Someone has seen the need to bring Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal's films to the age of DVD. Tony Gloria of Unitel/Unico Entertainment deserves praise for spearheading the transfer of a number of Brocka/Bernal movies, and the few other vintage Filipino titles it could find from the Sampaguita and Regal vaults, to the new format, and thereby give the rest of us the chance to appreciate these long-lost gems.
The way we've managed to preserve our cinematic heritage is nothing short of criminal. Of the 55 films that Brocka directed, for instance, only 5 are said to be in a "projectable state."
Where did I get that fact? From the New York Times, no less. Apparently, Pinoy film lovers aren't the only ones hungering and pining for local cinema to be accorded the respect it deserves--by way of simple preservation of its best films, for starters--as an irreplaceable part of our cultural patrimony. Dave Kehr, the DVD film critic of the Times, does, too.
Mr. Kehr, in the Times' Oct. 10 issue, celebrates the release on DVD (through Unico's online retail site Cinefilipino.com) of "two enduring classics," Brocka's "Ina, Kapatid, Anak" and Bernal's "Manila By Night" (he quotes critic Noel Vera on the latter film), while mourning for "the other, less celebrated directors of this financially impoverished but creatively rich national cinema" whose works may never come to light again.
"Where now to find the work of Ishmael Bernal, Mario O’Hara, Mike de Leon and the other filmmakers from this fascinating two-decade period [1970-1990], during which a broadly popular cinema of sex and soap opera transformed itself into a vehicle for strong social commentary and a political force to be reckoned with?," he asks. (I have to add the name of Danny Zialcita, director of many a witty, byzantine Viva melodrama in the '80s, whose films deserve a new audience).
"Here’s hoping that Cinefilipino is able to continue its project," says Mr. Kehr. "This body of work belongs not only to the history of popular art but also to the history of a resilient, heroic, admirable people."
(Read Mr. Kehr's complete article here.)
If I were the Film Academy of the Philippines, I would forget about throwing money (never mind prestige) on its annual orgy of schmaltz known as the Luna Awards, and instead buckle down to work on a more important task: find ways to preserve, restore and redistribute copies of Filipino films, which are its only--and now fast-disappearing--reason for being.
PLUS: What happened to the 1941 b&w classic "Ibong Adarna?" Read the story here.