In honor of National Heritage Month this May, the Cinematheque Centre Manila, in partnership with the National Film Archives of the Philippines (NFAP), will screen classic Filipino films that are widely considered to be some of the best that Philippine cinema has to offer. The films in this month’s line-up are milestones that have had a significant impact on the development of cinema in the Philippines.
All films are for free admission, with the exception of Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis at PHP200.
May was declared to be National Heritage Month in 2003, wherein the government calls attention to the need to conserve, promote, and popularize the nation’s historical cultural heritage. The proclamation was made to address the need “to create in the people a consciousness, respect and love for the legacies of Filipino cultural history and to raise material support for the protection of tangible and intangible heritage.”
As such, the roster of films is comprised of works from the country’s National Artists for Film, including legendary directors Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Manuel Conde, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Eddie Romero, as well as the famous action-star Fernando “Da King” Poe, Jr (or “FPJ”), and the “King of Comedy” Rodolfo Vera Quizon, Sr., popularly known as Dolphy. It also includes monumental works from some of the most revered and established Filipino directors, including Kidlat Tahimik, Mike de Leon, and Chito S. Roño.
In addition to these classics, Lav Diaz’s latest film Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis is to have extended screenings for the entire month of May to further celebrate National Heritage Month, as the award-winning film is truly a tribute to our nation’s history and culture, mixing fact with fiction. The film features Philippine national heroes and historical figures with the country’s known literary characters from the novels of National Hero Jose Rizal as well as Filipino folklore in its revolution-era narrative.
The first of the restored heritage classics screening in May is A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino by Lamberto Avellana is a rare Filipino classic based on National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s famous play written in 1952, telling the struggles of two sisters and their reclusive father as World War II looms in the Great Walled City of Intramuros that they call home.
One of the first epic Filipino classics, Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan, restored in 2012, was lauded as a technical achievement using innovative cinematography and set design to bring his compelling vision of the great conqueror to life.
Also restored in 2012, Lino Brocka’s celebrated Maynila Sa Mga Kukong Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light) will also be featured this May. Perhaps responsible for setting the trend for social realist films in Philippine cinema, Maynila film follows the journey of an innocent young fisherman to Manila in search for his love, depicting a city that has been broken by the tyranny of dictatorship.
Alongside Genghis Khan and Portrait, Avellana’s Anak Dalita (Child of Sorrow) joins them as one of the timeless classics from the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema from the 1950s to late 1960s. The film follows a young soldier returning home from abroad to discover his mother living in poverty after World War II who must make amends with his new realities at home. Gerardo de Leon’s Mad Doctor of Blood Islandwas produced as the first Golden Age slowed down, but not without a bang. His American-produced horror film shocked audiences at drive-in theaters in California with the story of a doctor who creates zombies on a far-away island.
Lino Brocka’s Cain at Abel (Cain and Abel) and Kidlat Tahimik’s Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare) were made during the Second Golden Age, between the 1970s and 1980s. Cain at Abel retells the biblical story of the two brothers in modern Filipino society, delving into how a corrupt system of justice creates barriers and leads to bloodshed. Tahimik’s nostalgic perspective takes the center stage in Mababangong Bangungot as he weaves together a nonlinear, earnest story about a NASA-obsessed jeepney driver finding his way home.
FPJ rose to fame in the 80s and 90s with Eddie Romero’s unforgettable film Aguila, where Poe Jr. plays a missing father whose violence-marred life parallels the history of the Philippines across eight decades. FJP dabbles into romance in Kahit Konting Pagtingin (Even Just a Glance) with Sharon Cuneta famously playing his love interest.
Though known mostly for their social realist cinema, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal both ventured into comedy. Brocka’s Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, starring the great comedian Dolphy, follows a Dioscoro, a gay hairdresser who suddenly becomes a parent when an infant is left to his care and attempts to hide his true identity from his son. Bernal’s Working Girls was depicts a group of young upcoming business women who use their wit and cunning to achieve their goals and get into several misadventures along the way.
Chito S. Roño’s Dekada 70 completes the May classics line-up. Based on the acclaimed novel by Lualhati Bautista, the film follows the political awakening of a mother as her sons take up various forms of activism in the midst of dictatorship.
National Heritage Month highlights the outreach aspect of the mission of the Cinematheque Centre Manila and the National Film Archives of the Philippines: to encourage the appreciation and understanding of filmic art and Filipino culture by making accessible the nation’s rich cinematic heritage to the wider public.
Visit www.fdcp.ph and Cinematheque Manila social media pages for screening schedules and updates.