PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) remembers director Lino Brocka who
gave so much of his creativity and vision to Filipino movie making that his
sudden death in a car crash on May 21, 1991 was a shock that reverberated not
only in local show business but all over the country. He was only 52.
He was posthumously honored by the FAMAS (Filipino Academy
of Movie Arts and Sciences) Hall of Fame as Best Director in 1991 and declared
National Artist for Film in 1997.
He has been called one of the greatest directors of Philippine cinema.
Indeed, he thrived in its so-called Second Golden Age when his peers were making
their own masterpieces, like Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon, Celso Ad. Castillo,
Laurice Guillen, Marilou Diaz- Abaya, and renowned veteran from the 50's Eddie
Romero. Many of today's stars owe their rise in showbiz and acting trophies to
Lino Brocka. At the peak of his career
in the 70's and 80's, he made films that won critical acclaim and awards for
their social and artistic impact.
Mario Hernando of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the film critics
group that gives out Gawad Urian, 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."
Yet the measure of Brocka's greatness must take account as well of his life outside
the accolades. It was the deep well from which he drew the intensity, if not
themes, for his films. He grew up in a broken family and experienced poverty
and child abuse. The decade of the 60's found him struggling with issues of the
soul and survival. In Hawaii,
he tried hard to be a Mormon missionary but the rebel in him could not keep the
Of Brocka's sojourn in Hawaii, Hernando wrote
"Brocka had a lot of time to think and he began to put his own life into
some kind of perspective. He had gone from being a prize-winning high school
graduate with the world ahead of him, to a university dropout whose mother
compared him unflatteringly to his former classmates, and his search for
meaning in life through the Mormon faith was unfulfilled.
"Gradually, he formed
his own credo for living: to be grateful for what he had, not to clutter his
life with non-essentials; to reject the excuse that something is futile and
therefore not worth doing; and finally resolving that ‘life will never put me
down, I shall prove stronger than life.'"
After ending his missionary assignments he flew to San Francisco and lived among hoboes, worked
as a busboy and in a hospital for the elderly. Still struggling with his
personal issues and feeling utterly homesick he returned to the Philippines
He resumed his long-standing interest in theater through PETA (Philippine
Education Theater Association), from doing menial tasks to eventually becoming
executive director. On the road to becoming a movie director, he directed
television shows (Balintataw, Lino Brocka
Presents, Hilda, Tanghalan) and worked as script supervisor for director
Eddie Romero's films.
PEP retraces Lino Brocka's achievements in film over two decades. He made
over 60 movies. Many were commercial quickies, some were box-office hits; and others,
powerful enough to pass the test of time.
Early Acclaim (1970-1972). Lino Brocka made his first movie in 1970 under
Lea Productions' Wanted: Perfect Mother with the cast of Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero, Eddie Mercado,
and Gina Alajar. He also wrote this melodrama, which won Best Screenplay
in the 1970 Manila Film Festival.
That same year, he directed Santiago, winning
his second award, this time as Best Director from the Citizen's Council for
Mass Media. This action drama starred Fernando Poe, Jr. (FAMAS nomination for
Best Actor), Hilda Koronel (Best Supporting Actress), and others in a
Brocka's other movies for Lea Productions included: Tubog sa Ginto
(1971), which was controversial for its homosexual theme; Lumuha Pati Mga
Anghel (1971), and Stardoom (1971).
Stardoom, a dark, tragic
view of movie showbiz, garnered FAMAS nominations for Lolita Rodriguez
(Best Actress) and Caridad Sanchez (Best
Supporting Actress). The cast included Walter Navarro, Hilda Koronel, Mario
O'Hara, Eddie Garcia and several other seasoned actors.
His early works appealed to mass audiences and made money, endearing
Brocka to producers of the movie industry. But after nine movies with Lea
Productions he became disgruntled with commercialism and fell silent in the
first two years of Ferdinand Marcos's martial law regime.
CineManila's Short Happy Life (1974-1976). Brocka set up his independent
outfit, CineManila, and began to make films after his own heart. His landmark
movie, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974),
an indictment of religious prejudice against social outcasts in a local village,
won six FAMAS awards and two nominations, including Best Picture and Best
Director; Best Actor (for Brocka's protégé Christopher de Leon) and Best
Actress (Lolita Rodriguez as the madwoman Kuala). Brocka wrote the
screenplay together with actor-director Mario O'Hara, who played a leper in the
Positive reviews by local and foreign critics continued with two more
masterpieces in tragic drama: Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975) and
Maynila, topbilled by another
Brocka protégé, Bembol Roco, portrayed a young probinsyano's search for his
sweetheart Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel) in the violence-ridden city. For his
role as a tragic hero, Bembol bagged the FAMAS Best Actor award. Equally
respected director Mike de Leon did the exquisite cinematography.
Insiang, a story of rape and
revenge set in Manila's Tondo slums, starred Hilda Koronel in the title role, for
which she earned a FAMAS nomination as Best Actress. Mona Lisa won as Best
Supporting Actress. The film also reaped several nominations from the Gawad
Urian. This was the first of Brocka's films to be shown and acclaimed at the prestigious
Cannes Film Festival in France.
