Saturday 27 October 2012

History through Film

Lino Brocka's Ora Pro Nobis
The month of September marks two events that our generation remembers well - the 9/11 tragedy, and the declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos.  On these dates, there were widespread media focus to ensure that the ideals, the heroes, significances and consequences are not forgotten by this and future generations.  

Artists derive inspiration from their world - their reality.  In turn, they become a voice, in advocating and recording snippets of history.  Film is one such medium that has been widely utilized both for its value for entertainment and propaganda.  Here, we recall some of the landmark works in Philippine cinema, significant for their artistic and historical merits.

The first movie made by a Filipino is Jose Nepomuceno’s Dalagang Bukid in 1919, based on  the highly acclaimed musical/zarzuela of the same title by Hermogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio and starring Atang de la Rama.  During the war, more films of sociopolitical and historical nature abound, some even garnering awards and making the circuit of international film festivals.  Examples of these are: Lamberto Avellana’s Anak Dalita (Child of Sorrow, 1956), which focused on the stark tragedy of post-World War II survival set in Intramuros; and Gerardo de Leon’s Ifugao (1954).  Other notable films of this time too are: Guerilyera (1946), starring Carmen Rosales and Cesar Baltazar, a film about the guerilla movement during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines; Death March (1946), a portrayal of the Bataan Death March, directed by Lamberto Avellana and starred Leopoldo Salcedo, Norma Blancaflor.

Chito Rono's Dekada '70
With the resurgence of film companies like Sampaguita Pictures, LVN and Premiere Productions, came a new beginning for an era of love themes, musicals and romance.  But there were also more films that extolled the virtues of heroism, patriotism, struggle and sacrifice as a consequence of Philippine political events and issues like colonization, martial law, power abuse, etc.  Some films brought issues to the social consciousness, issues that were difficult to face and accept.  Some of these are: 
Marilou Diaz-Abaya's Jose Rizal
Mike de Leon's Sister Stella L
  • Gerardo de Leon’s film adaptations of Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere (1961) and El Filibusterismo (1962).
  • Eddie Romero’s Manila, Open City (1968), set during the Japanese occupation, depicts the fate of a Filipino who, after collaborating with the Japanese, switches allegiance to the Americans.
  • Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976), follows the struggle of a country from the Philippine revolution to the Phil-American war, through the eyes of a country boy portrayed by Christopher de Leon, in parallel to his search for his own identity.
  • Eddie Romero’s Aguila (1979), an epic movie chronicling the highlights of Philippine history from the 1896 revolution to militant student activities in the ‘70s.  It starred Fernando Poe Jr. and Christopher de Leon.
  • Celso Ad. Castillo’s Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan (1979), starring Christopher de Leon focuses on agrarian unrest and feudal oppression.
  • Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L (1984), starring Vilma Santos, is the director’s response to the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, through the story of a nun who gets involved in labour strikes and confronted with issues of labor, politics and religion.  It also raised an argument about the separation of church and state in the country.
  • Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985), a film that focuses on inherent corruption in government, pre-martial law era.  It caused a furor when it was smuggled for showing at the Cannes Film Festival, consequently banned in the Philippines and caused Lino Brocka’s arrest.  It had Phillip Salvador and Gina Alajar as actors.
  • Lino Brocka’s Orapronobis (1989) depicts the human rights abuses during the ‘80s, starring Phillip Salvador and Dina Bonnevie.  It was highly controversial and was banned for a time by then President Corazon Aquino.
  • Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998), a biographical film on national hero Jose Rizal starring Cesar Montano.  The film was screened in several prestigious international film festivals and is credited with re-introducing the hero to a new generation.
  • Chito Roño’s Dekada ’70 (2002), starring Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, centres around a family affected by the political turmoil that set the declaration of martial law.   It is based on a novel with the same title by Lualhati Bautista.
  • Raya Martin’s Independencia (2009) set in the early 20th century, it comments on how the Philippines evolved as a colony of the US, instead of being an independent country.  It features actors Tetchie Agbayani, Sid Lucero, and Alessandra de Rossi.
Raya Martin's Independencia
These are just a few examples of a long list of films.  They may have entertained and diverted us, brought us to a time different from our own reality, confronted us with philosophies and challenged our own thinking and have preserved snippets of our heritage and immortalized the stories for next generations.  It is my personal hope that you have viewed some of these films or will encourage you to watch these films and research further in our history.

* This was written for and published in the Pinoy Living October 2012 issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment