Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Recalling the Master, Retrieving the Masterpieces: Nation Celebrates Birth Centennial of National Artist for Film Gerardo De Leon

“The works and achievements of National Artist for film, director Gerardo de Leon, are reflective of this preeminent excellence and of the national genius that contributed to the national heritage of the Philippines and the world,” states Presidential Proclamation 497, which was signed on October 29, 2012.
The proclamation declares “the period of 12 September 2013 to 12 September 2014 as the Centennial Year of National Artist for film, director Gerardo de Leon.” The Joint House Resolution No. 39 of the Congress also declares the centennial year of the National Artist.
The celebration of the life and works of one of the country’s greatest filmmakers began with the launching of a commemorative stamp on Sept. 12 at the Intramuros headquarters of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), one of the agencies leading the celebration together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (Sofia).
The affair was attended by actors who had worked with De Leon, as well as family members, friends and admirers, including Marita Zobel, Barbara Perez, Delia Razon, Lilia Dizon, Elsa Payumo, Anita Linda, Gloria Sevilla, Imelda Ilagan, Luz Valdez, Pepito Rodriguez and Janno Gibbs, grandson of Gerardo de Leon.
The stamp launch was led by Cesar Sarino, chairman of Philippine Postal Corporation; NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr.; NCCA executive director Emelita Almosara; Dr. Mike Rapatan, head of the NCCA National Committee on Cinema; and Liberty Ilagan, daughter of Gerardo de Leon, who was delighted because “not everyone’s father can be on stamps.”
Dr. Rapatan said that a retrospective of his films will be shown throughout the year and will travel all over the country especially in regional film festivals that are in conjunction with the Cinema Rehiyon, part of the NCCA-sponsored Philippine Arts Festival held every February.
Every month, a De Leon film will be shown at the CCP Dream Theater, open to all for free, with introductions by respected members of the academe, film critics and filmmakers. The films are The Moises Padilla Story (September 14, with National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera); Sanda Wong (October 12 with Francis Cruz); Lilet (November 9 with Andrew Leavold); Noli Me Tangere (December 30 with Pepe Diokno, at the Rizal Park); Banaue (February 8, 2014, with Lito Zulueta); Ang Bagong Maestra (March 8 with Clodualdo del Mundo Jr.); Terror is a Man (April 12, with Eduardo Dayao); Women in Cages (May 10, with Erwin Romulo); El Filibusterismo (June 14, with Nicanor Tiongson); Gerardo de Leon through Four Decades (July 12, with Teddy Co, with excerpts from Dawn of Freedom, Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, omnibus shorts, Tagumpay ng Mahirap: The President Macapagal Story and Fe, Esperanza, Caridad).
On the other hand, Kulay Dugo ang Gabi will be shown at the Binisaya Fetival in Cebu City, Cebu, from November 22 to 23, 2014; 48 Oras at the CineCabalen in Angeles City, Pampanga, in the last week of November; The Walls of Hell at the SalaMindanaw in General Santos City from November 26 to 30; Ibulong Mo sa Hangin at the Mindanao Film Festival in Davao City from December 9 to 15; and Sisa at the Pasale in Naga City from December 11 to 14. 

