Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CNN Interviews NORA AUNOR With Ricky Lee & Charo Santos-Concio

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Open Forum With Ricky Lee & Bibsy Carballo

Friday, December 05, 2008

UP Film Institute Screens Sa Likod ng Himala

The UP Film Institute (UPFI), in cooperation with the International Circle of Online Noranians (ICON), will hold free screenings of Sa Likod ng Himala, a movie-in-the-making documentary on Ishmael Bernal’s masterpiece Himala (ECP, 1982), fittingly at the UPFI Bernal Gallery on December 16, 2008 (Tuesday), starting at 7 pm. In Super 8mm format, this 20-minute documentary was made by the in-house staff of the former UP Film Center (now expanded into the UP Film Institute). It features rare footage, among others, of Bernal in action during the filming of the movie’s momentous stampede scene. The UPFI has preserved the original 26-year-old reel of the film in its archives in almost pristine state—a miracle of sorts. This one-night-only event is meant to honor the film Himala, starring Superstar Nora Aunor and penned by Ricky Lee, for winning the CNN APSA Viewers’ Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of All Time, presented recently at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Screen Awards held in Queensland, Australia. This special tribute, a special year-ender for the UPFI, has been planned even before Himala got the CNN APSA award. "The fact that this Bernal film has been shortlisted with the works of world cinema masters like Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Wong Kar-wai, and Ang Lee," said UPFI Programming Director Nonoy Lauzon, "is a great feat by itself." Described by critic Alfred Yuson as "definitely world class," Himala holds the distinction of opening the 2nd Manila International Film Festival in 1983. It was handpicked by Berlin festival director Moritz de Hadeln, no less, to be part of the competition film selection of Berlin International Film Festival in the same year, the first and only Filipino film so far that competed for the Golden Bear. It then went on to be screened in key Russian cities—Moscow, Kiev, and Alma-ata—before it went to the Chicago International Film Festival where it won the Bronze Hugo Award for Best Feature Film. Himala has remained as one of National Artist Ishmael Bernal’s most exhibited films in both local and international film events. From the ’80s to the current decade, it has been shown in world’s key cities such as Taipei, Bangkok, Tokyo, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Vienna, and New York. In 2007, Himala was included in the programs of Berlin Hot Shots Film Festival and Paris Film Festival. The Bernal Gallery on the same day will showcase a mini Himala exhibit, organized by the International Circle of Online Noranians. The group will also conduct a short program honoring the film and some of the people behind it. In between screenings of the documentary, ICON will also hold activities such as film discussion and forum with distinguished guests.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Winners in the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, the region’s highest accolade in film in 2008, were announced tonight at a special ceremony on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. More than 700 film industry luminaries from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the United States attended the ceremony.

Thirty two (32) films representing 17 countries were finalists in the Awards, with winners coming from Kazakhstan, Israel, Republic of Korea, Australia, Turkey, Islamic Republic of Iran, People’s Republic of China and India received Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

The Awards were determined by an International Jury headed by Academy Award nominated Australian Director Bruce Beresford.

The Best Feature Film award was won by TULPAN (Kazakhstan/Russian Federation/ Switzerland/Poland/Germany). The Award was accepted by Producer, Karl Baumgartner. Karl Baumgartner shares the Award with fellow Producers Valerie Fischer, Gulnara Sarsenova, Sergey Selyanov, Henryk Romanowski, Sergey Melkumov, Bulat Galimgereyev, Elena Yatsura, Thanassis Karathanos and Raimond Goebel.

Best Animated Feature Film was won by VALS IM BASHIR (WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Israel/France/Germany). Producer Yael Nahlieliaccepted the Award. Yael Nahlielishares the Award with fellowproducers Ari Folman, Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul.

Best Documentary Feature Film wasGGEUTNAJI ANHMEUN JEON JAENG (63 YEARS ON, Republic of Korea). The Award was accepted by Producer/Director Kim Dong-won, who shares the Award with Producer Lee SeungGu.

Best Children’s Feature Film was THE BLACK BALLOON (Australia). The Award was accepted by Producer Tristram Miall and Director/Writer/Co-Producer Elissa Down. They share the Award with Co-Producers Sally Ayre-Smith, Jimmy The Exploder and Mark Turnbull.

Achievement in Directing was awarded to Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan for UC MAYMUN (THREE MONKEYS, Turkey/France/Italy).

