Tag Archives: Criticism

Book Texts

The books I’d written as sole author were meant to be read chronologically (according to date of original publication). However, as several undergraduate students and laypersons made clear to me, that kind of effort would require an investment in which they did not (yet?) have the time or effort to commit. Hence I thought of providing Book Texts: A Pinoy Film Course, essentially a select list of recommended articles – not so much a “best of” and more of an appetizer course, pardon the semi-academic pun. This should not be construed as an introduction to Philippine cinema (although I do have a forthcoming book, SINÉ, that attempts to fulfill that function). Neither should it be considered an introduction to Philippine film criticism, or even that evasive creature that we may call “Joel David’s film criticism.” I provided a descriptor in the subtitle, and that ought to sum it up, with emphasis on the first word (cum letter) in “a Pinoy film course.”

Each entry is followed by the originating book title, abbreviated as follows: NP for The National Pastime (1990), FV for Fields of Vision (1995), WC for Wages of Cinema (1998), MT1 for Part I of Millennial Traversals (2015), MT2 for Part II of Millennial Traversals (2016) [click here for the unified blog entry containing both parts], and Ama for Ámauteurish (current). After the book source is the year of publication (not of the anthology, but of the article). A short annotation, which may or may not overtly indicate the urgency of reading the article, ends each entry.

Original digital edition: © 2016 by Ámauteurish Publishing; All Rights Reserved. International Standard Book No. 978-621-96191-5-8. To access sections after Discourses without having to scroll downward, please click on any of the following:


Discourses

Essays that look intensively at specific films or at film-intensive issues.

Autobio

Personal write-ups that could help people understand the writer’s psychology, to dispel any lingering illusion of objectivity.

  • World’s Shortest Prequel (NP 1990). Or why my writing turned out the way it did, if childhood experience were ever capable of explaining anything.
  • The Last of Lino (FV 1995). What the death of a major local practitioner signified to someone (like me) who had always regarded his output with some reservation and ambivalence.
  • A Cultural Policy Experience in Philippine Cinema (WC 1998). In the slipstream of a distinctive degree of cultural patronage, that of a film “support” agency mandated by the Marcos dictatorship.
  • Small Worm, Big Apple (MT2 2005). Graduate studies (and survival) in New York City, during the eve of 9/11.

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Pinoy Film Reviews I – Celluloid (Pre-1990s) Era

The core of any critical practitioner derives from the active consumption of cultural output within an extensive time frame – never an easy or affordable option. This was the period when local film flourished, then floundered, because of the instability wrought by the defeat of the Marcos dictatorship.

  • Exceptions (NP 1981). A comparative review of Eddie Romero’s Kamakalawa and Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata (both 1981), that still relied on the style-vs.-substance approach.
  • Down but Not Out (NP 1988). Another comparative review, this time of Francis “Jun” Posadas’s Nektar and Jose “Pepe” Marcos’s Tubusin Mo ng Dugo (both 1988), that looks at genre products with still a nod to issues of formal quality.
  • Chauvinist’s Nightmare (NP 1987). Mike Relon Makiling’s Kumander Gringa (1987) and why its under-the-radar commercialism allowed it to get away with potshots aimed at a few sacred cows of the time.
  • O’Hara Strikes Again (NP 1987). Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak (1987) as a demonstration of its director’s capacity to draw pleasure from formulaic material.
  • Mellow Drama (NP 1987). An attempt to draw from literary history in reviewing Mel Chionglo’s Paano Kung Wala Ka Na (1987).
  • Campout (NP 1988). Camp (actually campiness) as a determinant of preference in evaluating Lino Brocka’s Natutulog Pa ang Diyos, Emmanuel H. Borlaza’s Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas?, and Artemio Marquez’s Sa Puso Ko Hahalik ang Mundo (all released in 1988).
  • After the Revolution (NP 1989). Lino Brocka’s Orapronobis (1989) engendered controversial responses among, predictably, conservative sectors, but even members of the intelligentsia had their misgivings; this review seeks to bridge the differences between the film and its better-intentioned interlocutors.

Pinoy Film Reviews II – Late Celluloid Era (The 1990s)

The film industry recovered after the people-power uprising, enough to recall the Marcos-era glory years and still unaware of the forthcoming storms to be induced by globalization trends, specifically the late-’90s Asian economic crisis and the digital turn in film production.

