Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Philippine Cinema Lists
August 10, 2007, 12:42 pm
Filed under: festivals, philippine cinema

Cinemanila is under way. Raya’s already posted pictures from opening night at Cinematografica, as well as a brief item about Tran Anh Hung shooting part of the French-Produced “I Come with the Rain” starring Josh Hartnett in these parts.

Noel Vera and I were asked to contribute two Philippine Cinema centered lists to Cinemanila this year– 9 Best Filipino Films Shot on Digital Since ’99 and 9 Best Filipino Films shot on 35mm Since ’99. The idea was that Noel, another participant and my list would be tallied to create a master list and the films that rated highest would be screened in this years festival. I’m not sure if this will be pushing through this year however– perhaps they believe 10-best for Cinemanila’s 10th Anniversary next sounds better.

On the topic of lists, Noel Vera has laid down the gauntlet, drafting a much more ambitious one: a list of the 100 Best Filipino Films he has seen. There’s always a level of chutzpah involved in making a list such as this, and for the sake of argument and discourse it’s probably best to stick to an audacious title such as 100 Best Filipino Films instead of My 100 Favourite or the 100 Best I’ve Seen. But these are things any list-maker from the Philippines is forced to consider, simply because we don’t have access to a lot of our cinema history anymore:

My list, my biases, at least one of which I’ll freely admit to right now: the deplorable lack of titles from earlier decades, especially pre-war. As I’d noted in an old article, the Philippines is suffering from a kind of cinematic Alzheimer’s, with thousands of old prints already rotted into vinegar (or worse, turned into cheap plastic New Years’ trumpets), and more well on the way.

The issue needs to be addressed, and I for one hope that the Philippine government–flush with cash, or so all the latest economic news tell us–will actually spend some of the taxes they’ve squeezed from Filipinos in general (and the Filipino film industry in particular) to at least try save some of those prints.

I highly recommend checking out Noel’s list, and more importantly, seeking out the films on his list.

The idea in his introduction that writing about older Philippine cinema almost essentially becomes a desperate plea to save rotting films, reminded me of something I wrote for another list…

Noel and I were also both asked to contribute to a list of 75 Hidden Gems for the August Issue of the UK film magazine Sight and Sound. While the cover subtitle The Great Films That Time Forgot isn’t entirely accurate (some films weren’t particularly praised when they were released and thus overlooked from the start, and others are but only a few years old), the list itself, which has been posted by someone online here, is quite useful and interesting, as the editors made a strong effort to include critics from all around the world. We were asked to nominate and write about a single film that we felt was forgotten or overlooked. Only my piece on The Moises Padilla Story appears in the magazine (thankfully Noel had written about Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos one of the other unprinted titles I was attempting to nominate), though, like any good opportunist (and lover of Philippine cinema with a good conscience), I tried to smuggle in notes on three Filipino films instead of one, writing in my introduction (that went unpublished)…

Any attempt to write about a forgotten or overlooked film from the Philippines inevitably results in an act of activism: you are compelled, among the lexicon of great films produced in a near century of the country’s cinema, to choose important works that still have surviving prints in salvageable conditions. (And sometimes you even push the limits and mention three films instead of one, out of desperation, and hope that your notes still get printed.)

* Jo Atienza, come back, we need you

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