A story of the past & the present

Jerry Donato - The Philippine Star
A story of the past & the present
The members of the panel were (from left) professor and public historian Xiao Chua, Citizen Jake actor Teroy Guzman, director Mike de Leon and Lourd de Veyra

MANILA, Philippines — Director Mike de Leon’s masterpiece, Citizen Jake, had its final public screening at the UP Cine Adarna. It reminded everyone that cinema creates a public space, where auteurs and audiences can discuss politics with references of the past. The event date coincided with the second day of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

Done in the fashion of meta-cinema, where the real and reel intersect if one may put it, Citizen Jake is definitely one for the books. The film was direk Mike’s follow-up to his 1999 film Bayaning 3rd World that delves into the national and historical identity of Dr. Jose Rizal.

Joining the director for a panel discussion were professor and public historian Xiao Chua, Teroy Guzman (who played the senator-crony dad of Jake Herrera) and Lourd de Veyra.

Again, Citizen Jake uses meta-cinema as a filmmaking style and technique. According to the filmmaker, in response to a question on the form of his 2018 work, it was “intended to be a form of meta-cinema. The reason that Atom Araullo was cast, was because he was a journalist, being a journalist, broadcast journalist, who would play a journalist in the film. So the distinction between fact and fiction in many instances in the film is blurred.

“That’s the reason why there’s also a lot of documentary footage, in other words documentary of the pony boys of Baguio intercutting with three pony boys like Jonie… but shot like a documentary… another aspect of meta-cinema is the breaking the fourth wall… Atom is talking to the audience. So that’s the intention.” Adrian Alandy portrayed Jonie, also Jake’s childhood friend.

That’s why one may liken the experience of watching Citizen Jake to reading a “postmodern” literary piece that is anchored on meta-fiction, where facts (like historical accounts, real names of personalities and places) are beautifully intertwined with the fictionality and literariness of the narrative. Yes, the story may feel real to the audiences but it tells them, too, that it is a creative and imaginative work. There are shots that somehow showcase the process of making a film.

Journalist on and off screen: Atom Araullo is Jake Herrera in a scene from Citizen Jake

Stepping into the world of Jake Herrera is Atom Araullo. Given the latter’s “lifeworld,” one may think that Jake is his “avatar” and Atom seems to have just seamlessly crossed over to another world. The journalist-turned-actor has created nuances that inform audiences that what they see on screen is Jake, a 34-year-old journalist/blogger, whose mission is to tell the truth. His character also questions the characteristics of truth by saying that “truth and fiction becoming one… if truth is stranger than fiction, does that mean fiction is more believable than truth?” 

Living a privileged life, Jake challenges the status quo and threatens to tear his father’s political reputation. His father is a senator (Teroy), while his brother (Gabby Eigenmann) is a congressman. The film shows how power is produced and reproduced by the minority few and how the latter maintains its hold over people and position. What makes it more compelling is the melodrama created by the personal tales of the Herreras (a son longing for a mother, who abandoned her family; sibling rivalry between brothers, the father-and-son relationship, the master-and-servants divide, the romance of a young couple), aside from the implied social issues like poverty and exploitation.

Citizen Jake is a representation of what could be the social-and-political life out there. The narrative of the past seems to be no different from the narrative of the present. It is a reminder that people should walk the talk — and that change is in their hands.

Jake Herrera the character is not the hero moviegoers expect him to be, especially after that confrontation with his dad and the latter’s aide.

“After that, where was he?... Di ba nasa isang weird house, up there,” said Prof. Chua, “because sana naging trajectory niya ay dapat sumama siya sa tao.”

That’s Jake Herrera, who has broken the wall that separates him and the audiences, makes us ponder upon the position we should take as a citizen.





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