  • Persistence of Vision (FV 1990). The culmination of my attempt to describe and uphold an operatic sensibility in cinema, via Chito Roño’s Bakit Kay Tagal ng Sandali? (1990).
  • Indigenous Ingenuity (FV 1990). My effort at foregrounding my personal participation in Gil Portes’s Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina? (1990) resulted in censorship by an editor who should have known better, and in expulsion from the publication (without the courtesy of a letter informing me of the decision).
  • Head Held High (FV 1990). A review that welcomed a successful turn in Lino Brocka’s Gumapang Ka sa Lusak (1990), from his usual separation of box-office projects from political statements, to a film that demonstrated that contradictory elements need not be jettisoned from one’s intended undertaking.
  • Family Affairs (FV 1990). The emergence of a politically sponsored star and her genuinely talented sidekick is interrogated in this review of Tony Cruz’s Pido Dida (Sabay Tayo) (1990).
  • Men and Myths (FV 1990). A state-of-the-genre look at the action film (with dramatic and comedic elements adding extra spice) as embodied in Pepe Marcos’s Bala at Rosaryo (1990).
  • I.O.U. (FV 1990). One of the occasional progressive trends that emerged in Pinoy action cinema (see “Head Held High” earlier), evaluated alongside the movie’s director-star’s persona, in Jesus Jose’s (a.k.a. Lito Lapid’s) Kahit Singko Hindi Ko Babayaran ang Buhay Mo (1990).
  • Movable Fists (FV 1990). Further possible twists in the treatment of action material, in Junn P. Cabreira’s Walang Awa Kung Pumatay (1990), Francis (Jun) Posadas’s Iisa-Isahin Ko Kayo (1990), and Mauro Gia Samonte’s Apoy sa Lupang Hinirang (1990).
  • Sedulously Cebuano (FV 1990). The last pre-digital Cebuano-language movie, Junn P. Cabreira’s Eh … Kasi … Bisaya! (1990), deserved a commemoration all its own.
  • Black & Blue & Red (MT1 1992). In the tradition of short-format filmmakers who graduate to full-length projects, Raymond Red’s Bayani (1992) acquired the additional cache of representing a movement with messianic-artist claims.

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Pinoy Film Reviews III – Digital Era

By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, local production had gone totally digital – unknowingly foreshadowing what more developed countries would eventually be doing.

  • Heaven in Mind (MT1 2004). The new Pinay and her journey, tracked and celebrated in Joel Lamangan’s Sabel (2004).
  • Survivor’s Guilt (MT1 2009). Why the personal is social, and how a filmic discourse on trauma such as Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil’s Boses (2009) can provide insight and entertainment without compromising one for the other.
  • Sighs and Whispers (MT1 2009). The fullness of the aesthetic potential of the debut film, as emblematized by Armando Lao’s Biyaheng Lupa (2009).
  • On the Edge (MT1 2013). Pinoy action cinema redux, featuring Erik Matti’s On the Job (2013).
  • A Desire Named Oscar (MT1 2013). Among other distinctions, 2013 was the year that three countries submitted films featuring Filipino characters for Oscar consideration: Singapore with Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, UK with Sean Ellis’s Metro Manila, and the Philippines with Hannah Espia’s Transit.
  • Antonio Luna’s Fall and Rise (MT1 2015). The historical epic, and a misunderstood (anti)hero, are recuperated in Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna (2015).
  • Ice with a Face (MT1 2016). Jaclyn Jose’s Cannes-winning performance provides (among many other things) a starting point in assessing Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s new level of achievement in Ma’ Rosa (2016).

Foreign Film Reviews

I maintain that an appreciation of foreign cinema should mainly assist in understanding local products, not the other way around; my grad-school exposure to a wide array of world cinema and film styles further affirmed this conviction.

  • Form and Function (FV 1987). Mike Newell’s Silent Voice (a.k.a. Amazing Grace and Chuck) and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (both 1987) provide insights on the necessary specificities of war themes in contemporary cinema.
  • …And the First Shall Be the Last (FV 1990). A typically Catholic neurosis in pop culture, where an allegedly heretical text turns out to be ultimately pro-religion (though not always pro-Church), obtains in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
  • Wet Noodles (MT1 2009). Orientalism by a fellow Oriental? Something to ponder in Trần Anh Hùng’s I Come with the Rain (2009).
  • Two Guys, While Watching Avatar (MT1 2009). Plato as stand-up comedian, an approach that once more horrified square print editors, in my review of James Cameron’s all-time money-maker Avatar (2009).
  • Hit in the (Multi)Plexus (MT1 2011). A Korean blockbuster, Lee Han’s Wan-deuk-i [Punch] (2011), based on a novel with a Vietnamese migrant-wife character, whose nationality in the movie was changed to Pinay.

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Commentaries: Pinas

Film is culture, and therefore culture impinges on film, directly or otherwise. I originally envisioned these types of mini-editorials, breathers from the frankly debilitating rigors of film reviewing, as potential frameworks for future studies, and I’ve in fact managed to expand some of them in later material.

  • People-Power Cinema (NP 1987). A year after the February 1986 uprising that restored democratic processes, the film industry had yet to fully recover – the films that commemorated the event were paradoxically unpopular.
  • Studious Studios (NP 1988). A short (numerological) reconsideration of the political economy of the Philippine studio system.
  • Shooting Crap (FV 1990). The controversial toilet-humor trend and its alleged purveyor, Joey de Leon; or why the carnivalesque can’t always be dismissed out of hand.
  • Fleshmongering (FV 1990). Just shallow proof that some amateurish film “authority” wasn’t first at historicizing these trends, and even then misnaming them left and right despite the proliferation of available texts and witnesses.
  • Firmament Occupation (FV 1990). A redefinition of the much-maligned star system, to take into account the implication of the word “system.”
  • Blues Hit Parade (FV 1990). A pathologization of producers’ obsession with blockbusters.

