Almost 10 years ago—or as early as March, 2005—FAP Director-General Leo G. Martinez was already enthusiastically pushing a project that is very close to his filmmaker’s heart. The project involves adapting Filipino literary classics or masterpieces into films.
But everything was indeed a long and patient wait. The project which was eventually referred to as Sine Panitik is, however, taking formidable shape and form at this time.
The first trilogy of short stories adapted into film has been produced. Sine Panitik 1 includes prize-winning stories of Gregorio Brillantes, Rogelio Sikat and Fanny Garcia. These are stories included in the curriculum of Philippine literary subjects in high school and college.
Indeed Sine Panitik 1 has translated into film Faith, Love, Time and Dr. Lazaro, Tata Selo and Sandaang Damit.
But another good news is that the second scriptwriting contest involving 22 more classic stories is now open to all scriptwriters, including students themselves.
In other words, we have reached first base.
Looking back, the Sine Panitik believers or enthusiasts realized that not giving up on the project was one of the best things that happened for the Film Academy.
But why did we adamantly clung to this inspite of the odds? It was our strong conviction and belief that a country’s rich trove of literature is the best mining grounds to cull stories for films.
Doing research on world cinema, it became very obvious that the greatest films ever made were indeed sourced from literature. We are ready to go into a dissertation on this subject. Let us confine ourselves first to the 100 Greatest American films and the 100 Greatest British films as drawn up by the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute.
AFI Best American Films of All-Time
In the 2007 AFI’s list, out of 100 films, fifty-six were adapted from literary works. These materials include novels, short stories, plays, even stage musicals, autobiographies and memoirs.
But what is more crucial is that 15 of the top 20 American films were literary adaptations. These include the following:
The Godfather (1972), a novel of Mario Puzo which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola; Casablanca (1942), based on an unproduced play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison and directed by Michael Curtiz; Raging Bull (1980),from My Story by Jack La Motta and directed by Martin Scorcese;
Gone with the Wind (1939), a novel by Margaret Mitchell and directed by Victor Fleming; Lawrence of Arabia (1962), from Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence, directed by David Lean; Schindler’s List (1993), from Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, directed by Steven Spielberg; Vertigo (1958), from the novel D’entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac and directed by Alfred Hitchcock;
The Wizard of Oz (1939), from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum and directed by Victor Fleming;
The Searcher (1956), novel by Alan Le May and directed by John Ford; Psycho (1960), a novel by Robert Bloch and directed by Alfred Hitchcock; 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), from the short story The Sentinel by Arthur C, Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick; The Graduate (1967), a novel by Charles Webb and directed by Mike Nichols;
The General (1927), from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger and directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton; On the Waterfront (1954), based on New York Sun articles Crime on the Waterfront by Malcolm Johns and directed by Elia Kazan; and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), from the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern and directed by Frank Capra.
BFI’s Top British Films
It is the same story with British films. There are 51 films adapted from literature out of the best 100 films. In the top 20 films, 13 are adapted or based on literary materials.
The adapted films include the following:
Brief Encounter (1945), from the play Still Life by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean; Lawrence of Arabia (1962), from Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence and directed by David Lean; The 39 Steps (1935), novel by John Buchan and directed by Alfred Hitchcock; Great Expectations (1946), novel by Charles Dickens and directed again by David Lean;
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), from Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Ray Horniman and directed by Robert Hamer; Kes (1969), novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines and directed by Ken Loach; The Red Shoes, from a novel by Hans Christian Andersen and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger;
Trainspotting (1996), novel by Irvin Welsh and directed by Danny Boyle; The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), novel by Pierre Boulle and directed by David Lean; Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), novel by Alan Sillitoe and directed by Karel Reisz; Brighton Rock (1947), novel by Graham Greene and directed by John Boulting; Get Carter (1971), from the novel Jack’s Return by Ted Lewis and directed by Mike Hodges; and Henry V (1944), from a play by William Shakespeare and directed by Laurence Olivier
(Next week: Best Picture Oscar Winners in 86 Years)
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