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and ?Nida and Nestor? romantic pairings of the 50s were the forerunners
of a new kind of revolution ? the ?teen love team? revolution. ?Nora Aunor
and Vilma Santos, along with Tirso Cruz III and Eddie Mortiz as their respective
screen sweethearts, were callow performers during the heyday of fan movies.
Young audiences made up of vociferous partisans for ?Guy and Pip? or ?Vi
and Bot? were in search of role models who could take the place of elders
the youth revolt had taught them to distrust?
Another kind of youth revolt came
in the form of the child star. Roberta (1951) of Sampaguita Pictures was
the phenomenal example of the drawing power of movies featuring [these]
child stars. In the 60s this seemed to imply rejection of ?adult
corruption? as exposed by childhood innocence.
The film genres of the time were
direct reflections of the ?disaffection with the status quo? at the time.
Action movies with Pinoy cowboys and secret agents as the movers
of the plots depicted a ?society ravaged by criminality and corruption?
. Movies being make-believe worlds at times connect that make-believe with
the social realities. These movies suggest a search for heroes capable
of delivering us from hated bureaucrats, warlords and villains of our society.
The action films of the 1960s brought into the industry ? a new savage
rhythm that made earlier action films seem polite and stage managed.?
The pacing of the new action films were fast as the narrative had been
pared down to the very minimum of dialogues. And in keeping up with the
Hollywood tradition, the action sequences were even more realistic.
Another film genre that is perhaps
also a embodiment of the revolt of the time is the bomba genre. Probably
the most notorious of all, this genre appeared at the close of the decade.
Interestingly, it came at a time when social movement became acknowledged
beyond the walls of campuses and of Manila.
In rallies, demonstrations and other
forms of mass action, the national democratic movement presented its analysis
of the problems of Philippine society and posited that only a social
revolution could bring genuine change. The bomba film 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?
Looking beyond the obvious reasons
as to the emergence of the bomba film, both as being an exploitative product
of a profit-driven industry and as being a ?stimulant?, it can be analyzed
as actually being a ?subversive genre?, playing up to the establishment
while rebelling and undermining support for the institutions.
Even in the period of decline, genius
has a way of showing itself. Several Philippine films that stood out in
this particular era were Gerardo de Leon?s Noli Me Tangere (Touch me Not,
1961) and El Filibusterismo (Subversion, 1962). Two other films by Gerardo
de Leon made during this period is worth mentioning ? Huwag mo Akong Limutin
(Never Forget Me , 1960) and Kadenang Putik (Chain of Mud, 1960), both
tales of marital infidelity but told with insight and cinematic import.
C. Films during Martial Law
In the 60s, the youth clamored for
change in the status quo. Being in power, Ferdinand Marcos answered
the youth by placing the nation under martial rule.
In 1972, he sought to contain growing
unrest which the youth revolt of the 1960s fueled. Claiming that all he
wanted was to ?save the Republic?, Marcos retooled the liberal-democratic
political system into an authoritarian government which concentrated power
in a dictators hand. To win the population over, mass media was enlisted
in the service of the New Society. Film was a key component of a
society wracked with contradictions within the ruling class and between
the sociopolitical elite and the masses.
In terms of comparisons, the Old
Society (or the years before Martial Law) became the leading symbol for
all things bad and repugnant. The New Society was supposed to represent
everything good ? a new sense of discipline, uprightness and love of country
Accordingly, the ideology of the New Society was incorporated into local
?Marcos and his technocrats sought
to regulate filmmaking. The first step was to control the content of movies
by insisting on some form of censorship. One of the first rules promulgated
by the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP) stipulated submission
of a finished script prior to the start of filming. When the annual film
festival was revived, the censors blatantly insisted that the ?ideology?
of the New Society be incorporated into the content of the entries.
The government tried to control
the film industry while keeping it in ?good humor? ? necessary so that
the government could continue using film as propagandistic vehicles. So
despite the censors, the exploitation of sex and violence onscreen continued
to assert itself. Under martial law, action films depicting shoot outs
and sadistic fistfights ( which were as violent as ever) usually append
to the ending an epilogue claiming that the social realities depicted had
been wiped out with the establishment of the New Society. The notorious
genre of sex or bomba films that appeared in the preceding decade were
now tagged as ?bold? films, simply meaning that a lot more care was given
to the costumes.
Martial Law declared in 1972 clamped
down on bomba films as well as political movies critical of the Marcos
administration. But the audience?s taste for sex and nudity had already
been whetted. Producers cashed in on the new type of bomba, which showed
female stars swimming in their underwear, taking a bath in their camison
(chemise), or being chased and raped in a river, sea, or under a waterfall.
Such movies were called the wet look?
One such movie was the talked-about
Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on
the Face of the Earth, 1974) starring former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz.
However, the less-than-encouraging
environment of the 70s gave way to ?the ascendancy of young directors who
entered the industry in the late years of the previous decade?? Directors
such as Lino Brocka, best remembered for his Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag
(Manila, In the Claws of Neon Lights, 1975), Ishmael Bernal, director of
the Nora Aunor film Himala (Miracle, 1982) and Celso Ad. Castillo, whose
daring works portrayed revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism and class
division, produced works that left no doubt about their talent in weaving
a tale behind the camera.
