It may be too soon to say, but films set in Philippine history do seem to be returning to the cinematic forefront. Only last year, Jerrold Tarog brought out his Gregorio del Pilar movie with Paolo Avelino, a sequel to his 2015 hit “Heneral Luna.” And then, later that year in Canada (and this past May here), Star Cinema released Matthew Rosen’s film of President Manuel L. Quezon (Raymond Bagatsing) and his decision to allow Jews escaping Nazi Germany to have sanctuary in the country. Apparently the next production in that vein is a biopic of Miguel Malvar, the last general to surrender to American authority, but already the project has been wracked with controversy.
According to The Manila Bulletin, the proposed film project on General Malvar starring Manny Pacquiao is rubbing real-life descendants of the historical figure the wrong way. That is despite the fact that another member of Malvar’s extended family is heading the studio working on it. Gabriel Malvar, who identifies as a great-grandson of the First Philippine Republic general, wrote on Facebook his reservations for the movie for the fact that it was allowed to develop without consultation with the entire Malvar clan for proper permission.
Gabriel Malvar, who originally dismissed information on the Pacquiao starrer as “fake news,” has called out Jose Malvar Villegas Jr., in charge of JMV Film Productions, for unilaterally working on a biopic of his ancestor without bringing it to his relatives for discussion first. The general’s great-grandson explains his social media storm by pointing out that had the production met with the family first then any issues on the movie may have been settled behind closed doors. But as the “Malvar” biopic is now known to the public then he must make his grievances public as well to be heard.
According to Gabriel, the legacy of his great-grandfather, who surrendered only in 1902 to the American colonial government years after the fall of the First Philippine Republic, should “be communicated well to as many people as possible.” The best way to do so in his opinion is for the project to have no political involvement. Thus he criticizes the choice of Manny Pacquiao, a Senator, portraying the general. Furthermore, he believes a famous face like Pacquiao will be perceived by audiences as more himself than his character; thus he feels the message of his ancestor’s story will be diluted by his actor’s greater star power.
“Malvar” starring Pacquiao has the makings of a big-budget historical film with the eye of becoming a blockbuster. Imelda Papin serves as line producer, with veteran filmmaker Jose “Kaka” Balagtas as director for a screenplay by Ed Samson. The movie will premiere sometime in 2020.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News