Director Gerardo de Leon with wife, actress Fely Vallejo, and daughters Liberty and Maria Fe
The celebration will culminate on July 2014 with a launching of a book of essays by critics discussing the works of De Leon as well as the restoration of a film long-thought to be lost.
This is just a fraction of De Leon’s films. He made about 75 films when he was active as a filmmaker from 1938 until his death in 1981. There are about 20 to 25 De Leon films in existence in varying stages of decay, said film archivist and programmer Teddy Co. The 1952 film Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, the first Famas best picture, for example, has just one hour of footage left. Others are completely lost.          
Some survived like the 1950 movie 48 Oras. Lino Brocka, National Artist for film, got hold of a copy of 48 Oras, which he sent to France for safekeeping because we have no facilities, and that’s how some films managed to survive, related Co, Sofia board member and the event’s lead curator. He said that they are trying to find a few more films.
“Gerardo de Leon’s body of work represents the very best of what Filipino artists can and should aspire for,” said Co. “It’s a tragedy then that only one-third of his filmography have survived. It is therefore imperative that his sterling reputation as an artist of the highest order be reignited and re-established.”
De Leon, fondly called Manong Gerry, made such films as Daigdig ng Mga Api (1965), Noli Me Tangere (1961), Sisa (1951), Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (1960), Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (1952), El Filibusterismo (1962), The Moises Padilla Story (1962), Sanda Wong (1955) and Dyesebel (1953), which has become classics.
De Leon comes from the widely recognized and respected theater and movie clan, the Ilagans. His father is Hermogenes Ilagan, the zarzuela playwright, producer and conductor with a zarzuela company called Compania Ilagan that performed in different town fiestas.
Felipe de Leon, Jr. said Gerardo de Leon started in the movie industry as a piano player for silent films, while his Felipe’s father, National Artist for music Felipe de Leon, was the trombone player. He was so fascinated with the films that sometimes he forgot to play the piano. He was also a visual artist in the baroque style and admiring Rembrant, and also a medical doctor who placed seventh in the board exams.
“He was a renaissance man,” Felipe de Leon, Jr. exclaimed and noted that the quality of being immersed in different arts make him a remarkable and “whole” person.
De Leon also noted Gerardo’s high regard for creative freedom and disapproval of censorship.
“A director becomes a coward as his films are continuously censored. He is less daring in his ideas. He begins to compromise. There must be no forms of censorship...The artist must be free in the expression of his subject; he must be true only his muse,” Gerardo de Leon said during his last interview with Jose Reyes Hisamoto.

NCCA National Committee on Cinema head Dr. Mike Rapatan; NCCA executive director Emelita Almosara; Liberty Ilagan, daughter of Gerardo de Leon; Philpost chair Cesar Sarino; and NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, unveil the National Artist for film Gerardo de Leon commemorative stamp
Eighty-eight-year-old actress Anita Linda, who worked with De Leon for three pictures including Sisa, was succinct in her reminisences of the director because she was emotional. She noted though how he was not just a director but also a cameraman and other roles, and how he was gentle as a director, sensitive to the feelings of the actors.
“He was never angry, always soft-spoken,” she remembered. “That’s all I can say about him: a wonderful man, a good friend.”
Actor Robert Arevalo, nephew of De Leon, remembered his uncle observing him and then asked if he wanted to be in his films. On the first few days of the shooting, Arevalo was asked to do nothing. Puzzled, he asked his uncle, and he replied that he wanted him to observe and get the feel of the environment of filming. Arevalo’s first film with De Leon was Huwag Mo Akong Limutin.
During his lifetime, De Leon was named best director by Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (Famas) for a record seven times between 1952 and 1972. He was declared National Artist for cinema in 1982, almost a year after his death in July 25, 1981.
“Even when essaying more prosaic cinematic genre, he invariably elevated such efforts from mere cliché or crass commercialism,” the citation reads.
It further says: “In the pursuit of his craft, Gerardo de Leon developed a recognizable style of his own, evident in the distinctive cinematography of his films, their fluent editing and their meticulously detailed mise en scene. He departed from the conventions of the Tagalog movie, and made use of Expressionist images that are as remarkable in our days as they were innovative in his.”
Liberty Ilagan, De Leon’s daughter who represented the family during the stamp launch, said his father died with a broken heart. When he was alive, he wanted to become a National Artist and wondered why the honor did not come until he died, she said. It did not happen in his lifetime. Nevertheless, she said she is very happy with the tribute and she knew that his father is happy as well.

National Artist for film Gerardo de Leon directed such as films as Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo, Noli Me Tangere, Daigdig ng mga Api and the first Dyesebel, which have become classics

No comments: