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History Of Philippine Cinema Essay, Research Paper

Introduction

The youngest of the Philippine arts,

film has evolved to become the most popular of all the art forms. Introduced

only in 1897, films have ranged from silent movies to talkies; black and

white to color. Outpacing its predecessors by gaining public acceptance,

from one end of the country to the other, its viewers come from all walks

of life. Nationwide, there are more than 1000 movie theaters. Early in

the 1980s, it was estimated in Metro Manila alone, there were around 2.5

million moviegoers. As an art form, it reflects the culture and the

beliefs of the people it caters to and most times, is the one who shapes

their consciousness.

Philippine film as discussed in this

paper includes films made by Filipino people exhibited in this country

and possibly in other countries from the 1930s to the 1990s. The films

may be silent pictures or talkies, black and white or color. They also

include films such as documentaries, animation, experimental or alternative

films and other types of films.

This paper has three purposes or

objectives. It intends, first of all, to provide a comprehensible background

of the art of film in the Philippines. It provides insights on how the

Philippine film has influenced Philippine culture and vice-versa. This

is done by documenting the important events and important films in the

area of film for the past ninety years. Second, it intends to explain the

different trends and styles common in the Philippine film. And finally,

it concludes with an analysis on how two important events in history, namely

World War II and Martial Law altered the course of contemporary Philippine

film.

However, this paper is limited to

films only from the particular time period of the 1930s to the 1990s. It

fails to give a picture of how films were like ever since it started in

1897. This paper is also severely limited due to the unavailability and

the lack of materials that discuss thoroughly the history of Philippine

film. Film materials for those made during the pre-WWII years are simply

non-existent. Data for this paper was gathered from the essays and reviews

written by the artists and the critics themselves. It goes without saying

that the resources were tested to the limits.

CHAPTER 1

I. The 1930s to 1940s

A. Early Philippine Films

Filipinos started making movies

in 1919. However, it would be important to know that the film industry

in the Philippines began through the initiative of foreign entrepreneurs.

Two Swiss entrepreneurs introduced film shows in Manila as early as 1897,

regaling audiences with documentary films lips showing recent events and

natural calamities in Europe. Not only that but the arrival of the

silent films, along with American colonialism, in 1903 created a movie

market. But these film clips were still novelties. They failed

to hold the audiences? attention because of their novelty and the fact

that they were about foreigners. When two American entrepreneurs made a

film in 1912 about Jose Rizal?s execution, the sensation they made it clear

that the Filipino?s need for material close to their hearts. This 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?. Nepumuceno?s first film was based on a highly-acclaimed

musical play of that day, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) by Hemogenes

Ilagan and Leon Ignacio.

In those early years of filmmaking,

enormous capital was needed to keep up with the Hollywood industry. Despite

its weak points, Hollywood provided the Philippine film industry with examples

that the early filmmakers followed. It is not surprising that many of those

same genres set so many years ago still appear in contemporary Philippine

films. But it was difficult to match Hollywood style in those days with

the meager capital set aside for the developing film industry. Ironically,

the same people who helped the film industry develop as a form of expression

were the same ones who suppressed this expression.

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?

Starting with Dalagang Bukid, early

films dug into traditional theater forms for character types , twists and

turns in the plot, familiar themes and conventions in acting. This set

the trend of Philippine films based entirely on immensely popular

dramas or sarswelas . Besides providing ready materials, this device of

using theater pieces ensured an already existing market. From the komedya

of the sarswela, the typical Filipino aksyon movie was to develop. The

line dividing the good and the bad in the komedya was religion with the

Christians being the good and the Moors representing the bad. In present

movies, the line that divides the two is now law or class division. 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?. Another source of movie themes was Philippine

literature. Francisco Baltazar and Jose Rizal, through the classics for

which they were famous, have given the industry situations and character

types that continue to this day to give meat to films both great and mediocre.

Finally, by the 1930s, a few film

artists and producers dared to stray from the guidelines and commented

on sociopolitical issues, using contemporary or historical matter. Director,

actor, writer and producer Julian Manansala?s film Patria Amore (Beloved

Country) was almost suppressed because of its anti-Spanish sentiments.

This earned him the honor of being dubbed the ?Father of the Nationalistic

Film?.

Its own share of movie audience and

acclaim for local movie stars were signs that the movie industry from 1919

to the 1930s had succeeded. Despite the competition coming from Hollywood,

the film industry thrived and flourished. When the 1930s came to a close,

it was clear that moviegoing had established itself in the Filipino.

B. Wartime Films and the Effect on

Philippine Films

The Japanese Occupation introduced

a new player to the film industry ? the Japanese; and a new role for film

? propaganda :

?The Pacific War brought havoc to

the industry in 1941. The Japanese invasion put a halt to film activity

when the invaders commandeered precious film equipment for their own propaganda

needs. The Japanese brought their own films to show to Filipino audiences.?

