Who’s the greatest Filipino film director? No, it’s not Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Eddie Romero, or Brillante Mendoza. It’s Gerardo “Gerry” de Leon, himself a National Artist for Cinema like the first three, but the least known especially among younger Filipinos who have hardly heard of him, much less seen his movies. Alas, there’s little chance for young Filipinos to really get to know him. Save for a smattering, nearly all of his oeuvres have practically disappeared, victims to the corroding effects of time, the tropics, and the state’s fatal shortsightedness and notorious aversion to investing in culture and its conservation.
Many Filipino movies have been saved by film agencies abroad. Because Brocka was “discovered” by Cannes, his “Insiang” and “Bona” are in the Cinémathèque Française, as well as Manuel Conde’s “Genghis Khan.” Because Bernal was discovered by the Berlin International Film Festival, Bernal’s “Nunal sa Tubig” is archived there. Because he was also discovered by Berlin and because he lives in cool Baguio, Kidlat Tahimik’s post-colonial classic, “Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare),” an arthouse hit in the United States when it was released there in the late 1970s by Francis Ford Coppola, is safely archived in Berlin and Baguio. But sad to say, no copies of the key classics of Gerry de Leon, who has been compared by French critics to Eisenstein and Buñuel, have turned up for restoration and archiving. They appear to have been lost forever in the people’s cultural memory.
Truth to tell, I've head of Gerry de Leon but not really seen any of his movies. It is sad that talented Philippine movie makers are few and far between. It seems everything is a romcom, romdrama, romrom, there's no action movies anymore. Why? Cause it's expensive. Basically, producers just make a love team and let them run off and make a movie. I wonder how they feel about the movies they make? I mean, it's all the producers discretion but do they even have a shade of artistic principles in them?
The most if not all of the current movies being made are more geared to make money and nothing else. Funny but that real good filipino movie worth watching more than once is an urban legend nowadays.
Until we find a producer who values art, artists who truly are talented and a mass audience who appreciate and support the movie industry, we will always be stuck with movies that are best thrown in the trash bin after viewing. It doesn't help that film snobs abound these days ready to slay a movie just to promote their style and sensibilities.
Sadly, I don't see us getting out of this in the near future.