Another welcomed result that came
from martial rule was the requirement of a script prior to filming. This
was an innovation to a film industry that made a tradition out of improvising
a screenplay. Although compliance with the requirement necessarily meant
curtailment of the right of free expression, the BCMP, in effect caused
the film industry to pay attention to the content of a projected film production
in so far as such is printed in a finished screenplay. In doing so,
talents in literature found their way into filmmaking and continue to do
II. The 1980s to the present
A. Philippine Films after Marcos
It can be justified that immediately
after Marcos escaped to Hawaii, films portraying the Philippine setting
have had a serious bias against the former dictator. And even while he
was in power, the militancy of filmmakers opposing the Martial Law
government especially after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983,
accounts for the defiant stance of a number of films made in the closing
years of the Marcos rule.
Films such as Lino Brocka?s Bayan
Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Gripping the Knife?s Edge, 1985) were
defiant, not in the sense of it being openly stated by in the images of
torture, incarceration, struggle and oppression. Marilou Diaz-Abaya?s Karnal
(1984) depicts this in a different way in the film?s plot wherein patricide
ends a tyrannical father?s domination. Mike de Leon?s Sister Stella L.
(1984), was a typical de Leon treatment of the theme of oppression and
In 1977, an unknown Filipino filmmaker
going by the name of Kidlat Tahimik made a film called Mababangong Bangungot
(Perfumed Nightmare). The film won the International Critic?s Prize in
the Berlin Film Festival that same year. Kidlat Tahimik?s rise to
fame defined the distance between mainstream cinema and what is now known
as independent cinema. Beginning with Tahimik, independent cinema and films
became an accomplished part of Philippine film.
Out of short film festivals sponsored
by the University of the Philippines Film Center and by the Experimental
Cinema of the Philippines, young filmmakers have joined Kidlat Tahimik
in the production of movies that, by their refusal to kowtow to the traditions
and conventions of mainstream filmmaking, signify faith in works that try
to probe deeper into the human being and into society. Nick Deocampo?s
Oliver (1983) and Raymond Red?s Ang Magpakailanman (The Eternal, 1983)
have received attention in festivals abroad.
Filmmakers like Tahimik, Deocampo
and Red are examples of what we call ?alternative filmmakers?. Alternative
or independent filmmakers are products of film schools where students are
exposed to art films without ?the compromises of commercial filmmaking?.
B. Contemporary Philippine Film
Despite our completion of 100 years
of cinema in the Philippines, the same problems plague us now just as it
had when film was still a relatively new art form. The phrase ?poorly made?
is fitting to describe the quality of films being churned out by the film
industry year by year. There have been few exceptions to the rule.
Presently, films are primarily made
for profit, lacking any qualities to redeem itself. Studies show that Hollywood
films, with its high technology and subject matter, are being preferred
over local films. It is no wonder ? for films now are ?too profit-oriented?[with]
corrupting morals and?dubious values?sticking with formulaic films?
Genres that have been present for
the past few decades are being recycled over and over again with the same
stories. The teen love teams of the fan movie are still present with incarnations
of love teams of yesteryears. Now instead of ?Guy and Pip? are ?Judy and
Wowie?. The bomba film is still present, now having grown more pornographic
and taboo. The film Tatlo (1998) comes to mind with its subject matter
of threesomes. In Filipino slapstick or komedya, Dolphy has been replaced
by younger stars.
But even if the films of today have
not been quite up to par, ?Filipino movies?wields an influence over the
national imagination far more intense that all the others combined.?
The early years of Philippine film,
starting from the 1930s, were a time of discovering film as it was at that
time still a new art form. Stories for films came from the theater and
popular literature being, as they were, ?safe?, with the filmmaker being
assured of its appeal. Nationalistic films were also in vogue despite early
restrictions on films being too subversive.
The 1940s and the war brought to
Philippine film the consciousness of reality which was not present in the
preceding films. Filmmakers dared to venture into the genre of the war
movie. This was also a ready market especially after the war.
The 1950s were the Golden Years,
a time when films matured and became more ?artistic?. The studio system,
though producing film after film and venturing into every known genre,
made the film industry into a monopoly that prevented the development of
The 1960s, though a time of positive
changes, brought about an artistic decline in films. The notorious genre
of bomba was introduced and from that day forward has been present in the
Philippine film scene ever since.
The 1970s and 1980s were turbulent
years, bringing positive and negative changes. From the decline in the
60s, films in this period now dealt with more serious topics following
the chaos of the Marcos regime. Also, action and sex films developed further
introducing more explicit pictures. These years also brought the arrival
of alternative cinema in the Philippines.
Presently, in the 1990s, we are
seemingly engaged in a vicious cycle ? of genres, plots, characterization
and cinematic styles. We are unconsciously, or rather consciously, imitating,
copying from the much more popular American films. And when we are not
copying, we are reverting back to the same old styles. From the massacre
movies of late, the teen-oriented romantic-comedies and the anatomy-baring
sex flicks which are currently so popular, it seems Philippine cinema is
on a down spiral. Still, some films been successes and not only financially.
Diaz-Abaya?s Rizal (1998), as an example, was a success both commercially
and critically. Hopefully, Philippine cinema in the new millenium would
produce films as good and better than the ones before it.
As a conclusion, here is what Patronilo
BN. Daroy had to say about the Philippine film industry:
Philippine cinema, in short, appears
to have reached full circle: it is at the stage of refining and formulating
its own conventions and, in the process, getting in close contact with
the ferment in the other arts and at the same time, the serious critical
attention and concern of people with a broader interest in culture. This
is inevitable; as an art form the cinema in the Philippines can no longer
remain isolated from the main current of sensibilities and ideas that shape
other artistic forms, such as literature, painting, the theater, etc. Neither
can it fly from the actuality of social life which, after all, is the source
of all artistic expression. I foresee, therefore, a hand towards more serious
cinema; the muckrakers will continue, but they will be exposed for what
they are and will no longer be definitive of the quality of Filipino films.
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