Philippines

THE FIRST GOLDEN AGE AND AFTER

As was the case with newspapers and magazines, film companies mushroomed after liberation in 1945, growing to at least forty by 1952. The Big Four, in existence by 1946, soon dominated the industry, retaining a workforce of ten thousand and controlling over 90 percent of the production, distribution, and exhibition of Filipino movies. But the industry was on the verge of change: as a five-year (1950–55) strike hit Premiere, artists and technicians defected to start their own companies and the Big Four lost its bargaining power. By 1958, there were one hundred movie firms and within a few years, of the Big Four, only Sampaguita remained.

In the 1960s, the industry was completely transformed. The Big Four had ceased production; independents dominated, most of them in films solely for profits; and citizens became indignant about a crime wave that had possible links with movie viewing. Also, the content of movies worsened, providing only an orgy of escapism, and the star system was pushed to the limit with actors dominating over directors.

The studio system had made filming a planned affair where Big Four directors lined up a variety of genres for wider appeal. Independents short on capital had to recover their investments quickly, which they did by copying the last box-office hit. As a result, the 1960s gave rise to many copies of foreign films with Filipino cowboys, samurai, and kung fu masters, James Bonds (Jaime Bandong), and bold sexual movies, bombas , featuring young starlets who bared all on screen. Veteran director Lamberto V. Avellana labeled the audiences for such slam-bang, blood-and-guts, sex-filled quickies as bakya, a pejorative term for a low-class audience, which refers to the moviegoers who wear bakya, native wooden clogs. An especially big year for bombas was 1971, when most of the 251 Filipino movies were sex-oriented.

Of the major genres, action and melodrama—of a soap opera type—were (and still are) the most popular; between 1978 and 1982, for example, they accounted for 47 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of the total. Tracing its origins to early theatrical forms, the action film includes a strict sense of morality, an idealized code of honor, and a set of traditional values. Most melodramas come from komiks (comic books); in fact, for years, 30 to 40 percent of big studios' scripts came from this source. Komiks make successful movies because of their presold audiences. They are adapted to film by making komiks characters look like movie stars who then play the screen role, and by selling an idea to a komiks publisher who brings it out in printed form. During the last few weeks of the komiks serialization, the movie version appears with a climax that may or may not be the same as the magazine.

The Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship of 1965–1986 was both bad and good for film because it played roles that restricted, regulated, and facilitated the industry. For example, between 1975 and 1980, the Philippine government cracked down on films encouraging subversion, violence, pornography, and crime, revamped the censorship board, and instructed producers to redefine industry guidelines to support so-called Philippine values; but it also supported the showing of Filipino movies, built the controversial University of the Philippines Film Center and established the Manila International Film Festival.

Government involvement escalated in the last years of the Marcos regime with the creation of the Motion Picture Development Board, which was to oversee four major bodies—the Film Fund, Film Academy of the Philippines, Film Archives, and the Board of Standards. Next came the strengthening of censors' powers in 1981, and the establishment of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines a year later, headed by one of the Marcos daughters. Film personnel, fearing the nationalization of the industry, demonstrated in the streets against these measures under the aegis of an artists' coalition, Free the Artist Movement, started by director Lino Brocka (1939–1991).

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