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MIKE DE LEON
Miguel Pamintuan de Leon
Manila, 24 May 1947
Movie director, cinematographer, scriptwriter, and producer, Mike de Leon is the son of LVN producer Atty. Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. He is the grandson of Narcisa Buencamino Vda de Leon.
His interest in film started during his masteral studies in art history at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where he frequented a small theater to watch film classics. Before making full-length films, De Leon made two short films: Sa Bisperas, 1972, and Monologo (Monologue), 1975. He established his own film outfit, Cinema Artists Philippines, in 1975, which produced its initial offering: Lino Brocka's Maynila, Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, of which De Leon was the cinematographer. Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, 1975, gave de Leon his first award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS), for best cinematography.
Acknowledged by the critics as the most consistent in terms of cinematic excellence, Mike de Leon is an outstanding director whose filmography has been considered as a virtual compendium of contemporary classics. De Leon's critically acclaimed films hold up a mirror to the Filipino psyche, reflecting questions of class belonging, political absurdities, and fragmentation in various forms.
His genius as a filmmaker was evident in his first major opus, Itim, 1976 which reveals an in-depth study of guilt and violence and shows his delicate balancing of cinematic elements to project mood and character. Voted as one of the Urian's Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade, 1970-1979, this movie also won for De Leon and Charo Santos the best director and best actress award respectively, at the 1978 Asian Film Festival held in Sydney, Australia.
Noted for his assertion to rise above the commercial orientation of filmmaking, De Leon showcases his restrained handling of the relationship between two middle-class youths in Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising, 1977. This film is his tribute to his grandmother Doña Sisang in celebration of the centennial of LVN Pictures the management and supervision of by the late lady producer served as a paradigm in the industry.
Known for his varied experiments in directorial style, he ushered in the birth of the new musical in Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, a landmark film which spoofs a number of self-important totems of Philippine society. Kakabakaba won for de Leon the Urian award for best director. Kisapmata won Urian awards for Vic Silayan as best actor, Jay Ilagan as supporting actor, Rody Lacap for cinematography, Cesar Hernando for production design, Lorrie Ilustre for music and Ramon Reyes for sound.
In Kisapmata, 1981; Batch '81, 1982; and Sister Stella L., 1984, he tackles social and political issues with powerful and disturbing images. Another film, Hindi Nahahati ang Langit, 1985 based on a "Komiks" material was a commercial success. He also made the Sony-commissioned full-length video Bilanggo sa Dilim, 1987.
He dared to explore unusual themes such as incest in Kisapmata, fraternity violence in Batch '81, and the workers' cause in Sister Stella L. Considered as cinematic masterpieces of our time, these movies were listed as three of the Urian's Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade, 1980-1989.
Batch '81 was chosen best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) and also won best screenplay awards for de Leon, Raquel Villavicencio, and Clodualdo del Mundo Jr at both Urian and FAP awards rites. Sister Stella L. gave de Leon the best director and best screenplay awards, and collected eight other Urians, including best picture, in 1984. Kisapmata, Batch '81, and Sister Stella L. were chosen as three of the Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade, 1980-1989, by the Urian. Kisapmata and Batch '81 were shown at the Directors' Fortnight at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in 1982 while Sister Stella L. competed at the Venice Film Festival in 1985.
In 1988, he established the first computer graphics animation company which caters to the TV advertising industry.
A later film, Aliwan Paradise, is part of Southern Winds, 1993, the anthology of four films from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan, commissioned by the NHK and Japan Foundation.
For his fastidious craftsmanship and for directing films of consistent excellence, Mike de Leon has been conferred the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura in February 1999 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
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