Finally, a period drama and war movie to call our own. We don’t have plenty of historical movies around. The ones we have, like Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal, are generally biographical dramas. They don’t have much action like Hollywood war films. And though Hollywood tends to glorify the brutality of war for the sake of adrenaline, it’s also necessary to illustrate how war looks like from within the battlefield in order to capture its emotional gravity.
The Philippines has had its share of battles. Maybe not as full-scale as the wars America fought and continues to fight but we have our own stories to tell. We have our own heroes who deserve to be remembered for both their heroism and their humanity - all flaws included. From the time of the Spanish conquest to the four decades of Spanish rule, the Philippines has witnessed several uprisings. Most failed but others succeeded for a time. Even during America’s “benevolent assimilation,” and, of course, during the second world war, when thousands of lives were lost, thousands of stories were born.
I believe these stories should be told. Of course, that comes at a great cost. Costumes, locations, special effects. But if major film producers can waste millions of pesos on movies that feed the mass with mediocrity, making their audience mentally malnourished, why not just invest in movies that celebrate the Filipino culture and tell good stories at the same time? But then again, this is going to be another debate on who’s spoiling who - the audience or the filmmakers - and I dare not go down that oft-traveled path that ends up in a dead end anyway.
I am just glad that filmmakers are now finding a way to bring quality stories to the mass without losing the appeal and entertainment value. The action genre has long been dead and reviving it is a bold thing to do. But what I like better is the fact that they’re not just bringing back a genre that was popular for being senseless and sexist. They’re actually using it to capture the audience and lure them in towards a good story. “Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story” was a good start. It wasn’t perfect but it was an effort greatly appreciated. Now, we have Mark Meily’s “El Presidente,” daring to bring us both action and history when we never really expected to see the two together.
Is this the beginning of a new genre? Are we going to see more war movies? I don’t know but I hope so. I’d like to see the World War II portrayed from the eyes of a Filipino. That’s a feat production-wise. But who knows? Maybe in the future someone can work their magic and create such a film. After all, the Filipino film industry has surprised me more than once lately, just when I thought it was nothing but predictable.