A Filipino film with the title “Walang Kasarian Ang Digmaang Bayan (The Revolution Knows No Gender)” has been taken off the lineup of films to be featured at the 2020 Sinag Maynila Film Festival.

The film festival was created by Solar Entertainment Corporation, a Filipino media company headed up Wilson Tieng, and independent film director Brillante Mendoza. The festival’s leaders say it “aims to support local independent cinema.”

According to a recent article posted on Scout Magazine website, the festival posted on their Facebook page the reason for the film's disqualification stating, “The Executive Committee, after further review, found that there is substantial deviation from the submitted and approved script and that the film is no longer a faithful representation of the approved screenplay.”

The statement continued, “Furthermore Sinag Maynila reserves the right to disqualify as an entry for failure to comply with its rules and regulations as well as the terms and conditions of its agreement with the filmmakers.”

One change from November when the film was submitted was its title that had changed from “Mga Alaala ng Isang Rebolusyon (Memories of a Revolution)” to its current title. This is not considered a “substantial deviation”. Neither the festival nor the film’s director, Jay Altarejos, have indicated what other changes categorized as substantial were made.

The movie is about a young filmmaker who becomes an activist and fighter. It is critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war that has resulted in what many allege are extra-judicial killings or EJKs. In one controversial scene, a grieving woman, played by Filipina actress Rita Avila, says the line, “Kung sana naging mas matapang ako, ako mismo ang papatay kay Duterte (If I were braver, I'd kill Duterte myself).”

The film was originally scheduled to play in cinemas for a week in mid-March and was a finalist for the festival’s full-length category. Sinag Maynila announced they were withdrawing the film on Feb. 21.

Altarejos, in a Facebook response directed at Brillante Mendoza, said, "The reason that Brillante Mendoza and Sinag Maynila cited for their removal of Walang Kasarian Ang Digmaang Bayan from the festival is a flimsy way out to get rid of me and the film.”

He added, "[Translated] I'm speaking out now, and will continue to speak out in the coming days because you lied.” He then referred to a Feb. 20 meeting where Altarejos reminded Mendoza of his one request at that meeting: for them to tell the truth about the reasons for the disqualifications.

The ongoing speculation remains about whether the disqualification was due to the changes made since November that may have broken some festival guidelines or if it was due to the “anti-government” sentiments of the film including the line by Rita Avila and her character’s desire to assassinate the president.

It should be noted that Medoza is a staunch supporter of Duterte, according to the Scout Magazine article.