By Terrence Repelente
“Brocka, Bernal, and the City,” a special exhibition that features the interesting lives and impressive works of Philippine National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, honors the legacies of the iconic auteurs at the 12th Floor Gallery of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) School of Design and Arts (SDA) Campus.
“They’re so similar and yet so different,”said the show’s curator, Center for Campus Art (CCA) director Gerry Torres.
“They were saying the same things about injustice, ignorance, intolerance, but in different ways. They’re like fraternal twins, they have different styles. And I’m glad they had different styles, it made them so much more unique. There’s a multiplicity of voices in anything. These two said it through their cinema in a way that’s so amazing.
Apart from creating some of the country’s finest films and commencing the remarkable cinematic journeys of the industry’s leading actors and actresses, both Brocka and Bernal were known as street parliamentarians during the dictatorship whose narratives encapsulated advocacies, battled political censorship, championed film workers’ rights, shared comprehensive gender depictions, and demonstrated the power of the artist in initiating social change.
The exhibition examines how the two creative geniuses used Manila as a milieu that greatly impacted on the lives of Filipinos. It features a series of user-directed film showings where the viewers can freely choose which among the significant pieces are screened.
Brocka’s Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag(1975) and Bernal’s Manila by Night (1980), which projected a critical reflection of the urban experience at that time, headline the selections. Other masterpieces available on view are Brocka’s Insiang (1976), Jaguar (1979), and Bona (1980) and Bernal’s Ikaw ay Akin (1978), Relasyon (1982), Broken Marriage (1983), and Working Girls (1984).
“Film is always relevant because it is a reflection of society, and Brocka and Bernal’s films showcase that,” Torres noted. “They were activists who voiced out what they saw were the ills of society at that time and what ills they were protesting against then are still around, some even became worse.”
Two separate spaces have been allocated for the works of Brocka and Bernal, while a third area is dedicated to recent Brocka- and Bernal-inspired movies such as Manila (2009), starred and co-produced by Piolo Pascual, and Anino (2000), directed by Raymond Red.
“Brocka, Bernal, and the City” likewise features recorded interviews from the individuals who have worked with the filmmakers on and off the camera, to include scriptwriter Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., and actors Bembol Roco, Cherie Gil, Gina Alajar, and Ronnie Lazaro . Film scholar Ed Cabagnot, directors Nonon Padilla, Peque Gallaga, Mel Chionglo, and Jose Javier Reyes, who serves as the Chairperson of Benilde’s Digitial Filmmaking (DFilm) Program, in the interviews, impart their insights. Pascual and Red share how the works of Brocka and Bernal motivated them as artists.
During the exhibit’s opening program,Torres talked about the exhibit’s inspiration. “Well, I’m a movie fan. I grew up with the movies of Brock and Bernal. So, I wanted to do a show on them. And we have a film program in Benilde, I felt that it’s time we should introduce Brocka and Bernal to the new generation of filmmakers,”Torres said.
Spearheaded by the CCA, he believes that this exhibitionwill focus on the future crop of Benildean filmmakers-artists who continued to fight their battles despite the dangers. “I think their films are classics because what they talk about is universal, but at the same time, it is about the condition that has remained in the country. Both of them spoke about social conditions. And these conditions are still present today,” Torres said. “They’re still relevant because what they were ‘complaining’ about are still around. And plus they’re great filmmakers,their technique, the way they tell their stories, their films could stand the test of time.”
Torres hopes that their students and other filmmakers of today will be able to get inspiration from Brocka and Bernal’s bravery as artists. “They were really courageous. They were artist-activist during Martial Law. They didn’t care if they were going to be harassed or censored,” he said.
“The fact that they dared to use their art, their cinema, to speak out against what was wrong. For me, that is something that doesn’t go out of style. There’s always something that we artist should talk about and be aware of. We should find our voice in our art and speak up.”
According to Torres, Brocka and Bernal used their craft to try to correct what was wrong in society and that is one important lesson that students should learn. He stressed: “I want them to remember that through their art, they can at the very least create awareness
about certain issues and hopefully affect change.”
“Brocka, Bernal, and the City” exhibition is part of the series of activities in line with the 30th anniversary celebration
of Benilde, and is the College’s contribution to the commemoration of 2019 as the 100th year of Philippine cinema.
The exhibit is open to the public until April 29, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the 12th Floor Gallery of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), School of Design and Arts (SDA) Campus, 950 Pablo Ocampo (Vito Cruz) Street, Malate, Manila.