The Best Screenplay Award was presented to Suha Arraf for ETZ HALIMON (LEMON TREE, Israel/France/Germany). She shares the Award with Writer Eran Riklis, who also directed the film.

The Achievement in Cinematography was awarded to Korean Lee Mogae for JOHEUNNOM NABBEUNNOM ISANGHANNOM (THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, Republic of Korea).

Israeli actress Hiam Abbass received the Best Performance by an Actress Award for her performance in ETZ HALIMON (LEMON TREE, Israel/France/Germany).

Iranian actor Reza Naji was on the Gold Coast to accept his award for Best Performance by an Actor for his performance in Majid Majidi’s AVAZE GONJESHK-HA (THE SONG OF SPARROWS, Islamic Republic of Iran).

Four additional major Awards were announced for outstanding achievement.

Yash Chopra, founder of Yashraj Films and a legend of the Indian film industry, has been awarded the FIAPF Award for outstanding achievement in film in the Asia-Pacific region. The Award is determined by FIAPF - International Federation of Film Producers Associations, and was announced by Andrés Vincente Gomez, President of FIAPF, who travelled from Madrid to be at the ceremony.

The UNESCO Award for outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film was decided by the International Jury and awarded to the Iranian documentary feature film TINAR (Islamic Republic of Iran), produced and directed by Mahdi Moniri. The Jury noted that the film was a rich evocation of rural life in the mountainous regions of Iran.

The Jury Grand Prize is presented at the discretion of the Jury. In 2008, the International Jury has decided to present two Jury Grand Prizes – to HONGSE KANGBAIYIN (THE RED AWN, People’s Republic of China); Directed by Cai Shangjun; and to THE PRISONER (India), Produced and Directed by Pryas Gupta and starring Best Actor nominee Rajat Kapoor.

Bruce Beresford, President of the 2008 APSA International Jury, said that: "I was very impressed by the quality and originality of the films – all of them – and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being around so many extraordinarily talented filmmakers."

Asia Pacific Screen Awards Chairman Des Power thanked Bruce Beresford and his Jury colleagues, renowned Indian Director and Actress Aparna Sen, US Producer Richard Luke Rothschild (whose production credits include Tender Mercies and The Truman Show),Chinese Director and Professor of the Beijing Film Academy Zheng Dongtian, and Hanna Lee, Producer of the 2007 APSA Best Feature Film, the internationally-acclaimed Miryang (Secret Sunshine), from the Republic of Korea.

Chairman of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards said: "The Asia-Pacific region is the emerging giant of cinema. The quality and depth of story-telling amazed not only our jury this year but is certain to attract more audience at the global level. There is a growing fascination and respect for films from this diverse region. It is a tribute to the filmmakers that they now have a globally recognised award and the broadcast reach of CNN International to promote their work."

The CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time, voted for by thousands of film fans around the world, at, went to HIMALA, Ishmael Bernal's 1982 work from The Philippines.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


LONDON, England (CNN) -- Asia: Spread over one third of the world's surface, it is home to something like four billion people in 70 countries. It also produces half of the world's film.

Bollywood, India's film industry, alone produces around 1,000 films each year -- almost two times as many as Hollywood.

This vast continent doesn't just come out on top when it comes to output, it has also sired many influential directors, actors and film-genres.

Ang Lee's 2000 homage to Chinese fantasy martial arts genre, Wuxia, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and Japan's unique take on horror, typified by films like Takashi Shimizu's "Ju-on: The Grudge" are just two examples of Asia's recent contribution to world film culture.

We have included films by Japan's Akira Kurosawa, China's Wong Kar-Wai and India's Mehboob Khan in our provisional list of the best of Asian cinema but we want to hear from Web site users. What are your favorites? Have we missed one? Perhaps you don't agree with our choices.

'In the Mood for Love' ('Fa yeung nin wa') Hong Kong/China(Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) Wong was heavily influenced by Hitchcock's psychological thriller "Vertigo" during the making of this poetic, exquisitely shot meditation on love and loss starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

'Mother India' ('Bharat Mata') India(Mehboob Khan, 1957)One of the sub-continent's first ever blockbusters, it is also known as India's "Gone with the Wind." Acting legend Nargis plays a woman who must raise her children single-handedly after her husband is maimed in an accident, and becomes the catalyst for her fellow villagers to fight for their land. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 1957 Academy Awards -- India's first ever Oscar nomination.

