DOUBLE BILL: Itim (The Rites of May, 1976) + Itim: Isang Eksplorasyon sa Pelikula (Itim: An Exploration in Cinema, 1976)

  • April 16, 2023 | 2:00 PM - 4:07 PM | Sunday
  • Oldham Theatre


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This screening will be accompanied by an introduction from Josh Siegel, film curator at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), who first conceived and organised the programme Mike De Leon: Self-Portrait of a Filipino Filmmaker.

Itim (The Rites of May, 1976, dir. Mike De Leon)
Director: Mike De Leon
Language: Filipino; English subtitles
Country: Philippines
Runtime: 107 min
Rating: NC16

Full Synopsis

Though he has self-deprecatingly called it “a ghost story by a first-time and untested director from a wealthy family,” Mike De Leon’s Itim is one of the most remarkable debuts in cinema history. A major discovery when it was presented in a new digital restoration at Cannes 2022, the film expresses De Leon’s lifelong fears about “the dark side of our culture”: the Spanish colonial legacies of superstition and antiscience in his native Philippines.

De Leon recalls, “Itim is about a young man (Tommy Abuel) who visits his hometown during the Holy Week to take photographs for his magazine and visit his paralyzed father. While shooting photos of a pasyon (a poetic recitation, in song, of the Passion of Christ), he encounters Teresa, the young girl possessed by her dead sister’s spirit in the séance that opens the film. Although the film’s protagonist is the girl played by newcomer Charo Santos, I became more intrigued with the character of Dr. Torres, played by the late LVN star Mario Montenegro. Dr. Torres is a physical and moral wreck who committed an unspeakable crime. Mario was the first LVN star I worked with as a director, and at the start of principal photography, his presence on my set made me nervous. He was my favourite LVN actor because of the costume movies he made, including Prinsipe Teñoso (Gregorio Fernandez, 1954), one of my favourite films as a young boy.”

Followed by:

Itim: Isang Eksplorasyon sa Pelikula (Itim: An Exploration in Cinema, 1976)
Director: Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr
Language: Filipino; English subtitles
Country: Philippines
Runtime: 20 min
Rating: TBA

Full Synopsis

Doy del Mundo’s documentary about the making of Mike De Leon’s Itim features the only scenes to survive from De Leon’s now-lost debut film, the 16mm short Monologo (Monologue) (1975). De Leon recalls, “Itim was filmed in my grandmother’s hometown of San Miguel, in her family’s ancestral house where more than two decades later I would also shoot Bayaning 3rd World (1999). Doy and his brother-in-law Gil Quito wrote the screenplay. It was Gil who suggested the use of spiritualism and spirit possession during the holy week.”


This screening is part of Retrospective: Mike De Leon. For the full programme, please click here.

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