Two Lost Films to be Screened at Pelikula at Lipunan Fest

2/9/2004 10:12:22 AM
The Manila Times

The 11th Pelikula at Lipunan film festival will kick off Wednesday, February 11 at the SM Megamall Cinema with the screening of a Tagalog movie that dates back to 1937. Entitled Zamboanga, the movie was directed by Eduardo De Castro and stars Fernando Poe Sr. and Rosa del Rosario.

Fernando Poe Sr. and Rosa del Rosario in Zamboanga (Photo provided by The Manila Times)Organized by the Mowelfund Film Institute, the Pelikula at Lipunan festival was established to help enlighten Filipino audiences on the role of cinema on nation-building. This year, Pelikula at Lipunan offers new foreign films, rediscovered classics and historical clues to the Philippines early history as a nation struggling to be free. It is a fitting tribute to 85 years of the Filipino film industry, said festival director Nick Deocampo during a media briefing.

As a salute to the past. the organizers, which include Mowelfund stalwarts Eddie Romero and Boots Anson Roa, have chosen to open the festival with Zamboanga. Deocampo said the 67 year-old movie was previously thought as irretrievably lost. He had discovered it during a research mission in the US Library of Congress which earlier acquired an almost mint condition copy from Finland.

The movie depicts the life of south sea divers and was shot in the remote island of Jolo. Its two American producers, Eddie Tait and George Harris managed to screen it only to audiences in New York and San Francisco in 1937. Both producers, however, ran out of money due to excessive taxes and the film disappeared into obscurity.

In a year when glossy Hollywood productions like The Great Ziegfeld and Stage Door dominated the movie scene, Zamboanga managed to win rave reviews from The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Spectator, among others.

Decoampo says the film was aimed for the American market but after its premiere in San Diego and its screening in New York, nothing has been heard of it. The film has for decades been considered a lost film, one of the hundreds made before World War II that is irretrievably lost, he said.

However, Deocampo found the film when he was on a research trip in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. I was surprised to be informed by a library staff, Zoran Sinobad, that there was a a newly-acquired film about the Philippines and would I be interested to look at it? I was told that the film was newly-struck from an original print that came all the way from Finland. Interesting!

In the movie, the young Poe played a pearl fisher who marries the village chief's daughter (played by Rosa del Rosario). Among the guests of their wedding is a pirate who abducts the bride, inciting a tribal war. Fil-American Eduardo de Castro directed the cast that spoke in the Tausog and English languages. Deocampo says the movie features underwater photography and that the film processing chores boggles the mind with thoughts of the sacrifices behind the nine month shooting.

Wrong movie at the wrong time?

When Deocampo gleefully announced his find, he was warned by colleagues that exhibiting a movie starring Fernando Poe Sr. in an election year may be tantamount to politicking, especially since Fernando Poe Jr. is running for President.

Politics was never in my mind, declared Deocampo. Here we had a lost treasure that has practically been given to us by the Library of Congress on a silver plate. Normally it would have cost hundreds of thousands of pesos to obtain a movie like that from the Library of Congress. What did they expect me to do? Tell them, sorry we don't want the film, it's election year!

Fortunately, Deocampo discovered another lost film which he deemed perfect for the festival and would equalize the politics. It happens to be an omnibus film directed by three of the greatest directors of the Philippines' Gerry de Leon, Eddie Romero and Lamberto Avellana.

The film is Tagumpay ng Mahirap, Deocampo proudly announced. It's the biopic of our fifth President, Diosdado Macapagal. It shows how Macapagal rose from being a provincial boy to become the President. This one was discovered right under our noses, at the CCP film library!

With the fathers of two presidential candidates represented in one vintage film each, Deocampo expects to have a smooth-sailing Pelikula at Lipunan festival this year.