Tag Archives: Philippine cinema

#308 Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag

Poster of "Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag" showing the young actor Bembol Roco


  Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Talons of Light) is a 1975 classic Filipino film drama directed by Lino Brocka based on the novel by Edgardo M. Reyes. The film is considered as one of the classics of Filipino cinema in the 1970s and has established Brocka as among the Philippines’ most influential director.

The film starred Hilda Koronel, Lou Salvador, Jr., Tommy Abuel, and in his film debut, Bembol Roco (credited as Rafael Roco, Jr.). The cinematography is by Miguel de Leon, who would later became a renowned director himself.

The film attracted controversy following the censorship it went through and the rejection by the Marcos administration. First Lady Imelda Marcos was reported as having condemned the film for its negative portrayal of Manila and its residents. Foreign and local critics, however, praised the film for its editing and cinematographic qualities, and is widely considered up to this day as one of the enduring examples of cinema noir in the country. (Source: Wikipedia)
Long live Philippine cinema!

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#257 Himala

Himala (“Miracle”) is an award-winning Filipino film directed by the late Philippine National Artist Ishmael Bernal. The film’s screenwriter and cinematographer were multi-award winner Ricky Lee and Sergio Lobo, respectively.

Based on a 1967 incident and news report, Himala was filmed entirely in the most arid Philippine tourist spots in Ilocos Norte, in just three weeks and with a budget of only 3 million pesos. The movie premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival, and in 1983, it became the first – and so far the only – Filipino film to be included in the “Competition Section” of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival. Since then, Himala has been exhibited in a number of film festivals around the world.

On November 11, 2008, Himala won the 2008 CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards Viewers Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time (voted for by thousands of film fans around the world. The CNN online voters hailed it as the “greatest Filipino film.”

The film stars Philippine superstar Nora Aunor, who is best known for her performance as the fake visionary Elsa in this film. Her portrayal is considered by most Filipino critics to be the best of her career. (Source: Wikipedia)

Mabuhay ang Filipino cinema!

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#241 Genghis Khan

Film poster of Conde's Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan (1950)  is among the first real international breakthrough films made by a Filipino director. This bio pic directed by Manuel Conde is often described by film critics as a surprisingly engaging cinematic version of the life of the Mongolian warrior, Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan is also the first Filipino film, with the support of critic James Agee,  to be screened at the Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest film festival, in 1952. In Venice the film  was cited for outstanding technical achievement. It also received good reviews at the 1952 Edinburgh Film Festival. The film also bears the distinction of receiving two reviews in the trade paper Variety. The first time for its Philippine debut in 1952, and the second time for its American distribution by United Artists in 1953.  

Shot with a shoe-string budget, Conde was forced to resort to creative means in staging the light, procuring the costumes and shooting the film. Despite the obstacles the film remained a classic for many years. Genghis Khan has also made it to the favorite list of many respected international critics for its innovative techniques and remarkable narrative elements using the cinematic medium.

Long live Philippine cinema!

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#177 Kisapmata

Stills from the film Kisapmata (1981)

Kisapmata (Blink of an Eye) is a 1981 Filipino drama film directed by Mike De Leon. Often listed among the 10 best films in Philippine cinema, the film deals with strong social themes such as incest, murder, suicide and parricide and was considered a breakthrough, iconic film in terms of its sensitive handling of taboo topics.

Despite the film’s bleak vision, Kisapmata was unanimously praised by both Philippine and international critics with its fine scenario, cinematography, acting, soundtrack and editing. In the same year, the film practically garnered major awards in the annual Philippine cinema festival, the Gawad Urian Awards, a respected award-giving body mainly composed of film critics and professionals. Aside from the eight Gawan Urian Awards, the film also received one FAMAS (Philippine equivalent of the Academy Awards) award nomination.

With a script written by De Leon and Clodualdo Del Mundo, the film starred some of the veteran and finest actors in Philippine cinema such as Vic Silayan, Charito Solis, Charo Santos and Jay Ilagan. Silayan, who played the role of the tyrannical father, particularly gave one of  the finest performances by a Filipino actor, a role that he would be remembered for in later years.

Kisapmata was also presented in Cannes in 1982 at the exclusive Director’s Fortnight and was lauded by French critics as one of the most impressive and psychologically incisive films made on the theme of incest.

Mabuhay ang pelikulang Pilipino!

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#89 Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos

Lead actors (from left) Bembol Roco, Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos

A cinematic masterpiece by director Mario O’Hara, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Godless Years), is one of the few Filipino films that tackled the US-Japanese war in an intelligent, non-clichéd manner.

The film’s plot focuses on Rosario, a school teacher who suffered a tragic and bitter experience during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Engaged to an anti-Japanese guerrilla, she was raped by a Japanese Imperial Army Officer. She bore his child and tried to exact the ultimate revenge, but only to fall for the Japanese officer, earning the wrath of the townspeople.

The film explores the conflicts, prejudices and the humane tragedy experienced by many Filipinos during World War 2. Film critics say leading actress Nora Aunor gave one of her most memorable screen performances in this 1976 film. The film also gave Aunor several major acting awards and was the Philippines’ official entry to many foreign film festivals.

Long live Philippine cinema!

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#48 Insiang

Actress Hilda Koronel as Insiang, Lino Brocka's film noir masterpiece

The film “Insiang” by the late Filipino film director Lino Brocka is among the jewels in Philippine cinema and is known as one of Brocka’s masterpieces.

Critics consider Insiang as the best example of film noir in Philippine cinema, a film which takes a hard and critical look at Philippine society and culture-  the ills, faults and the disillusions of its people.

Although the film, produced in 1976, typifies the melodrama that is often seen in Brocka’s movies, it is not a run-of-the-mill tearjerker and rises above other Filipino movie dramas with its exceptional actors, superb script and excellent direction. A story of revenge, lust and poverty, Insiang was set and filmed in Smokey Mountain, one of Manila’s notorious shanty towns located in Tondo.

With its raw realism and portrayal of urban poverty, the film was denounced, censored and denied approval by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, making Brocka an outcast in the  Marcoses’ New Society where the truegoodandbeautiful-only mantra was a dominant rule during  the dictatorial regime of the Marcoses.

With Insiang, Brocka caught the eye of the international film industry when it premiered in Cannes outside the main competition, and launched the career of Hilda Koronel, the lead actress. Ironically, and despite the passage of more than two decades, the film’s portrayal of Philippine society remains valid up to this day, proof of Brocka’s talent and the power of cinematic art.

Mabuhay ang Philippine cinema!

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