'The Host' ('Gwoemul') South Korea(Bong Joon-ho, 2006)Arguably one of the greatest monster films ever made; a staggering 20 percent of the population of South Korea have watched this film. It is based on the true story of a U.S. military employee ordered to dump formaldehyde into the sewer system that leads to Seoul's Han River. Six years later a giant mutant squid starts attacking people (this part is made up).

'Syndromes and a Century' ('Sang sattawat') Thailand (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006) One of seven films commissioned by the New Crowned Hope Festival, part of Vienna's Mozart Year in 2006. Set in two hospitals, Weerasthakul reflects on the lives and memories of his medic parents using an experimental, anti-narrative style (a series of images, soft spoken dialogue and music) which was chosen by the hugely influential French film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinema as one of the 10 best pictures of 2007.

'Whale Rider' New Zealand(Niki Caro, 2002)At just 12 years-old star, Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her extraordinary performance as "Pai," a first-born female in the patriarchal Whangara tribe who believes she is destined to be the new Chief.

'Still Life' ('Sanxia haoren') China(Zhang Ke Jia, 2006) Awarded a Golden Lion at Venice in 2006, this wide-sweeping film is based on the human tragedy of the Three Gorges Dam (more than one million people have been displaced) which stretches across the Yangtze River. The story focuses on a miner who travels back to his home town looking for his wife only to find that his former home is now submerged. The film illustrates the gulf between China's new world order and the soon-to-be-forgotten culture of the past.

'Shower' ('Xizao') China(Yang Zhang, 1999) The richly humorous and touching story of Shenzhen businessman, Da Ming who returns home to Beijing where his father runs the local bathhouse, only to be caught between two cultures -- the decaying district of his childhood and the booming South where he now lives with a wife who has never met his family. When he realizes his father's health is failing, he must take stock.

'Shall we dansu?' Japan(Masayuki Suo, 1998)Successful but unhappy accountant, Shohei Sugiyama spots a beautiful woman in a dance studio window. Despite his wife and child, he secretly signs up for dance lessons hoping to get closer to her. Slowly he begins to fall in love with the art form itself. A 2004 Hollywood remake starred Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere.

'The Ballad of Narayama' ('Narayama bushiko') Japan(Keisuke Kinoshita,1958) In a remote 19th century village, food is so scarce that when the elderly reach 70 years old they must climb frozen Mount Narayama to die so their families won't have to feed them. Kinoshita's film is profane and shocking at times. Throughout the film, images of couples having sex are interspersed with scenes of animals and insects mating. The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984.

'Infernal Affairs' ('Mou gaan dou') Hong Kong/China(Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Alan Mak Siu-Fai, 2002) Hong Kong cop thriller following the parallel lives of an undercover officer who infiltrates a Triad gang and policeman who secretly reports to a ruthless gang boss. "Infernal Affairs" breaks the mould of much of contemporary Hong Kong cinema by steering clear of over-the-top-action in favor of a slow-burning build up of psychological tension. Engrossing.

'Mandala' South Korea(Kwon-Taek Im, 1981) In the film that is considered to be his breakthrough as a cinematic artist, Im follows the lives and interactions of two Buddhist monks in Korea and takes a contemplative look at the nature of individualism, religious belief and enlightenment.

'To Live' ('Huozhe') China(Zhang Yimou, 1994) Much lauded but banned in Mainland China because of its satirical portrayal of the Communist government, this epic, sumptuous film traces the personal fortunes of Fugui and Jiazhen as they fall from wealthy landownership to peasantry over 30 turbulent years.

'When the Tenth Month Comes' ('Bao gio cho den thang muoi') Vietnam(Dang Nhat Minh, 1984)A vivid portrayal from the point of view of a young Vietnamese widow of the legacy of the Vietnam war. It was released internationally under the name "The Love Doesn't Come Back."

'Himala' Philippines(Ishmael Bernal, 1982)Young Elsa thinks she has seen the Virgin Mary and goes on a healing crusade -- just the miracle the nowhere town she lives in is looking for. The film's austere camera work, haunting score and accomplished performances sensitively portray the harsh social and cultural conditions that people in the third world endure.

'A Touch of Zen' ('Xia nu') Hong Kong/Taiwan(King Hu, 1969) In this spiritual kung fu movie, a young artist finds himself caught up in the struggle to help a beautiful young woman escape the Imperial agents who murdered her family. A classic of the martial arts fantasy genre, it was the first Chinese film to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also a massive influence on Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."

