Pinoy pride: Mike de Leon retrospective at MoMA NY

Mike de Leon will be given the rock star treatment in New York — at the Museum of Modern Art, no less.

The occasion, Mike de Leon: Self-portrait of a Filipino Filmmaker is a retrospective of his best works to be screened from 1 to 30 November at Floor T2/T1, The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center, MoMa, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, New York City.

It’s a first in the United States and has not been even done in the Philippines in recent years.

The MoMA website described the retrospective:

‘KUNG Mangarap Ka’t Magising’ (1977).


“Mike de Leon, the producer and cinematographer of Lino Brocka’s haunting 1975 masterpiece Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Maynila in the Claws of Light), is one of Filipino cinema’s most fiercely political and dramatic storytellers in his own right. This complete retrospective, the first ever presented in North America, brings together all of De Leon’s feature films and shorts as a writer and director.

“De Leon’s films are presented alongside some of the few surviving classic melodramas, musicals, costume dramas, and noir films of the 1930s–’60s to come out of the greatest of all Filipino studios, LVN Pictures, which was founded in 1938 by De Leon’s grandmother Doña Sisang.

“Inspired by this storied history of popular moviemaking in the Philippines — one he experienced firsthand as a child on the LVN studio lot — as well as by Hollywood and European cinema, De Leon’s own films mix the genres of melodrama, crime, supernatural horror, slapstick comedy, and the musical with blisteringly critical stances toward his country’s history of corruption and cronyism, state-sponsored violence, feudalist exploitation, and populist machismo.”

‘KISAPMATA’ (1981).

“MoMA’s retrospective includes De Leon’s 1976 debut feature, Itim (The Rites of May), in a new restoration that premiered at Cannes earlier this year; Kisapmata (1981); AKΩ Batch ’81 (1982); Sister Stella L. (1984); and Citizen Jake (2018); along with Signos, the defiantly subversive anti-Marcos short he made in 1983 with an underground collective of filmmakers and activists; and rare, behind
-the-scenes production footage from Manila, Itim, and Moments in a Stolen Dream (1977), shown alongside the features themselves.

‘ITIM’ (1976). | photographs courtesy of Museum of modern art

The MoMA is described as “one of the world’s largest and most influential museums which houses a humongous collection of modern and contemporary art, including works of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books and artist’s books, film, and electronic media.”

The MoMA Library has approximately 300,000 books and exhibition catalogs, more than 1,000 periodical titles, and more than 40,000 files of ephemera about individual artists and groups. The archives hold primary source material related to the history of modern and contemporary art.


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