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Born in Philippines, he is a movie director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and producer.His interest in film started during his masteral studies in art history at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where he frequented a small theater to watch film classics. Before making full-length films, he made two short films. He established his own film outfit, Cinema Artists Philippines, in 1975, which produced its initial offering, of which De Leon was the cinematographer: Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, 1975, gave de Leon his first award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS), for best cinematography.He dared to explore unusual themes such as incest, fraternity violence, and the workers’ cause. Considered as cinematic masterpieces of our time, these movies were listed as three of the Urian’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade, 1980-1989 by the Urian.A later film, Aliwan Paradise, is part of Southern Winds, 1993, the anthology of four films from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan, commissioned by the NHK and Japan Foundation. He has been conferred the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura in February 1999 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.