'Ikiru' Japan(Akira Kurosawa, 1952) In this profoundly moralistic fable, longtime salaryman Kanji Watanabe, learns he has terminal cancer and, ultimately, through the experiences he has, the meaning of life. Takashi Shimura who played Watanabe was nominated in the Best Foreign Actor category at the 1960 BAFTA Awards.

'Utu' New Zealand(Geoff Murphy, 1983) Loosely based on the events of Te Kooti's War in the 1870s, it tells the tale of Maori tribesman Te Wheke who is serving in the British army. He is prompted to seek vengeance when he returns home to find his village and family destroyed in a senseless raid by the British.

'Gabbeh' Iran(Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996) An elderly nomad couple are cleaning their beautiful carpet or "gabbeh" when a young woman suddenly emerges to tell the history of her clan through the carpet. Beautifully filmed and the winner of numerous awards.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

SUPERSTAR Triumphant

The year was 1978. Tension filled the CCP during the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night where the country's Top Superstars were vying for the Best Performer Award. Nora Aunor was nominated for her work in Eddie Garcia's Atsay while rival Vilma Santos has been predicted to win that night for her portrayal of rape victim Rubia Servios directed by multi-awarded filmmaker Lino Brocka. The Superstar reigned triumphant by winning the much coveted acting award in the history of the MMFF. Unforgettable was her acceptance speech where she uttered the words Mamay, mali ang hula nila! Everyone watched in awe as the Superstar proved once again that she can rise above the media circus that surrounded the most controversial awards night in the history of Philippine Cinema. Atsay was named Best Picture with Eddie Garcia bagging the Best Director Award. Jack & Jill Of The Third Kind, her team-up with Comedy King Dolphy was the highest grossing film of the festival.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

WALANG HIMALA (Elsa's Word Remix)

An interesting music video created by DJ Dense Modesto featuring film clips from the Ishmael Bernal classic starring the Superstar.

Walang Himala

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Playing House

Is Dalaga si Misis Binata si Mister a complete failure? Not at all. I don’t think masters such as Brocka are ever capable of making anything that is a complete ham, but maybe this is a reflection of the leeway given to Brocka as per his role as the most influential filmmaker in the Philippines, and it may be proven wrong by simply pointing out that I have not seen all, not even most, of Brocka’s pictures. However, even if the technical reality of a certain film project makes it impossible for a movie to be a success, the qualities that define an auteur could nevertheless be taken into account and be used to interpret the movie beyond its technical failures.

In this movie however, it is the other way around: the technical gloss masks Brocka’s perpetual preoccupation with class and social transgression to deliver an entertaining vehicle for Nora Aunor and Christopher De Leon and nothing more. And the movie is entertaining: as a comedy, both actors play the traditional (stereotypical?) battle of the sexes scenario to a hilt, and do not fail to give a sense of dignity in their roles despite the need to make it funny in a conventional and inoffensive manner. In addition, the lengthy opening sequence and the number of scenes here and there within the movie displays Aunor’s singing, a diversion the inclusion of which to the narrative will be discussed later on.

But as portrait of domestic dysfunction, this is a second-rate attempt by Brocka to do something in which Bernal specializes. Not just marital discord, but rather in dramatizing social, political, and emotional distress as revealed through the breakdown of the family, the base of the Filipino’s (mythical) sense of self. In Bernal’s films however, the use of marriage as social metaphor is taken further by never really focusing on the destruction of the heterosexual relationship (unlike Brocka, queer reality was never a concern for Bernal, who I guess found enough solidarity in the equally marginalized image of the woman and also found that focusing on the relationship between a man and a woman to be more bankable), but rather on the ravages this destruction wreaks on the woman, both bearer and protector of patriarchal values and the primary victim of it. Bernal’s female image is Vilma Santos, whose (despite being known for her histrionics) use of a brand of subtle acting (one of small flutters of mannerisms that would fit well in a John Cassavetes flick) made the damage less ideological and more personal, and thus more devastating.

Aunor on the other hand isn’t meant for such a role. Whereas Santos specializes in personifying internalized and normalized social mores and the damages done thereof, Aunor’s image isn’t as "everyday woman." Her very being is one of defiance: short, dark, and very strong eyes, Aunor cannot do "damaged woman" because of the passivity it implies in part of the woman. Although Santos’ characters, although suffering the havoc of patriarchy, never becomes a mere victim, Aunor’s image already assumes liberation, one whose defiance is not a product of oppression but of the character’s innate rebellion (ironically, since she is always portrayed as being more "traditional"). Even in a movie such as Brocka’s Nakaw na Pag-Ibig ("Stolen Love," 1980), where Aunor played the role of a poor woman whose lover’s class envy caused him to leave her for a richer woman, Aunor’s oppressed wife never seems so "oppressed." Even if her lover left her, her small efforts to win him back still betrays a sense of dignity, of a woman who wasn’t going to take anything lying down in the first place. (Which also made her character’s demise a little predictable, but not in a bad way.)

