IN MEMORIAM: Danny Zialcita— the man behind numerous box-office films but never received a Best Director trophy

IMAGE courtesy of Cinema One

Pumanaw si Danny Zialcita noong March 10 sa edad na 73. Nakilala siya sa mga pelikulang tumalakay sa problema ng mga alta-sosyedad.


At first, writing about Danny L. Zialcita, na hindi ko kilala at nakita man lang sa personal, was rather a difficult task.

I had only read about him in magazines and newspapers, and had seen him on the Internet and television.

But I had watched many of his movies, which he wrote, produced and directed.

On second thought, maybe I could write something about him after all, from a fan’s point of view.

Yes, I am a big fan of Danny Zialcita.

I started following his career after watching Ikaw…. at ang Gabi—which was nominated for Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Story in 1980 Gawad Urian—in a second-run theater in Obando, Bulacan. I was just 10 years old then, I think.

That experience turned me into a film enthusiast even if the movie tackled extramarital affairs or infidelity. Somehow, the witty lines delivered by great actors had me glued to the screen.

From what I gathered, Danny grew up in privileged society, which explains why most of his films projected affluence. There were choppers, luxury cars, horses, chandeliers, paintings, antiques, and househelp in uniform.

Ang isang eksena ay nagmimistulang isang portrait pag pinanood mo na sa sine.

According to actors who had the chance to work with him, they weren’t given the usual script to work on, but rather, they just had the story lines which were subject to change without prior notice.

Because the dialogues were organic most of the time, they just grew naturally. Kaya nga sabi ng isang actor na madalas niyang makatrabaho ay bawal daw ang mga bobong artista sa pelikula niya. Hindi raw puwede yung mga kabisote at baka "nganga" ang abutin nila.

Siya ang direktor ng pelikulang Dear Heart, na pelikula ni Sharon Cuneta with Gabby Concepcion.

Wala pang napapatunayan noon ang Megastar sa larangan ng pelikula maliban sa pagkakaroon ng sikat na awitin, ang "Mr. DJ."

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Pero dahil sa pagkakahabi ng kuwento at pagkakaroon ng pulso kung ano ang click sa moviegoers, it became a huge hit, and Sharon rose to megastardom.

Dito rin nauso yung Taglish na linya, complete with the colegiala twang, gaya ng “may I tusok-tusok the fishball.”

He gave Janice de Belen her first mature starring role in Bakit Manipis Ang Ulap, which was also a box-office success.

In all the movies he made, we saw familiar faces. Among the actors and actresses who became Zialcita regulars were Dindo Fernando, Eddie Garcia, Ronaldo Valdez, Gloria Diaz, Beth Bautista, Chanda Romero, Janice de Belen, Mark Gil, Suzanne Gonzales, Lyka Ugarte, Liza Lorena, Johnny Vicar, Tommy Abuel, Odette Khan, and Johnny Wilson.

Danny never had any issue regarding homosexuality. He was a straight man, married, and with children. He was actually rumored to be a ladies’ man.

But he was able to do gay-themed films, like Si Malakas, si Maganda at si Mahinhin, Mahinhin vs. Mahinhin, T-Bird at Ako, Lalakwe. Even in his other movies, there were some homosexual undertones o di kaya ay may mga supporting characters na lantad ang pagiging homosexual.

“Glossy film” was coined during the early emergence of VIVA Films and, at the same time, Danny was then at the height of his career.

His movies were both artistically and commercially successful.

During the early '80s, he made nine hits in a row, starting with Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan.

Nagugustuhan ng mga manonood ang mga pelikula niya kahit pa hindi mga box-office stars ang bida rito, tulad ng Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi.

Pero kailanman ay hindi siya nanalo ng Best Director award sa alinmang award-giving body. Bagamat ilang beses siyang na-nominate, hindi siya nakapag-uwi ng award bilang pagkilala sa pagiging mahusay niyang director.

Nonetheless, as a writer, he won Best Story award for Langis at Tubig in the Metro Manila Film Festival and Best Screenplay in FAMAS for Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan. In 2009, he was given a special honorary award by movie channel Cinema One during the Cinema One Originals Film Festival.

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His body of works covered a wide variety of genres. He made some skin flicks during bomba days. He also directed several action movies like Palos. Pero ang pinaka-tumatak sa publiko ay ang mga obra niyang maituturing, in hindsight, bilang melodrama movies with a class of its own. Nag-iisa siya sa ganoong kategorya.

We watch movies for several reasons, but ultimately, it's because we want to be entertained. That was the effect of Danny's movies on me. Habang pinapanood ko ang pelikulang gawa niya ay mapapaisip ka na sana kahit marami kang pinagdaraanang problema sa buhay ay sana ganoon din kaganda ang setting o location at sana ganoon din ang batuhan ng salita sa totoong buhay. Nakakaaliw and at the same time tumatagos sa puso at isipan.

Bawat pelikula na ginawa niya ay obra kung maituturing, hindi man nabigyan ng karampatang pagkilala mula sa mga institusyong naggagawad ng parangal sa mahuhusay na pelikula.

Pero mas higit pa rito ang natamo niyang tagumpay.

Walang katumbas na tropeyo na gawa sa pilak, salamin, kahoy o tanso ang naiambag ni Danny sa industriya ng pelikulang Pilipino. Pero ang pagkilala ay mula sa mga taong pumila, natuwa, at nangarap kahit sa maikling oras lang upang takasan ang realidad.

His legacy lives on.

Unti-unti na namang bumabalik ang glossy movies with catchy lines sa pelikulang Pilipino na nagiging bukambibig ng mga karaniwang tao. Para sa akin, hango sila sa Zialcita-influenced movie phase. At para rin sa akin, nobody does it better than him.

As a fan, I would always remember Danny Zialcita as a director, producer, writer, starbuilder, and consummate artist.


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