Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema

A LEGENDARY TRIO OF FILIPINO CINEMA: MIKE DE LEON, LINO BROCKA, MARIO O’HARA

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As a special tribute to classic Filipino films, and thanks to the collaboration of the ABS-CBN Film Archives (Leo Katigbak), we present three films by legendary film makers who worked together forty years ago, and made some of the most significant films of the Filipino New Wave: Mike de Leon, with Moments in a Stolen Dream (or When You Dream and Wake Up, 1976), a subtle psychological romance set in the University of Baguio (a city where he will shoot his next film, after 17 years of self-imposed silence), Mario O’Hara, with Three Years Without God (1976), a powerful wartime drama involving an impossible love story between a Filipino teacher and a half breed Japanese officer. And the most famous of them all, Lino Brocka, with Cain and Abel (1982), a strong variation on the two enemy biblical brothers theme, set in a rich hacienda. Possibly an underrated film by Brocka, since it was not shown abroad, as many good Filipino films in that period. As a matter of fact, all three directors and some of the actors are linked, in a period when they were all trying (quite successfully) to renew Filipino cinema after the Golden Era of the 1950s and 60s. Mike de Leon (the only survivor of the three) was a close friend of Lino Brocka for whom he produced (and was the cinematographer of) Manila in the Claws of Light (1975, the famous social drama recently restored and shown at the FEFF), while Mario O’Hara scripted the intriguing and surrealistic rural drama, You Were Judged and Found Wanting (Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang, 1974), where he also played one of the major roles, Berto the Leper. He then wrote a teleplay for what would become one of Lino Brocka’s most celebrated films, Insiang (1976), which he would also adapt to the stage. Mario was also a lead actor in Lino’s Goldplated (Tubog Sa Ginto, 1974), and in some of his other films. And the main actors would play in most of the films by those directors, mainly the famous couple Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon (married in real life at the time), who acted in several films by Lino Brocka and Mario O’Hara, as well as the acclaimed actress Hilda Koronel, and veteran actress Mona Lisa (Insiang, and Cain and Abel). The 1970s and 80s were certainly the most creative years for Filipino cinema and those directors, who tried to stand the Marcos dictatorship in their own way, but never forgetting that cinema was the top priority, and not only the social or political message. Lino Brocka (who later became a National Artists for Film) created his own production company, CineManila, which later gave its name to the international film festival created by Tikoy Aguiluz, a director who came later in the movement, with Boatman. However, as history sadly showed in several countries, the decline of Filipino cinema strangely coincided with the post-Marcos era and the birth of the Cory Aquino democracy, of which Lino Brocka was strongly disappointed in a matter of years. Mario O’Hara was also a victim of the decline of the film industry, and had to struggle to make personal films in poor economic conditions, while Mike de Leon chose silence and self-secluded retirement after 2000. Thus, the three films shown by the FEFF this year in a special Filipino event, can remind us of how powerful and creative was Filipino cinema in the context of a very conservative society. Will History repeat itself again?...
Max Tessier