The films the Japanese brought failed to appeal to audiences the same way

the Hollywood-made movies or the locally-made films did. Later on, Japanese

propaganda offices hired several local filmmakers to make propaganda pictures

for them. One of these filmmakers was Gerardo de Leon.

The war years during the first half

of the Forties virtually halted filmmaking activities save for propaganda

work that extolled Filipino-Japanese friendship, such as The Dawn of Freedom

made by director Abe Yutaka and associate director Gerardo de Leon?Less

propagandistic was Tatlong Maria (Three Marias), directed in 1944, by Gerardo

de Leon and written for the screen by Tsutomu Sawamura from Jose Esperanza

Cruz?s novel?Despite the destruction and hardships of the war, the people?found

time for entertainment; and when movies were not being made or imported?they

turned to live theater?which provided alternative jobs for displaced movie

folk. The war years may have been the darkest in film history??

This period turned out to be quite

beneficial to the theater industry. Live theater began to flourish again

as movie stars, directors and technicians returned to the stage. Many found

it as a way to keep them from being forgotten and at the same time a way

to earn a living.

In 1945?the film industry was already

staggering to its feet. The entire nation had gone through hell and there

were many stories to tell about heroic deeds and dastardly crimes during

the 3 years of Japanese occupation. A Philippine version of the war movie

had emerged as a genre in which were recreated narratives of horror and

heroism with soldiers and guerillas as protagonists?audiences still hungry

for new movies and still fired up by the patriotism and hatred for foreign

enemies did not seem to tire of recalling their experiences of war.

Movies such as Garrison 13 (1946),

Dugo ng Bayan (The Country?s Blood, 1946), Walang Kamatayan (Deathless,

1946), and Guerilyera (1946) , told the people the stories they wanted

to hear: the heroes and the villains of the war. The war, however, had

left other traces that were less obvious than war movies that were distinctly

Filipino. As Patronilo BN. Daroy said in his essay Main Currents in Filipino

Cinema: ?World War II left its scars on the Filipino?s imagination and

heightened his sense of reality??

CHAPTER II

II. The 1950s to 1970s

A. The Golden Age of Philippine

Films

The 1950s were considered a time

of ?rebuilding and growth?. But remnants from the preceding decade

of the 40s remained in the form of war-induced reality. This is seen is

Lamberto Avellana?s Anak Dalita (The Ruins, 1956), the stark tragedy of

post-WWII survival set in Intramuros. The decade saw frenetic activity

in the film industry which yielded what might be regarded as the first

harvest of distinguished films by Filipinos. Two studios before the

war, namely Sampaguita Pictures and LVN, reestablished themselves. Bouncing

back quickly, they churned out movie after movie to make up for the drought

of films caused by the war. Another studio, Premiere Productions, was earning

a reputation for ?the vigor and the freshness? of some of its films. This

was the period of the ?Big Four? when the industry operated under the studio

system. Each studio (Sampaguita, LVN, Premiere and Lebran) had its

own set of stars, technicians and directors, all lined up for a sequence

of movie after movie every year therefore maintaining a monopoly of the

industry. The system assured moviegoers a variety of fare for a whole year

and allowed stars and directors to improve their skills.

Critics now clarify that the 50s

may be considered one ?Golden Age? for the Filipino film not because film

content had improved but because cinematic techniques achieved an artistic

breakthrough in that decade. This new consciousness was further developed

by local and international awards that were established in that decade.

Awards were first instituted that

decade. First, the Manila Times Publishing Co. set up the Maria Clara Awards.

In 1952, the FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) Awards

were handed out. More so, Filipino films started garnering awards in international

film festivals. One such honor was bestowed on Manuel Conde?s immortal

movie Genghis Khan (1952) when it was accepted for screening at the Venice

Film Festival. Other honors include awards for movies like Gerardo de Leon?s

Ifugao (1954) and Lamberto Avellana?s Anak Dalita. This established the

Philippines as a major filmmaking center in Asia. These awards also had

the effect of finally garnering for Filipino films their share of attention

from fellow Filipinos.

B. The Decline of Philippine Film

If the 1950s were an ubiquitous

period for film, the decade that followed was a time of decline. There

was ?rampant commercialism and artistic decline? as portrayed on the following:

In the 1960s, the foreign films

that were raking in a lot of income were action pictures sensationalizing

violence and soft core sex films hitherto 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, (the independent) producers had to take

their cue from these imports. The result is a plethora of films?giving

rise to such curiosities as Filipino samurai and kung fu masters, Filipino

James Bonds and?the bomba queen.

The studio systems came under siege

from the growing labor movement which resulted in labor-management conflicts.

The first studio to close was Lebran followed by Premiere Productions.

Next came Sampaguita and LVN. The ?Big Four? studios were replaced by new

and independent producers who soon made up the rest of the film industry.

The decade also saw the emergence

of the youth revolt best represented by the Beatles and the rock and roll

revolution. They embodied the wanting to rebel against adult institutions

and establishments. Certain new film genres were conceived just to cater

to this ?revolt?. Fan movies such as those of the ?Tita and Pancho?



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