Considered the youngest of the Philippine arts, film has steadily evolved to become the most popular of all art forms in the country. Only introduced in 1897, Philippine movies have ranged from talkies to silent movies and color to black and white. Outpacing its predecessors by gaining wide public acceptance from one part of the country to another, viewers come from all corners of the country.
Nationwide, there are more than 1000 theaters that cater to movie enthusiasts. In the early 1980s, there were around 2.4 million moviegoers in Metro Manila alone. As an art form, Tagalog movies often reflect the beliefs and culture of the people in the Philippines.
The formative years of Pinoy movies started in the early 1930s. It was the time of discovering film as a unique and new medium of art. Characterizations and scripts in these films often came from familiar local literature and popular theater.
Aside from that, nationalistic films were very popular at that time even though the American authorities labeled them as being too subversive. Despite Hollywood movies that presented fierce competition for local audiences, the Filipino film industry flourished and survived. When the 1930’s ended, the industry was well established, and local movies steadily acquired a huge number of followers.
War and the First Golden Age
The 1940s and World War Two brought the consciousness of reality to Filipino cinema. Movie themes that consisted primarily of heroism and war proved to be very popular at that time among local audiences. The 1950s saw Philippine cinema’s first golden age with the emergence of more mature and artistic films.
Aside from that, significant improvements in cinematic techniques were noted. The studio systems were very active at this time producing many films every year. The Golden Age of Philippine Cinema was also felt abroad as local talent started to earn recognition.
Award-giving bodies were instituted in this period. It was also during this time when Filipino filmmakers started creating full-length Pinoy movies in color even though there were some technical deficiencies. When the 1950s were drawing to a close, the monopoly of movies came under siege due to labor-management conflicts
A Steady Decline
In the 1960s, the artistry that was firmly established in Philippine cinema’s golden generation was already on a steady decline as a result of this conflict. This era can also be characterized by fan movies, action flicks, soft porn films, western spin-offs and rampant commercialism.
The 1980s and 1970s were turbulent years as the Philippine movie industry saw both negative and positive changes. The films in this era focused on more serious topics after martial law was implemented in the Philippines. These years also heralded the arrival of independent or alternative film in the country.
A Short Renaissance
The 1990s saw the popularity of teen-oriented romantic movies, anatomy-baring adult films as well as massacre movies even though slapsticks still amassed a huge audience. It was also during this period that the genres of previous decades were recycled with almost the same love themes and stories that had been popular in the past.
The Philippines remains undisputed in terms of theater admissions in the Southeast Asia region. However, it has seen a steady decline in viewership from 131 million people in 1996 to only 63 million in 2004. The industry was also down in the number of films that it makes.
In the 1980s, producers were making 200 films every year. In 2006, only 56 films were made. This number decreased in 2007 to only 30 films. Although it has underwent some turbulent times, the 21st century saw the rebirth of Philippine independent film making through the use of digital technology.
Due to this, a number of Tagalog movies online and in cinemas have once again obtained international prestige and recognition. The 2010s also marked a return to Philippine cinema’s commercial success. In 2011 alone, three films became the highest grossing Philippine films of all time.
Famous Filipino Movies
For many years, Philippine cinema was famous for its masterpieces both at home and abroad. The quality of acting can sometimes rival that of Hollywood while Filipino filmmakers were famous for their craftsmanship and creating films that audiences can relate to. There are several famous Filipino movies that have influenced the industry as a whole and how it was seen by audiences.
· Tatlong Tatlong Walang Diyos
Directed by Mario O’ Hara in 1976, this movie was about a woman played by Nora Aunor who is struggling to survive three gruesome years of Japanese occupation during the Second World War. O’Hara’s intimate epic is a rare non-Japanese film that shows these people in a more sympathetic light.
Nora Aunor also gives perhaps the finest performance ever made by a Filipina actress. The film is perhaps one of the greatest movies in Philippine cinema in terms of ambition and dramatic and emotional impact.
