REEL TO REAL: THE HISTORY OF PHILIPPINE FILMS
The youngest of the Philippine arts, film has evolved to become the most popular of all the art forms. Introduced only in 1897, films have ranged from silent movies to talkies; black and white to color. Outpacing its predecessors by gaining public acceptance, from one end of the country to the other, its viewers come from all walks of life. Nationwide, there are more than 1000 movie theaters. Early in the 1980s, it was estimated in Metro Manila alone, there were around 2.5 million moviegoers. As an art form, it reflects the culture and the beliefs of the people it caters to and most times, is the one who shapes their consciousness. Philippine film as discussed in this paper includes films made by Filipino people exhibited in this country and possibly in other countries from the 1930s to the 1990s. The films may be silent pictures or talkies, black and white or color. They also include films such as documentaries, animation, experimental or alternative films and other types of films. This paper has three purposes or objectives. It intends, first of all, to provide a comprehensible background of the art of film in the Philippines. It provides insights on how the Philippine film has influenced Philippine culture and vice-versa. This is done by documenting the important events and important films in the area of film for the past ninety years. Second, it intends to explain the different trends and styles common in the Philippine film. And finally, it concludes with an analysis on how two important events in history, namely World War II and Martial Law altered the course of contemporary Philippine film. However, this paper is limited to films only from the particular time period of the 1930s to the 1990s. It fails to give a picture of how films were like ever since it started in 1897. This paper is also severely limited due to the unavailability and the lack of materials that discuss thoroughly the history of Philippine film. Film materials for those made during the pre-WWII years are simply non-existent. Data for this paper was gathered from the essays and reviews written by the artists and the critics themselves. It goes without saying that the resources were tested to the limits. CHAPTER 1
I. The 1930s to 1940s
A. Early Philippine Films
Filipinos started making movies in 1919. However, it would be important to know that the film industry in the Philippines began through the initiative of foreign entrepreneurs. Two Swiss entrepreneurs introduced film shows in Manila as early as 1897, regaling audiences with documentary films lips showing recent events and natural calamities in Europe. Not only that but the arrival of the silent films, along with American colonialism, in 1903 created a movie market. But these film clips were still novelties. They failed to hold the audiences' attention because of their novelty and the fact that they were about foreigners. When two American entrepreneurs made a film in 1912 about Jose Rizal's execution, the sensation they made it clear that the Filipino's need for material close to their hearts. This heralded the making of the first Filipino film. The credit of being the first Filipino to make a film goes to Jose Nepumuceno, whom historians dub as the "Father of Philippine Movies". Nepumuceno's first film was based on a highly-acclaimed musical play of that day, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) by Hemogenes Ilagan and Leon Ignacio.
In those early years of filmmaking, enormous capital was needed to keep up with the Hollywood industry. Despite its weak points, Hollywood provided the Philippine film industry with examples that the early filmmakers followed. It is not surprising that many of those same genres set so many years ago still appear in contemporary Philippine films. But it was difficult to match Hollywood style in those days with the meager capital set aside for the developing film industry....
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