Epic film on missing activist is finalist in this year’s Cinemalaya  

In a country known to produce full-length feature films in just seven days, a film 17 years in the making is one of this year’s finalists of the Cinemalaya Film Festival.

Alipato at Muog (Flying Embers and a Fortress) started shooting two days after director JL Burgos’s brother Jonas was abducted in a Quezon City mall in April 2007. It uncovers the hard truths behind their family’s tireless search for justice.

In the film, JL gives light to the pursuit of truth led by their mother, press freedom icon Editha Burgos. He compiles testimonials from a lawyer, reporter, former Justice Secretary and Human Rights Commission Chair, and anonymous witnesses to give deeper context to Jonas’ disappearance.

JL further details the ordeal through animation and previously unseen footage of their family’s search, including the discovery of Jonas’s last known photo in captivity.

Since his brother’s abduction, JL has been helping spread awareness about enforced disappearance and other human rights issues. Previously, he produced and directed full-length human rights documentaries Portraits of Mosquito Press (2015) and Han-Ayan (2017).

Alipato at Muog director JL with mother and press freedom icon Edith Burgos at the Cinemalaya XX media conference. (Alipato at Muog Facebook page photo)

Portraits tells of the Burgos family’s fight for press freedom under Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship. Imprisoned during martial law, Burgos patriarch Joe founded We Forum and Malaya, fiercely independent publications that fought the dictatorship.

Han-ayan tells of a Lumad community’s fight for their right to self-determination, paying for their struggle with blood, sweat and tears.

JL is a proponent of Stop The Attacks, a campaign by artists for artists who have been victims of constant red-tagging and harassment by the state.

The Burgos’s search for Jonas set in motion a continuing probe here and abroad not only into his enforced disappearance, but also into the plight of other families with missing loved ones.

Alipato at Muog will be screened at the Cinemalaya XX Festival from August 2 to 11 at the Ayala Mall, Manila Bay.

An annual independent film festival and competition, Cinemalaya is organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)