‘Have an independence of the mind,’ says film critic who introduced Brocka to Cannes

Jul. 12, 2013

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Davao filmmakers were told in a meeting Monday with a famous French film historian and critic to “have an independence of the mind, belief in inspiration; don’t calculate, be intuitive, do not accept everything as Bible-truths, be open to ideas, read and travel if you can.”

Pierre Rissient, who was credited for introducing Philippine cinema to the international scene by bringing National Artist Lino Brocka’s movie Insiang to Cannes in 1976, seemed to embody those words, as he wowed an audience of filmmakers, actors and movie enthusiasts in packed 150-seater cinema facility for classic and non-commercial movies, Cinematheque Davao last week.

At age 77, he continues to go around countries looking for films, and has been doing pre-screenings for Cannes and other festivals.  He has been an influence to Cannes for the past four decades and is credited for promoting directors to the festival including Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and Jane Campion.

“I was lucky to see Insiang, I also watched Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, movies by Mike de Leon and (Ishmael) Bernal.  Those were great years, 1976 to 1977, in Philippine Cinema,

Brocka, Romero and Bernal were awarded National Artists for Film for producing outstanding movies in films that won national and international achievements.

Rissient also recalled being “amazed by the odd quality” of Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig an experimental movie about life in a remote fishing village.

Thanks to the Film Development Council of the Philippines-Davao City, Rissient was back in the country 37 years after Brocka became known in the international film.  Along with Davao-born director and Cinemanila founder Tikoy Aguiluz, he discussed about Cannes, tips on filmmaking and the direction of Filipino cinema.

Rissient admitted that Philippine cinema is in decline since the 1980s, with hollywood blockbusters controlling cinema worldwide.  But he credited directors Brillante Mendoza and Aguiluz as new gems in filmmaking.

Mendoza has won various international film awards including best director in Cannes in 2009 for Kinatay, while Aguiluz has made renowned movies Boatman, Segurista and Rizal sa Dapitan He is now promoting indie films through Cinemanila.

When asked what is the “it” in a great film, he says it’s everything; he went back to those classics from Brocka, Bernal and Romero, and said he was impressed by the combination of aesthetics, interesting characters and great acting.

Ever the film buff, he said he wanted to see the classics from National Artist for film Gerry de Leon; he was saddened though that many of de Leon’s films have been destroyed.

Aguiluz and Rissient both advised Davao filmmakers to let go of differentiating themselves as either indie or mainstream.

“Many would say I want to make an indie movie, but it’s for the audience and critics to say.  Many would say it’s a new style, but it should not be artificially new,” Rissient reminded the young filmmakers.

Meanwhile, Aguiluz said “(T)here should be no distinction.  Some writers from TV studios would go out and make an indie film, but it will come out like a TV soap opera with indie posturing.  The category should be whether you make a good film or bad film.”

Aguiluz hailed new directors like Davao’s Arnel Mardoquio, Teng Mangansakan and Sherad Sanchez, who showed Mindanao’s stories and culture.

Mardoquio’s film Ang Paglalakbay ng Bituin sa Gabing Madilim (A Star’s Journey into the Dark Night) recently won best film in Cinemanila and Gawad Urian.  Mangansakan’s films Qiyamah (The Reckoning) and “Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children” won awards in the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival and Cinemanila, while Sanchez won international acclaim for Huling Balyan ng Buhi (Woven Stories of the Other) and Imburnal (Sewer).  (Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)

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