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Lino Brocka's pieces that made the society whole

October 3, 2007 3:36pm
A recollection of his works would educe praises from his protégés and contemporaries. A look back at his presence in the movie industry would evoke admiration and pride given his effective use of the silver screen to incite change in the society and to draw international attention.

He is Lino Brocka. The man may now be a vivid memory, but his works are immortalized. "Classic" is how the denizens of showbiz would describe his films, and "reflective" would be the term for his movie themes.

PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) pays tribute to the man who was hailed as a National Artist for Film, a citation bestowed upon him in 1997, which was six years after his untimely death.

In an essay, Manunuri member Mario Hernando lauded Brocka for presenting true and believable characters and powerful stories. One thing that Lino had was the "complete control of the art and his fellow artists and workers."

Lea Films period (1970-1972). He made his directorial debut in 1970 with the drama Wanted: Perfect Mother that starred Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero, Eddie Mercado, and Gina Alajar. He also wrote the movie.

Brocka made nine movies for Lea Productions: Tubog sa Ginto (1971), Lumuha Pati Mga Anghel (1971), and Stardoom (1971). It was Stardoom that stood out. It garnered Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) nominations for Lolita Rodriguez (Best Actress) and Caridad Sanchez (Best Supporting Actress).

His early works were genre pieces that suited the taste of the audience that time. The films made money and helped endear himself to the producers of the movie industry.

Glory Years (1974-1976). Right after he left Lea Productions, Brocka made his landmark movie, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang. It's his first novel, and it starred Christopher de Leon and Lolita Rodriguez, who both won acting trophies from FAMAS. The film also earned him the Best Picture and Best Director trophies.

At the foot of the movie's successes were two more obras which got positive reviews from the local and international critics: Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) and Insiang (1976). The two films did not make money in the box office, write-ups deduced that their themes were too profound, if not intellectual, for the masses. Nonetheless, they garnered Best Director and Best Picture awards for Lino.

Maynila starred Bembol Roco, a newcomer to the industry, who bagged the Best Actor plum at the FAMAS.

Insiang, on the other hand, was the first Filipino film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. It starred Hilda Coronel, Rez Cortez, Mona Lisa, and Ruel Vernal. Mona Lisa won a FAMAS Best Supporting Actress, while Ruel Vernal got the nod from Urian as Best Supporting Actor.

Social Dramas (1977-1978). He made four movies during this brief period for Lotus Films. Most of these films were made with the leading star in mind: Tahan na Empoy, Tahan (1977) starring child wonder Niño Muhlach and Snooky Serna; Inay (1977) which tried to re-launch ‘50s star Alicia Vergel; Ang Tatay kong Nanay (1978) which was topbilled by Comedy King Dolphy with Niño Muhlach; and Mananayaw (1978) with then-sexpot Chanda Romero.

Majority of the films fell under the category of drama. Brocka wore his movie director's hat, and set aside his political beliefs.

Uneven, Productive Period (1978-1985). This was a time of great activity for Direk Lino—he made almost 30 films. His works denoted his non-conformist nature. Critics would describe these films at varying degrees—from dull to compelling, from incongruous to brilliant. The uncertainties and slackness could be attributed to his personal problems that included financial troubles and his attitude with regard to accepting projects.

Hayop Sa Hayop (1978) and Init (1979) were considered commercial projects and did not sit well to the standards of the critics.

But they were all praises for Jaguar (1979) and Kapit sa Patalim (1985). The films were either effective, ingenious dramas or gave a socio-political commentary. It was the seminal film, Miguelito, Ang Batang Rebelde (1985) which was able to combine both characteristics.

Miguelito starred Aga Mulach, Nida Blanca, and Eddie Garcia. The Best Actress trophy was given to Nida Blanca by the Film Academy of the Philippines and the Urian.

Final Years (1987-up to his death in 1991). This was the time when Brocka hit the right formula of combining the elements of a commercial film with his artistic input. Most of his films during this period were produced by Viva Films.

Manunuri Mario Hernando picked five from this period and classified them under his best works—Macho Dancer (1988), Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita (1989), Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak (1990), Hahamakin Lahat (1990), and Sa Kabila ng Lahat (1991).

In Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita, Brocka pitted his protégés— Christopher de Leon, Hilda Koronel and Bembol Roco—against Viva's prized star Sharon Cuneta. Gumapang Ka sa Lusak had a stellar cast composed of Dina Bonnevie, Eddie Garcia, and Charo Santos.

Brocka did Hahamakin Lahat for Regal Films. This would be his third team-up with Vilma Santos. The role called for Vilma to be dark, daring, and innovative—something that totally deviated from characters usually portrayed by the sweet-faced actress . It showed a heroine entering into a marriage of convenience with a ruthless, scheming mayor—a character Brocka created to expose the hypocrisy and corruption of society.

Sa Kabila ng Lahat was the last film he did that brought together Dina Bonnevie, Ronaldo Valdez, Nannette Medved, William Lorenzo, Celeste Legaspi, and Tonton Gutierrez.

Among the five, it was Macho Dancer that did not fare well in the box office. Its gay theme, which was sensational at that time, did not lend added value to the cast which consisted of newbies. The movie also had little publicity.

Movie critics hailed Orapronobis (1989) as the most mature work of Brocka, although it was not shown commercially here in the country. It was based on actual events, but the characters were fictionalized. It exposed the continuing oppression happening in society. The script was written by Jose F. Lacaba, YES! Magazine's Executive Editor.

The depth and greatness of Lino Brocka's greatest pieces have no comparison. They have the power to stir up various responses from the audience—to be emotional, to be critical, to be dumbfounded. More than the box office potential or the artistic and aesthetic values, his films have a lot more to offer: impact. And he leaves it to the audience to grasp his main message and let them decide on what to think or do next.

Majority of the story is from the article "Lino Brocka: Director in Control— Blending Popular Entertainment, Realism and Social Comment" by Mario Hernando and from the notes of Dr. Nicanor Tiongson. - Philippine Entertainment Portal