it to do something, na there should and must be changed, especially on matters that affects the youth and families. As an advocacy film, I am very, very happy with what we have accomplished so far.”
Now that the battle for the X rating is done, Vargas is delighted with the PG-13 stamp from the MTRCB.
He maintained, “My concern now is to have many people watch it kasi nga advocacy film ito. We can never sugar coat reality. Yung mga nangyari karahasan rito, hindi siya inilagay kasi gusto lang naming maging controversial. When you say war, imposibleng walang violence. Yun ang tragic part eh, innocent lives are the casualties. The violence is the most despicable ingredient in all armed conflicts. ”
For Vargas, Aquil is a challenging role for him, “It was very hard to play and become him,” confessed the actor-politician. “Hindi ko alam at first, when I was figuring out the character, paano ito?
“Then, I realized na not all illiterate people are dumb, mas marami sa kanila yung may diskarte or street smart. Marami rin na talagang sincere. When these things became crystal to me, naging madali sa akin to become him.”
He shared, “And working with Miggs Cuaderno, Marc Justin Alvarez and Micko Laurente was a breeze. Acting is reacting kasi, di ba? Naging mas madaling maging Aquil kasi nga yung tatlong batang lalaki, ang gagaling nila.”
Also starring in the film are Mon Confiado, Lou Veloso, James Blanco, Kiko Matos, Paul Sy and Loren Burgos. Showing in SM, Ayala and Robinson Cinemas nationwide on December 6.