Touted as the “Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema,” the 1970s was a period when a significant number of Filipino avant-garde filmmakers surfaced. This age of censorship ironically pushed the making of quality and very emotional films as the growing social unrest fueled freedom of expression through arts.
Films from the 1970s to the mid-1980s mostly showcased resistance to the dictatorial regime and they were openly stated through images of torture, incarceration, struggle, and oppression.
The militancy of Filipino filmmakers opposing the Martial Law in the Philippines, especially after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, accounted for the defiant stance of a number of films made in the closing years of the Marcos rule.
The year 1976 saw the formation of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, an elite group of local film critics. Ever year since then, the Manunuri (the jury of the Gawad Urian Awards) hands out the Gawad Urian Awards to Filipino films adjudged as the best in the country. With its credibility, it earned the value of being a counterpart to the United States’ Academy Awards, an acknowledgment the award-giving body received with its reputation of annually providing awards to top quality Filipino films.
The Manunuri cited some of the best films of the 1970s including Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal saTubig (1976), Lino Brocka’s Insiang (1976), Jaguar (1979), and Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon (1976), Mike de Leon’s Itim (1976), Lupita Concio’s Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo (1976), and Mario O’ Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976).
Considered as one of Lino Brocka’s best films, Insiang (1978) became the first Philippine film ever shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978. In 1980, his film Jaguar (1979) was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes. In the local scene, Jaguar won the Best Picture and Best Director at the 1980 FAMAS Awards. It also won five Gawad Urian Awards, including Best Picture and Best Direction.
Brocka’s film Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) is the only Filipino film consistently placed among the world’s top 100 films of all time from various renowned film venues, and so far, the only Filipino film that entered in the list of the book, “1001 Movies You Should See Before You Die.” Brocka also earned critical acclaim for his film Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974).
Another widely recognized director during the martial law period was the courageous Mike de Leon, a filmmaker from the famous clan known as one of the owners of the Big Four studios: LVN Pictures. He was also known as a scion of one of the oligarch families who bitterly opposed the dictatorship regime of then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. His first major full-length work was Itim (1976), which was voted by the Gawad Urian Awards as one of the “Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1970-1979.” The film also de Leon the Best Director Award during the 1978 Asian Film Festival held in Sydney, Australia.
To add up to the list, one of the “Best Films of the 1970’s,” as billed by the Manunuri, was the Eddie Romero film Ganito Kami Noon… Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1976). It bagged a number of awards at the 1977 Gawad Urian and the 1977 FAMAS including Best Picture and Best Film honors. It also won the 1976 Festival Prize for Best Film at the 1976 Metro Manila Film Festival.
By the latter part of the 1970’s, the independent filmmaker Eric de Guia, better known as Kidlat Tahimik (literally translated in English as “quiet lightning”), made a film entitled Mababangong Bangungot (1977) produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s independent film company American Zoetrope. The film won the International Critic’s Prize at the Berlin Film International Festival that same year. Aside from winning the FIPRESCI Prize, he also earned the Interfilm Award – Recommendation and the OCIC Award – Recommendation in the the said festival’s Forum of New Cinema.
In 1981, Brocka was back at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight with the film Bona (1984). His Bayan ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985) was deemed subversive by the Marcos government and it underwent a legal battle to be shown in its uncut form. At the 1984 Cannes Festival, however, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or. It was awarded the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute Awards and it garnered four honors at the 1986 Gawad Urian Awards, including Best Picture.
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
The History of Philippine Cinema Part 7: The Early Years of the 1970s