However artificial and constructed, cinema should be used to depict social reality, said Tito Valiente, president of Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
And because independent cinema, removed from the studio mainstream that thrives on commercial and escapist genres, is more oriented toward that direction, its growth has been much celebrated by film critics and cinema lovers.
This was reaffirmed during the 2013 Gawad Urian: The Manunuri, the country’s leading film critics, again gave the lion’s share of the awards to independent films.
Valiente noted a change in indie films.
“Before, when you say ‘indie,’ it has a different color with only one texture. But not anymore,” Valiente said. “This time around, it is taking on a new form; some indie films now are fast-paced because, I guess, they are trying to reach a critical mass.”
He said that by definition, indie films are those that are not financially backed by a large studio and tackles topics that are considered taboos in society.
“The advantage of indie is that it has no market which it wants to make richer, and it is not after gaining back the capital from the patron who would tell the filmmaker to have a happy ending, to remove gay elements, and to refrain from hitting the Church,” Valiente said.
Valiente said Urian remained the most credible award-giving body in the country. The long and stringent process of deliberation, the scaling down of the long list, coupled with disagreements among the film critics, are what makes for the credibility and integrity Urian has since been known for, he said.
“I like it when some of the members change their minds at the last minute; it means they are really listening,” Valiente said. “[In other award shows,] some people would champion a film, saying, ‘This is the one.’ [With Manunuri] we look at films objectively. We always have to justify our choice.”
Rolando Tolentino, a member of Manunuri and the dean of the College of Mass Communication in the University of the Philippines-Diliman, said that critics looked for originality.
“[Urian] is always on the cutting-edge,” he said. “What we look for are those that have not been made yet. Because although a lot of films today are competent enough, we still seek out what’s new and original.”
National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, a member of Manunuri, said that the fact that Urian was not part of the industry rules out any commercial influence on the critic-jurors.
“We’re not connected with the industry and therefore our group’s judgment is not influenced by anything,” Lumbera said. “[The nominated films in Urian] have substance and value.”
Tolentino said that the films last year diversified in content and technique, the reason for the huge number of nominees this year.
“Obviously everyone has reached a level of competency,” he said. “The films are pretty spread out for this year’s award. Pretty much everyone stood out. Unlike before when it was concentrated only on two directors, so we had no choice but to give the award to any one of them, there is too much talent in last year’s batch of films.”
Regional cinema is also thriving, with over 10 regional films getting nominations.
“For me, I always believe that, in order for one to understand one’s being a Filipino, one must be able to learn one’s identity as an Ilocano, Bicolano, Bisaya, etc.,” Valiente said. “Regional films are able to do that because they depict the lives of people in Ilocos, Bicol, etc. made by those who have actually lived there.”
Mila del Sol
This year’s Natatanging Gawad, the Manunuri’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was conferred on veteran actress Mila del Sol, whose contributions before and after World War II helped shape the film industry and even gave rise to the first Golden Age of Philippine cinema.
Valiente said the Manunuri recognized Del Sol, who turned 90 last month, for her historic presence especially during the infancy of Philippine cinema, and the fact that she had worked with iconic filmmakers of the period, some of whom became National Artists.
“She links the two periods of the Golden Age of Philippine cinema: prewar and postwar,” said the Manunuri chair. “She is the only major actress of her time who is still alive. She had acted with significant leading men of her time like Fernando Poe Sr., Ely Ramon and Leopoldo Salcedo. She had acted also in coproduction ventures with American producers.”
Born on May 12, 1923, Clarite Rivera Villarba, aka Mila del Sol, gained fame for the 1939 film “Giliw Ko,” where she had her very first lead role.
She starred in Manuel Conde’s “Orasang Ginto,” the first postwar Filipino film; and other LVN films of the 1940s, including “Ibong Adarna” (1949) and “Villa Hermosa.”
Aside from Valiente, Tolentino and Lumbera, the Manunuri includes broadcast personality Butch Francisco; journalist and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) member Mario Hernando; National Commission for Culture and Arts-National Committee on Film head Miguel Rapatan; former MTRCB chair and Cultural Center of the Philippines artistic director Nicanor Tiongson; and Ateneo de Manila professor Benilda Santos. UP Dilman professor Gigi Alfonso and Inquirer editor and University of Santo Tomas teacher Lito Zulueta are on leave.
Helping the Manunuri mount the Gawad Urian this year were the Film Development Council of the Philippines and CinemaOne Originals.
Best Film: “Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim” by Arnel Mardoquio; Best Actress: Nora Aunor for “Thy Womb”; Best Actor: Jericho Rosales for “Alagwa”; Best Supporting Actress: Alessandra de Rossi for “Sta. Niña”; Best Supporting Actor: Art Acuña for “Posas”; Best Director: Adolf Alix Jr. for “Mater Dolorosa”; Best Screenplay: Mes de Guzman for “Diablo”; Best Documentary: “Harana” by Benito Bautista; Best Sound: Willy Fernandez, Bong Sungcang, Ferdinand Marcos Sabarongis for “Florentina Hubaldo”; Best Short Film: “Ritmo” by Remton Siega Zuasola; Best Music: Diwa de Leon for “Baybayin”; Best Editing: Aleks Castañeda for “Kalayaan”; Best Production Design: Brillante Mendoza for “Thy Womb”; Best Cinematography: Whammy Alcazaren for “Colossal.”