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Philippine Cinema: Where it Came From, Where it is Now, and Where it Can Go From Here

Presentation to Dept. of Foreign Affairs Foreign Service Institute

Jag Garcia

on 8 June 2012

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Transcript of Philippine Cinema: Where it Came From, Where it is Now, and Where it Can Go From Here

Cinema: Where it came from How it's doing Where it can go Began when 2 Swiss entrepreneurs: Leibman and Peritz, showed films using the Lumiere cinematographe imported by Spaniard Antonio Ramos. Brought film shows to Manila in 1897. Documentaries of recent events and natural calamities in Europe. “Escolta” first documentary shot in the Philippines, other shorts shown during the time included a carabao parade and shots of the Pasig River. 1903 – with American colonialism came American films. Failed to capture audience’s imagination because they were novel and were about foreigners.

2 American entrepreneurs made a film about Jose Rizal’s execution in 1912 – it was an immediate sensation. They realized there was a market in Philippine movies and heralded the making of the first Filipino film. The credit of being the first Filipino to make a film goes to Jose Nepumuceno, whom historians dub as the “Father of Philippine Movies”. His 1919 film was based on a highly-acclaimed musical play of that day, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) by Hermogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio.

Atang dela Rama and Marcelino Ilagan (and other actors) “dubbed” the film by saying their dialogue and singing live during the screening of the film at the Empire Theatre.

Ang Aswang (1930) was the first Filipino film in Tagalog.
In 1933 Punyal na Ginto became the first Philippine film to feature sound. This was 6 years after the Jazz Singer. Early  film producers included “wealthy Spaniards”, American businessmen and Filipino landlords and politicians. It is not surprising that pre-war Philippine movies were inhibited from expressing their views that might question the establishment and were encouraged instead to portray the love and reconciliation between members of different classes The sinakulo or the passion play was the root of the conventional Filipino melodrama. The Virgin Mary became the “all-suffering, all-forgiving Filipino Mother” and Jesus was the “savior of societies under threat and the redeemer of all those who have gone wrong”. 1934-1941
The “First Golden Age”
of Philippine Cinema filmmaking was a purely entertainment art form. Popular genres during the time were comedies, melodramas, fantasies and musicals. 1950-1960
The (true) Golden Age Very high output, many “classics” produced, and “highest artistic point in local cinema”

The first award-giving body for Philippine movies was the Maria Clara Awards in 1950.

The FAMAS Awards by the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences replaced the Maria Clara Awards. The Big Three LVN Pictures (Doña Sisang de Leon) specialized in super productions, rural comedies and musicals, but also produced socially-relevant films such as Avellana's Anak Dalita (1956) and Badjao (1957) and Manuel Silos's Biyaya ng Lupa (1959).

Sampaguita Pictures (Marichu Vera Perez) mainly produced high-gloss, glamorous pictures such as Maalaala Mo Kaya (1954).

Premiere Productions (Doña Adela Santiago) released most of the action films such as Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (1952), Salabusab (1954) and Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (1960). The Fall... In the 1960s, the foreign films that were raking in a lot of income were violent action pictures violence and soft core sex films that used to be banned from Philippine theater screens, Italian “spaghetti” Westerns, American James Bond-type thrillers, Chinese/Japanese martial arts films and European sex melodramas.

To get an audience to watch their films, independent producers had to take their change their material resulting in strange genres such as Filipino samurai and kung fu masters, Filipino James Bonds The 60s saw a lot of clamors for change and sentiments in society – “revolution” was a trendy word.
More “mature” love teams like Rogelio dela Rosa and Gloria Romero were replaced by “younger” love teams such as “Guy and Pip” and “Vilma and Bobot” The most notorious of all – The Bomba Picture was a direct challenge to the conventions and the norms of conduct of status quo, a rejection of authority of institutions in regulating the “life urge” seen as natural and its free expression “honest” and “therapeutic”. BOMBA! Martial Law Martial Law changed the way movies were made – as well as what they talked about.

The early 70s saw the influx of bomba flicks which the Board of Censors allowed. Producers banked on these films for quick-and-easy profit.

The relatively poor state of local cinema was redeemed by 2 directors: Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.
Unfortunately, the ultra-commercialism of the Seventies set the decline of quality films in the '80s and '90s, affecting the very survival of the movie industry. 1980s-1990s Filipino films were described more and more as being “poorly made” due to very high commercialism, less experimentation on style and genre, and very little expansion on equipment and facilities. Studio system continued while films were “star driven” – with less regard given to the quality of the story or the narrative. Old genres were used and re-used, very little innovation or experimentation in local cinema. “Pito-pito” was the norm.

Hollywood films dominated the theatres and were generally preferred by moviegoers – this gave local films the title of “bakya” because they only catered to the masses who did not understand English films Philippine Cinema is DEAD! but there might be hope... Late 90's and 2000's + digital technology saw the rise of the "indies"

Studios slowly making less films with more money = "higher quality"

Independent films making waves around the world New Life New Future? Film education is on the rise New films are creating new audiences Regional Cinema = NATIONAL Cinema Thank you. and of course there was... Early films dug into traditional theater forms for character types, the plot, familiar themes and conventions in acting. This set the trend of Philippine films based entirely on immensely  popular dramas or sarswelas . To resurrect Philippine Cinema
it will be necessary to adopt a "new school" of thinking. We have to capitalize on digital technology and maximize our resources We have to tell our stories as a People, not tell other peoples' stories in our language We must use cinema in schools and education for its power to change and communicate - not simply for its potential to entertain Pride in our Philippine Films begins with Filipino Filmmakers' pride in their own work - excellence isn't a word, it's a passion. Philippine Cinema's new life will begin with YOU. Developed by Prof. Jag Garcia, MCDArtDes
De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
Digital Filmmaking Program All copyrights belong to their respective owners.
This presentation is on a Creative Commons license But why? Going where mainstream fears to tread Alternate venues, markets and audiences Allowing the filmmaker to create films Indies seem to be
the way to go There is pride A new energy in the air
Awards, recognition and respect
People want to become filmmakers;
people are making films! But we need to keep asking Is independent cinema "gay" cinema?
Commercialism and commercial success
Poverty porn and festival whores
The novelty wears off
Quantity (again) over quality
Full transcript