The History of Philippine Cinema Part 1: The Birth of Philippine Cinema
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 2: The Pre-war Years of the 1930s
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 3: The War Years of the 1940s
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 4: The Post-war Years of the 1940s to the Early 1950s
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 5: The 1950s as the First Golden Age of Philippine Cinema
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 6: The Decline and Struggle of the Philippine Film Industry During the 1960s
During the 1970s, the martial law implemented by former president Ferdinand Marcos ultimately suppressed freedom of expression in the Philippines. Yet, ironically, films became even more violent and sexual, amidst government censorship.
Although most filmmaking projects were handicapped by pitiful budgets and the lack of a moneyed audience, things began to change with a new generation of filmmakers galvanizing themselves in opposition to the Marcos dictatorship. After the decline of Philippine cinema in the 1960s, the films of the 1970s dealt with more serious topics following the chaos of the Marcos regime. Action and sex films developed further, resulting to more explicit motion picture projects. The period also brought the arrival of alternative cinema in the Philippines.
As Marcos retooled the liberal-democratic political system into an authoritarian government that concentrated power in a dictator’s hand, he also enlisted mass media in the service of his government. Film was one of the key media components the government utilized, thus regulating filmmaking.
The first step was to control film content by insisting on some forms of censorship. One of the initial rules promulgated by the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures (BCMP) stipulated submission of a finished script prior to the start of filming. The government insisted the imposition of the “ideology” of the so-called “New Society” in local film content.
As an effective propagandistic vehicle, the control of the film industry was deemed necessary by the Marcos government. While this curtailed freedom of expression, on one particularly positive aspect, this process improved the screenplay writing system in mainstream cinema. As the film industry was used to the tradition of just improvising a script during production, the requirement of submitting a finished script for approval helped refine the local filmmaking process. In effect, talents from the literary scene found their way into filmmaking.
Despite the censors, the exploitation of sex and violence on screen continued to assert itself even under martial law. The audience’s taste for sex and nudity went on. Producers cashed in on the new type of “bomba” (referring to sexy or erotic movies) which was also coined “the wet look” as female stars went swimming in their undergarments, bathe in their “camisons” (chemises), or being chased or raped in the river, sea, or under the waterfalls. The Board of Censors allowed the influx of these flicks with sizzling sex scenes like Uhaw (1970) and Nympho (1971). Another movie which banked on sexy themes for quick-and-easy profit was Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (1974) starring the 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz. As the notorious genre further evolved, the “bomba” and the “wet look” offerings were then tagged with a new name, the “bold” films.
Action films depicting very violent shootouts and sadistic fistfights also found their way to movie houses, with the prerequisite that by the ending of an epilogue, there should be the claim that the social realities depicted were wiped out with the establishment of the “New Society.”
The less-than-encouraging environment of the 1970s paved way to “the ascendancy of young directors who soon made history. These directors included: the Cannes Film Festival veteran Lino Brocka (National Artist for Cinema, 1997), best remembered for his Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975); Ishmael Bernal (National Artist for Cinema, 2001) for his debut film Pagdating sa Dulo (1971) which critics consider as one of the best debut works of a first-time feature film director; and Celso Ad Castillo for his Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (1978), featuring daring works that portray revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism, and class division.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” Philippine Journeys and Philippine Online Essays.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” WikiPilipinas.
“Philippine Cinema,” Filipino Cultured Blog.
“Pilipinas: Balik Tanaw,” Asian Journal.