Oct 28
PHILIPPINE CINEMA: AN OVERVIEW by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Oct 28, 2005

According to rough estimates, a total of 7,797 Filipino films were produced and exhibited in the country in 86 years of Philippine cinema.

Film Academy of the Philippines facts and figures showed that since the first Filipino film— Dalagang Bukid , directed by Jose Nepomuceno—was shown in September 25, 1919, local film producers through the years had consistently churned out a big number of local films annually though the Second World War really dampened film production.

The best decades in terms of output were the 1970s with 1,657 films and the 1960s with 1,490 films. The other decades and their outputs are as follows: 1919 and 1920s , 24 films; 1930s , 221 films; 1940s , 342 films; 1950s , 828 films; 1980s , 1,427 films; 1990s , 1,366 films; and the first decade of the new millennium (up to October, 2005) , 442 films.

There is really an alarming downtrend in film production for the first half of this decade. A cursory review of the figures decade by decade shows that the present decade approximates the output of the 1950s and lags far behind with the records of the 1970s, 1980s, 1960s and 1990s.

But already, there had been two Golden Ages in Philippines Cinema. These were the decades of the 1950s and the 1970s.

It was in the 50s when the movie industry decided to confront the artistic requirements of cinema. This was also the decade when movies truly made money and grew into big business through the institutionalized studio system, as personalized by the Big 4—LVN Studios, Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions and Lebran. These studios started building their own respective stables of stars, directors, writers and other film craftsmen.

By the mid-50s, local producers were soon taking the bold step into international exposure, coming home with honors, earning pride and attention from the local movie-going audience. Five local films garnered honors in various festivals abroad. Genghis Khan , a biopic on the legendary Mongolian warrior directed by Manuel Conde, was exhibvited at the Venice Film festival in 1952.

In three consecutive years, from 1955 to 1957, four Filipino films won awards in the Asian Film festival. These included Higit sa Lahat directed by Gregorio Fernandez, Ifugao , directed by Gerardo de Leon, Anak Dalita and Badjao , both directed by Lamberto Avellana.

And in the last year of the decade, 1959, four outstanding films literally closed the Golden Age of the 50s with a bang. These were Biyaya ng Lupa , directed by Manuel Silos; Kundiman ng Lahi , directed by Lamberto Avellana; Malvarosa , directed by Gregorio Fernandez; and Juan Tamad Goes to Congress , directed by Manuel Conde.

The decade of the 60s was compatively less rewarding than its preceding decade in terms of quality productions. The film industry went commercial with sex flicks, local cowboy, James Bond wannabees and teen films. But a number of exceptional movies were still being made by Directors De Leon, Conde, Romero and Avellana. Other directors shared the limelight with them. These included Cesar Gallardo, Augusto ‘Totoy’ Buenaventura and the acknowledged king of Philippine movies, Fernando Poe Jr. Gallardo made Geron Busabos, ang Batang Quiapo , starring Joseph Estrada, who would become Philippine president almost three decades later.

Young filmmakers dominated the 70s and 80s. This period is now regarded as the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema. If the First Golden Age produced three national artists for film in the persons of De Leon, Avellana and Romero, the second golden age has already produced two national artists for film, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal.

Aside from Brocka and Bernal, the 70s directors also included Celso Ad. Castillo, Eddie Garcia, Danny Zialcita, Lupita Concio, Behn Cervantes, Mario O”Hara, Romy Suzara and Maryo de los Reyes. Eddie Romero was still busy directing movies. Even Gerardo de Leon megged Banaue in 1975.

Another far-reaching development was the emergence of a new crop of independent producers which offered a full array of films that apparently increased competitive production competence. Free from the shackles of the traditional studio system, these producers shows motivation in turning out socially meaningful films even after the declaration of martial law.

These film companies included LEA Productions, Tagalog-Ilang-Ilang Productions, Regal Films, Viva Films, Seiko Films, FLT Films,. Bancom Audiovision, Agrix Films, Four-N Films and outfits owned by reigning superstars themselves, like FPJ Films of Fernando Poe Jr., JE Films of Joseph Estrada, Junar Films of Jun Aristorenas , RVQ Films of Dolphy and many others.

During the martial law regime from the 70s to the 80s, Philippine cinema still flourished, driven to greater heights of professionalism and creativity. This period also saw the exodus of literary writers to the ranks of film scriptwriters. They included Jose Lacaba, Cloudaldo del Mundo Jr., Ricardo Lee, Edgardo Reyes, Mauro Gia. Samonte, Jose N. Carreon, Raquel Villavicencio, Antonio Mortel, Uro dela Cruz and many others.

By 1974, the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (MOWELFUND) was founded by Joseph Estrada.In 1981, the Film Academy of the Philppines was organized to become the umbrella organization of all guilds of various film craftsmen and technicians. The Film Fund, the Film Ratings Board (now the Cinema Evaluation Board of the Film Development Council of the Philippines ) and the Film Archives were simultaneously created.

In 1985, two presidential decrees created the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the Videogram Regulatory Board (now the Optical Media Board). Another decree created the Intellectual Property Law.

But the sad fact is that Philippine cinema, at this point in time, is at the nadir of its 86-year history. ( To be continued )