· El Filibusterismo
Jose Rizal’s gothic masterpiece was magnificently adapted by one of Filipino cinema’s finest filmmakers in the form of Gerardo De Leon. Along with the towering performance of Pancho Magalona as the brooding and dark Simoun, it pushes the novel’s political and social details into the background while bringing the character’s humanity to the forefront.
Magalona’s Simoun is not just a symbol of social revolution and dissatisfaction but an individual who is haunted by the tragedy of their former life. The characters minds’ often wavers sometimes in a breathtaking fashion between a sense of horror of what they have become and a determination to execute their plans for bloody revenge.
· Manila by Night
Ishmael Bernal’s masterpiece is perhaps not as famous as Lino Brocka’s film, Maynila, but it provides the viewer with a more sophisticated narrative and broader canvas. The Manila in this film is more attractive and cleaner than it is today. What makes it gripping is that it shows the people’s viciousness and their willingness to claw at each other and sometimes themselves.
Many Filipino film experts believe that Insiang has the most perfect screenplay ever written about a young woman, her mother and the guy who comes between them. It was considered Lino Brocka’s Othello, his unique compact masterpiece. The film portrays hate and lust set amidst Tondo’s huge mountains of smoking garbage and was captured magnificently by the cameras of a great Filipino cinematographer Conrado Baltazar.
· Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang
Lino Brocka’s rare attempt at a large-scale tapestry combines Jose Rizal’s social satiric novel Noli Me Tangere and the American drama the Last Picture Show. The film is about a young man who grew up to pass judgement on his hometown is not as interesting as the love that develops between the community’s two outcasts.
Recent Pinoy blockbusters
Although the classic movies cast a spell on viewers, there are a number of movies that were recently made that have garnered a lot of popularity. This shows that Filipino filmmakers can adapt to the changing times and taste of viewers both in the Philippines and abroad.
One of the most recent Filipino blockbusters is It Takes a Man and a Woman. This is a romantic drama comedy film that involves the lives of Miggy Montenegro portrayed by John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo as Laida Magtalas after a breakup that occurred after the second film.
Miggy is now in a relationship with Belle played by Isabelled Daza while Laida is now a much fiercer woman after living in the U.S. They work with one another in the same company as Laida tries to hinder Miggy’s business decisions through a wide range of events that make them realize the true definition of real love.
Another recent Filipino blockbuster is On the Job. This is a Filipino crime thriller that was inspired by a real-life scandal where prison inmates were temporarily set free in order to work as a contract killers on behalf of high ranking military officials and politicians.
Kung Fu Divas is another recent Filipino blockbuster that is shown on websites that feature Pinoy movies. It is an intriguing movie that mixes character drama, broad humor and Kung Fu Adventure. Even though the movie is far from perfect, the high level of commitment displayed on film takes on defining an individual’s identity and puts it one step higher than the typical local mainstream movie.
Raketeros is also another recent Filipino blockbuster. The movie shares the misadventures and adventures of a group of middle-aged men. The five are tasked to deliver a gown to their rich friend’s home. However, a number of hilarious events put them and their task in real jeopardy.
The Success of the Filipino Movie Industry
The Filipino movie industry has been a great success for many decades due to the release of recent blockbusters that were quite popular among the masses. However, some people presently consider the industry to be in a state of decline. This is due to the huge decrease in the number of films that are created every year.
Aside from that, the industry is also dogged with piracy. With the gains made by the Internet and the rising popularity of television, piracy has worsened. The result has often been terrible for job creation, revenue generation, promotion of culture and tourism and recognizing local talents.
Even with recent setbacks, the film industry still promises more. A populace with an inexhaustible love to watch movies is the main hope for the industry. At the same time, the number of films that were produced locally rose to 34 percent in 2011 from a meager 24 percent in 2005. In addition, there are more independently produced local movies that have entered the market. This figure rose from only 11 in 2006 to 45 in 2010. The success also spilled over to the revenue department.
Recent statistics have shown that local movies have out-earned their foreign counterparts. Twenty-three local movies have earn a total of 1.5 billion pesos in 2011 while averaging 67.3 million in revenues according to findings made by Box Office Mojo.