Thursday, August 27, 2015

Salamat sa Alaala (Dik Trofeo, Cinemalaya 2015 Exhibition)


Gerardo 'Manong Gerry' de Leon was the first Filipino filmmaker to be bestowed the title of National Artist in 1982. The nostalgic documentary Salamat sa Alaala showed that he was a true maestro and a gentleman. He was well-loved by his colleagues and family. 

A major revelation for me was that Manong Gerry came from the Ilagan clan. He was born Gerardo Ilagan on September 12, 1913. His father, Hermogenes Ilagan, was considered the father of sarzuela. The Ilagans were royalty on the theatre and movie industries. Manong Gerry took on the de Leon surname to differentiate himself from his siblings and relatives working in the film industry. He was not related to Mike de Leon. But, he was related to Robert Arevalo, Ronaldo Valdez, and Jay Ilagan.

A pleasant surprise from the Trofeo docu were generous footages from Manong Gerry's unfinished film Juan de la Cruz. The colorful costumes and Manong Gerry's obsession on getting an iron befitting the period depicted in the film speak volumes about the grandeur and realism of the epic. Juan de la Cruz could have been a major entry in the filmographies of the two National Artists involved in the film, namely actor Fernando Poe Jr. and director Manong Gerry.

An actors' director is what they call Manong Gerry. Pancho Magalona gave the performance of his life as Simoun in El Filibusterismo. Joseph Estrada acceded to playing a supporting role in the Moises Padilla Story just to be directed by Manong Gerry. Anita Linda, who recalled suffering a head wound from a fall during a shooting, won her first acting award in 1951 for the film Sisa.

Acclaimed directors Peque Gallaga and Lav Diaz had effusive praise for the master director, Manong Gerry. Lav Diaz indirectly touched on the sad fate of de Leon's mythic masterpiece, Ang Daigdig ng Mga Api. There is no existing print for the 1965 film, which swept all the major awards at the FAMAS awards. However, gushing raves from veteran cinephiles attest that the film could probably have been the best Filipino film of the 20th century.
Thank you to the Cinemalaya organizers for screening this heartwarming documentary. It brought back wonderful memories of viewing the master works of Gerardo de Leon.

I hope this docu, by film director and photographer Dik Trofeo, will entice young viewers to seek out and devour the films of Manong Gerry. His epic films, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo may be in black-and-white but both are sumptuously shot and designed that they eclipse visually any recent Filipino period films.

My favorite de Leon film is Sisa. If there is such a thing as an Ilustrado film, then that film is Sisa, based on a character from Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere. The film is like a lamp shedding light on the abuses by the Spaniards and their minions during the 19th century. Viewers will definitely end up enlightened and mesmerized by the stunning mise-en-scene compositions of Manong Gerry de Leon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

World Premieres Film Festival 2015: Senior citizens and cancelled screenings

I had a surprisingly good time yesterday (29th of June) at the World Premieres Film Festival venue in SM North Edsa, Quezon City, Philippines. I was among those waiting for the 3pm screening of Son of Mine at Cinema 2. The crowd out there entertained and made me guffawed loudly with their wisecracks and antics.

I was shocked to see a fairly good number of viewers at the orchestra part of the theater. Have we finally built up a sizable audience for indie films and international film festivals? It was a Monday afternoon and there they are scattered in the orchestra section.

Monday afternoon? O, okay. I realized soon enough that it was a Free Movie day for Quezon City senior citizens. Probably half of the audience availed of free movie tickets. A visual scan of the section shows a handful of elderly males already snoozing in their seats. I overheard a senior citizen ranting that most of the films he’d seen were rubbish. Yet, he keeps coming to movie houses.  Of course, free movies are hard to resist.

An observant senior citizen noticed an usher guiding patrons to their seats. He asked if there were seat numbers on the tickets. A fellow viewer showed him his number, which was O7. All along he thought it was 07. When he realized that his rightful seat was way up at the balcony section, he blurted out loud that he be allowed to stay seated at the orchestra section. He reasoned out that he is no longer a teenager and that his creaky knees may not withstand the hazards of going to the balcony. And in resigned tone, he asked ‘who thought of giving me my seat number anyway?” “You!’ came the resounding reply from amused viewers.

On the other hand, canceled screening is no laughing matter.  The usual suspects at film festivals and film events were there to watch the film An Kubo sa Kawayanan by Alvin Yapan. Film lovers, cinephiles, cineastes, bloggers, and critics shelled out hard-earned money and allotted valuable time to catch up on a potentially good Filipino film. From out of the blue, the film listed at the theatre booths says Son of Mine instead. I later learned that the SM Cinema group uploaded in their system films from an early sked. An irascible Diliman-based programmer was fuming mad over the mix-up.

The screening of Son of Mine didn’t push through either but the senior citizens I’ve met and seen at Cinema 2 made my day. Shining brightly among them is the wizened, weather-beaten Sergio (Lou Veloso) from the film Da Dog Show. The name of his dog, Habagat, says a lot about the problems he faces in his autumn years.