The two films did not make money in
the box office. Critics said the themes were too dark and profound for the
masses. CineManila went bankrupt in 1976.
That downfall apparently forced Brocka to make a 180-degree turn away from
his aesthetics and political beliefs. During the next two years he made four
movies for Lotus Films with the lead star in mind: Tahan na Empoy, Tahan
(1977) starring child wonder Niño Muhlach and Snooky Serna; Inay (1977)
which tried to re-launch the 50's star Alicia Vergel; Ang Tatay Kong Nanay
(1978), topbilled by Comedy King Dolphy with Niño Muhlach; and Mananayaw
(1978) with then-sexpot Chanda Romero.
More Ups and Downs (1978-1985). This was a time of frenzied activity
for Direk Lino. He made almost 30 films that reflected his non-conformist
nature. Critics described these films in varying degrees—from dull to compelling,
incongruous to brilliant. Their uncertainty and slackness were attributed to
his personal problems, including financial troubles and his highly selective attitude
in accepting or rejecting projects.
The 80's were also the years that Brocka's fellow travelers in the Concerned
Artists of the Philippines (CAP) would remember him as a frontline marcher in
protests against Ninoy Aquino's
assassination, dictatorship and the suppression of freedom of speech. He even
landed in jail for his political convictions.
Hayop Sa Hayop (1978) and Init (1979) were considered
commercial projects that did not sit well with the standards of film critics. But
Ina Ka ng Anak Mo
(1979) was significant for tackling the issue of prostitution.
For Jaguar (1979) and Bayan
Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1985) the critics were all praises. Phillip
Salvador was the security guard whose loyalty to his master and dream to rise
above his lowly status were bitterly betrayed in the end. Jaguar also starred Amy Austria and Johnny Delgado, with screenplay
written by Jose F. Lacaba and Ricardo Lee. It won the FAMAS Best Picture award
and was chosen by the Manunuri as one of the best films of the 70's. It was
shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980.
Kapit sa Patalim (Phillip
Salvador, Gina Alajar; screenplay by Jose F. Lacaba) was a tragic drama on the
plight of a printing press worker forced to turn scab during a strike for the
sake of his ailing wife, earning the ire of his fellow workers. Aside from
other laurels, the film won Best Picture from FAMAS and the British Film
Institute. The Manunuri chose this as one of the best in the 80's.
The director worked with Superstar Nora Aunor in Bona (1980). This film and Jaguar
were screened at the Cannes Film Festival Director's Fortnight and Main Competition.
Miguelito, ang Batang Rebelde (1985) was the first film that Brocka
directed after his release from prison. It combined drama and political
commentary, pitting a mother (Nida Blanca) who had an estranged son (Aga
Muhlach) and who was unjustly imprisoned for a crime she did not commit,
against a powerful politician (Eddie Garcia). Nida Blanca won the Best Actress
trophies of FAMAS and Gawad Urian.
Brocka Undefeated (1987-1991). Brocka hit the right formula for combining
the elements of a commercial film with his artistic and political vison. Most
of his films during this period were produced by Viva Films.
Mario Hernando chose five from this period as Brocka's best works: the
sex-drama Macho Dancer (1989), which once again depicted Brocka's take
on gay issues; Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita (1989), Gumapang
Ka Sa Lusak (1990), Hahamakin Lahat (1990), and Sa Kabila ng
In Babangon Ako't Dudurugin Kita (1989), Brocka pitted his protégés— Christopher de Leon, Hilda
Koronel and Bembol Roco—against Viva's prized star Sharon Cuneta. Gumapang
Ka sa Lusak (1990) had a stellar cast composed of Dina Bonnevie, Eddie
Garcia, and Charo Santos.
Brocka did Hahamakin Lahat (1990) for Regal Films. This was his
third movie with Vilma Santos. The role called for Vilma to be dark, daring
and innovative, a complete deviation from
characters usually portrayed by the sweet-faced Star for All Seasons. 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
Sa Kabila ng Lahat (1991) was the last film he did that brought
together Dina Bonnevie, Ronaldo Valdez, Nannette Medved, William Lorenzo,
Celeste Legaspi, and Tonton Gutierrez.
Among the critic's chosen five, it was Macho Dancer that fared
poorly 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, a complex canvas of continuing oppression, political violence and
injustice in Philippine society. It was based on actual events, like the end of
martial law, but the characters were fictionalized. It was banned from showing
in the country. Written by Jose F. Lacaba, the hefty cast was led by Phillip
Salvador, Gina Alajar, Dina Bonnevie, and Bembol Roco.
The depth and greatness of Lino Brocka's greatest works are incomparable.
They had the power to stir up various responses from the audience: to be
emotional, to be critical, to be dumbfounded. More than box-office value, his
best films probed the conflicts of doomed characters and exposed dark social
realities, leaving moviegoers to think and decide actions on their own.
For more on Lino Brocka see:
Mario Hernando, "Lino Brocka:
Director in Control—Blending
Popular Entertainment, Realism and Social Comment," and excerpt, "Lino
Brocka: The Artist and His Times" (1993), www.affirmation.org Link to Lino Brocka LDSFilm.com
Lino Brocka's life and filmography http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Interview