"Citizen Jake" had its premiere at the jam-packed University of the Philippines Cine Adarna last Saturday. Public screenings began at the UP Cine Adarna on Tuesday, March 13. Screenshot from Citizen Jake Facebook page/Cesar Hernando

Review: 'Citizen Jake' is every Filipino
Kristine Joy Patag (philstar.com) - March 14, 2018 - 11:15am

MANILA, Philippines — No one would dare say "Citizen Jake" was coward and passive; not with its unflinching observations of the current political climate; not with its repeated reminder of the Marcoses’ attempt to return to power; and definitely not with the celebrated Mike de Leon at the helm.

De Leon, whose films “Batch 81” and “Sister Stella L” made their respective marks in Philippine cinema, has returned from an 18-year hiatus. He is a force to reckon with, and with "Citizen Jake," he and his co-writers Atom Araullo and  Noel Pascual seemingly want to send the message: “Don't flinch. The Philippines is in a cesspool of evil.”

"Citizen Jake" opens with "citizen journalist" Jake Herrera, played by real life journalist Araullo, breaking the fourth wall and asking the audience to stay put and hear his story.

Forced to resign from his reporter job when his father and namesake, Jacobo Sr., won as senator, Jake is now a teacher who also runs a blog. He mostly writes exposés against corrupt politicians and the Marcoses and their cronies, including his father.

As if set to shun the privilege he was born with, Jake has taken refuge at his mother's ancestral home in the idyllic Baguio. He lives with their family's servants and his childhood friend, "pony boy" Jonie, who stay at the basement of their home.

Jake embarked on a dogged pursuit to unfurl the corruption activities of Marcos cronies, when a brutal murder of a student yanks him out of his fixation. His journey led to a chilling discovery: what "citizen journalist" and the senator’s son himself is capable of doing.

"Citizen Jake" is Araullo's first foray into film, but Jake's story can be anyone's.

The film toys with the documentary approach, with Jake’s story as a media practitioner as the focus. The drama unfolds as he bids to carve a space in the world of media, and move away from his father’s shadows.

De Leon’s comeback piece is also populated by other colorful characters such as the activist Lucas, played by the magnetic Lou Veloso. The latter’s charm is unforgettably showcased in one scene where he recites a poem he wrote.

Cherie Gil, too, is in the film. Her performance, albeit a cameo, was fiery. The grizzled actress plays a socialite pimp, who is loosely based on a character off the tell-all written by former Marcos propagandist Primitivo Mijares.

There is also Gabby Eigenmann, who played Jake's older brother, the "Godfather"-obsessed Roxie. His role provided a comic balance to the always angry Jake.

For all the hype surrounding the film, "Citizen Jake" did not buckle from the mettle it owned: Outright calling out the colonization in Baguio, brutal crimes across the country, entertainers who have turned into politicians, even going as far as taking a jab at fiction that masquerades as biography.

“Citizen Jake” will leave the audience talking, reeling, and hopefully, learning more about this country’s history, especially in this age, where historical revisionism is starting to creep in.

This is De Leon's comeback after all. Look long and hard on the world of "citizen journalist" Jake Herrrera, because this maybe (or is it?) the world around you, too. 

"Citizen Jake" premiered at the jam-packed University of the Philippines Cine Adarna last Saturday. A screening will also be held on March 23, also at the UP Cine Adarna.


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