- In 1970, he wrote and directed a film, Wanted: Perfect Mother, an entry for the Manila Film Festival that startled the local movie industry.
- Brocka went on to make a succession of increasingly mature and perceptive films, turning his cameras upon the tragic lives of young people from the provinces who become lost in city slums, winning international respect for Filipino artistry.
- His film Insiang (1977) was invited to be shown at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, France, and in I983 Jaguar was admitted to competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1984 Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Double Edged Knife), which has not yet been released in the Philippines, won a standing ovation at Cannes and was voted “Best Film of the Year” by the British Film Institute in London.
- The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes him “for making cinema a vital social commentary, awakening public consciousness to disturbing realities of life among the Filipino poor.”
Films, by their very nature of involving the viewer both emotionally and intellectually, have become the most pervasive of the mass media. They can excite to anger or lull into escapism. Especially in the developing world producers profit most by offering bland, often humorous entertainment, challenging neither their audiences nor their leaders. Thus the dichotomy between fantasy and reality widens and families, like nations, are thwarted in coming to grips with their most urgent needs. Despite many natural advantages making the Philippines potentially a prime international film production location, such standardized superficiality has inhibited artistic enterprise.
LINO BROCKA was born 45 years ago into an humble rural family in Sorsogon, southern Luzon, the Philippines. An avid movie fan, he was impressed as a youngster, in the turbulent years following World War II and Philippine independence, by the happy-endings of the usually American films. But the fantasies of pretty girls catching rich husbands and good men winning over bad were distant from his own life miseries. Entering the University of the Philippines as a working student, he sought to involve himself in drama and theater, but lacking a facility in properly spoken English he was frequently relegated to clearing the stage and moving sets. He spent nine years acquiring a good literary education but no degree.
In 1969 BROCKA returned from Hawaii, where he had been a Mormon missionary, and joined the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Like many other young Filipino dramatists he sharpened his theatrical skills there by writing, acting and directing. The next year he was invited by Lea Productions to write and direct a film for entry in the Manila Film Festival, and startled the local movie industry with his award-winning Wanted: Perfect Mother. He directed a string of commercial successes for Lea but script interference by his backers resulted in some movies he would rather forget. Disillusioned, he left commercial cinema and turned to teaching, directing for television and devoting himself to PETA, which he still serves as Executive Director.
In 1974, with the backing of friends, BROCKA formed his own production company. Its first film, Tinimbang Ka Nguni’t Kulang (Weighed But Found Wanting), told of an adolescent coming to manhood amidst the indifference and hypocrisy of a small town. Emboldened by this critical and financial success BROCKA went on to make a succession of increasingly mature and perceptive films, turning his cameras upon the tragic lives of young people from the provinces who become lost in city slums Through these films he has won international respect for Filipino artistry.
Insiang in 1977 was invited to be shown at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, France, and in I983 Jaguar was admitted to competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1984 Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Double Edged Knife), which has not yet been released in the Philippines, won a standing ovation at Cannes and was voted “Best Film of the Year” by the British Film Institute in London.
BROCKA’s sensitive and artistic treatment of often tragic topics has won converts for Philippine-language productions among sophisticated theatergoers. He has also led Filipino writers and directors in demanding artistic control of their output and raised their prestige within the industry. Not a mere spectator in the unfolding drama of his country, BROCKA shows that dramatic insights can foster the awareness that makes for effective citizenship.
In electing LINO BROCKA to receive the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes his making cinema a vital social commentary, awakening public consciousness to disturbing realities of life among the Filipino poor.
The filmmaker, like his peers in the other media, now realizes that the artist is also a public person. He no longer isolates himself from society. Instead of working in his ivory tower he is a citizen of the slums, of the streets, of the battlefields if need be. The artist is becoming a participant. He tries to be true, not only to his craft but also to himself. What he says on the screen, he also says in the streets. For it is the supreme duq of the artist to investigate the truth no matter what forces attempt to hide it. And then to report this truth to the people, to confront them with it. Like a whiplash it will cause wounds but will free the mind from the various fantasies and escapist fares with which “the establishment” pollutes our minds.
To the best of our abilities, and even if we often times fail, we must produce films that will hurt, films that will disturb, films that will not let you rest. For the times are bad and, given times like these, it is a crime to rest. We cannot rest, and should not, while there is a Filipino starving in Negros, an Aquino crying for justice, a victim of police killing lying in a garbage heap. Although it is the duty of the artist to work for what is true, good and beautiful, first we must expose and fight what is wrong.
In these times, when the government-controlled media hide the truth, when most of what we get is silly gossip, pretty flesh and sensationalized crime, we must go to the streets to find out what is happening. We must listen to those who dare risk their lives and livelihoods, who reiterate once more the utmost duty of the artist, that he be a committed person, taking the side of any human being who is violated, abused, oppressed or dehumanized, and that he use whatever instrument is his?the pen, the brush or the camera.
I accept this award for all such artists, dedicated persons whose names may never be known or published, doing their share, whether in
the streets or in prison camps. Some of them may even have died, or at this very moment be fighting for their lives. This award then is for these artists:
They may gag and blindfold you, silence and imprison you, but they will never be able to destroy what made you an artist in the first place?your brave and continuing dedication to the human race.
Together with you I thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for telling us that we should continue our work.
LINO BROCKA sees the world through the eye of a camera. Hundreds of movies are catalogued in his memory to be used as examples and comparisons, and bits of his own past continually surface in films he has already made and others which he hopes to make. For him movies have at various times provided an escape from everyday reality, a study of American lifestyles and language, a training ground in cinema techniques, a platform for social and political commentary, and international recognition.
Nothing in BROCKA’s parentage or early life was either typical or straightforward. His birth certificate is incorrect. The preschool education he received from his father was exceptional but unlike that received by his peers. His description of his childhood is glowing, but this time of happiness was cut tragically short when he was only six. The honors and awards he garnered in high school belie the fact that he and his brother worked long hours earning money to survive. Even the university education frequently ascribed to him is not completely accurate.
LINO’s father was Regino Brocka, a skilled carpenter, boat builder and salesman from the Bicol peninsula, Sorsogon province, Luzon, the Philippines, who settled his schoolteacher wife and family in the town of Pilar, while he traveled extensively throughout the islands plying his various trades. On a trip to Nueva Ecija, a province in central Luzon, he became infatuated with a 15year-old girl named Pilar Ortiz. Much against her family’s wishes Regino took her back to Bicol and, deserting his legal family, lived with her on an island off the coast.
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