In the case of Dalaga si Misis Binata si Mister, this image of liberation translated into irresponsibility. The notion of "play" that is associated with love, sex, and youth that Bernal complicated in Dalawang Pugad Isang Ibon ("A bird and two nests," 1977) in here is literally just play: when Aunor tells de Leon that they need to separate so they can be singles again without having to think of each other, it literally sounded as just that. There is no sense of a complicated relationship one has to marriage (freedom vs. companionship; the freedom in companionship and the oppression of loneliness). When Aunor gives de Leon the limitations on his "visits," there’s no sense of a woman in control. Rather, it sounds like a couple of kids just messing around. Mind you, "a couple of kids messing around" itself could mean a million of things, as we’ve seen in Peter Pan (PJ Hogan, 2003). But in this case, Brocka never decides to treat play as anything more than messing around (as opposed to "messing around").

De Leon’s character could have been one of those pathetic yet pitiable male characters who, despite their execrable behavior (Dado in Insiang), were forgivable for their destructive imperfection. Or, even if we’re not willing to go that far (Dado we should remember was a rapist who fucked the mother to get to the daughter, de Leon a mere boy who couldn't keep his pants on), he could have been like Jay Ilagan’s character in Maging Akin Ka Lamang (1987), pitifully bound to his lust for a woman (in De Leon’s case, women). But played for pure comedy, De Leon was a buffoon. The sleeping around, the regretting it, the sleeping around some more…it was a little tiring.

The one narrative strand that I thought Brocka could have exploited well was the one that opened the movie: Nora Aunor as character-actress. Mid-way through the movie, we see De Leon spying on Nora through a telescope from across the street. Later we find that De Leon’s new girlfriend who was a model at his advertising agency. The movie ends with Aunor returning the gaze, looking at a sleeping De Leon. There’s all these layers of competing gazes—of alternating looking and being looked-at—that could have been the basis for the film’s battle of the sexes, and something that could have given this film a credible link to Brocka’s other works, with his preoccupation with having/lacking power and oppressing/being oppressed by others. As it is, this movie’s only link to Brocka’s ouvre is the clunky way it incorporated the "battle" part without looking at how it complicated the "of the sexes" part.

I know I know: "Filipinos are simpler, our stories simpler, our attack simpler." But as the best filmmakers have demonstrated, "simplicity" is relative. As Brocka already demonstrated in Hello, Young Lovers, there’s a lot of ways to subvert the conventional story one is forced to tell. But I guess for a master filmmaker like him, it’s excusable. Maybe he was just tired…he did have three years prior where he churned out multiple masterpieces every year, three just in 1980 (Bona, Angela Markado, Nakaw na Pag-Ibig). Maybe he was just tired. In that case a little trip like this movie is forgivable.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I found this clip of the Superstar from the 1983 underrated Maryo J. delos Reyes drama Minsan, May Isang Ina. Here she plays Ruth a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage who lives with her domineering mother played by the late Charito Solis. In this scene, she comes home upon discovering her ex-boyfriend's happy and almost perfect family life. Ruth finally unleashes her anguish in this breakdown scene. This is definitely one of my most favorite Nora Aunor performances.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I may have never met Mandy Diaz, Jr. in person but it feels like I've known this ultimate Noranian my entire life. Maybe it's our love for the Superstar that binds and connects us. I've heard lots of stories about Mandy from other Noranian friends who had the pleasure of knowing the Superfan. I remember an interview he had on Rated K after news of the Superstar's arrest at the LAX came out. Mandy said he'd rather be put in jail than see Nora Aunor behind bars. To a fellow Noranian, we'll surely miss you, Mandy! You'll always be in our hearts and prayers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pinakapaboritong Nora Aunor Movies (Part 1)

I was surprised with the glaring omission of the Superstar's performance as Beatrice Alcala in Laurice Guillen's Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo (LEA Productions, 1980). She turned in one of her most restrained performances in this Metro Manila Film Festival entry.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008