Commentaries: Elsewheres

No film issues get raised in these “non-Pinas” articles, which I guess buttresses the point I’m making; but it also helps any kind of reader to know that the writer proceeds from a specialization in cinema.

  • A New Role for Korea (MT2 2009). Or how the Philippines could have turned out, given a different set of historical circumstances.
  • Crescent Tense (MT2 2009). The massacre in Maguindanao as an index of long-simmering Muslim-Christian tensions.
  • Asian Casanovas (MT2 2010). “Cablinasian” Tiger Woods, Korean Lee Byung-hun, and Pinoy Manny Pacquiao as randy celebs, positioned at the intersection of race and gender.
  • The Sins of the Fathers (MT2 2010). The ending of innocence, courtesy of duly certified shepherds of the flock.

Features

Pinoy film people, all in the mainstream. No apologies on my end.

  • Love Was the Drug (MT2 2009). The introduction to the anthology left behind by the genuinely beautiful Johven Velasco.
  • The Dolphy Conundrum (MT2 2012). The difficulty of ascertaining whether the country’s top comedian deserved to be honored as a National Artist.
  • Manoy Takes His Leave (Ama 2019). The sudden departure of another extremely productive talent and the many treasurable samples he left behind.
  • The Carnal Moral of a Brutal Miracle (MT2 2012). The insufficiently appreciated Marilou Diaz-Abaya, thoroughly prepared (as always) for the end of life.
  • A National Artist We Deserve (MT2 2014). Nora Aunor, deprived of an honor that belonged to her before anyone else.

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Interviews

A more intensive type of feature, where the voice of the subject is foregrounded.

Metacriticism

The criticism of film criticism, from “scientific” to “social” approaches.

  • Film Critics Speak (FV 1990). A statement on the condition of film criticism in the country.
  • Ten Best Filipino Films Up to 1990 (FV 1990). An exercise in canon-building, too successful for its own good.
  • One-Shot Awards Ceremony (FV 1991). A declaration of all-time achievements in specific categories – an idle exercise, admittedly, but also one that immerses in the pleasures of film evaluation.
  • Levels of Independence (MT2 1990). The genealogy of what might actually constitute “independent” local cinema.
  • Pinoy Filmfests ca. 2013 (MT1 2013). A look at the sudden proliferation of film festivals during the era of digital film production, with focus on the first Sineng Pambansa entries (specifically Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes’s Sonata, Joel Lamangan’s Lihis, and Elwood Perez’s Otso).
  • A Lover’s Polemic (MT2 2013). Film criticism in the Philippines.

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Millennial Traversals – Foreign Film Reviews II (Exertions)


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part I: Traversals within Cinema, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Problems in Philippine Film Awards

As a member of the faculty at the Philippine national university, I provided a few statements that never failed…to be ignored. (One colleague reportedly tossed a letter I wrote directly into the nearest trash bin.) My purpose was to make sure I articulated my position, especially if said position happened to be unpopular with everyone else’s. In this instance, the statement also got dismissed by administration officials and the college went on to institute a singular annual life-achievement prize, which turned out to affirm the interests of the critics’ group (and the orthodox Communists controlling it) – but a critique of that specific prize will have to await some further study, and a quick evaluation of the aforementioned organized critics was one of the incidental findings in my later article, “A Lover’s Polemic.” To jump to later sections, please click here for: Early Years; Enter the Critics; Corrective Attempts; Genuine Scholarly Recognition; Looking Forward; and Notes.

Film awards perform a privileged function in a national cinema as historically significant as that of the Philippines.[1] Among several by-now-all-too-common observations, two items stand out, effectively bookending the history of Philippine cinema in the 20th century: first, the medium was introduced by Spanish colonizers and utilized by the Americans as a means of modernizing local culture; and second, Filipinos remain some of the most avid movie-goers (and movie producers) in the world.[2] This position statement is proffered to my faculty colleagues at the University of the Philippines Film Institute, in line with the plan of the current Dean of the College of Mass Communication to strengthen the college’s presence in Philippine media through the provision of annual awards for noteworthy achievements and significant modes of practice.[3] In the course of discussion I will be looking at the history of movie awards in the Philippines, with particular emphasis on those dispensed by film critics; I will then attempt to evaluate existing awards practice using critical thinking and dissemination as a controlling ideal; finally I will propose ways in which our institute’s awards for film can constitute an improvement over current practice.

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Early Years

The proliferation of Filipino movie awards is a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact the earliest local awards on record coincide with the available celluloid history of post-World War II Philippine cinema – serendipitously, some of the first winners also happen to number among the earliest preserved films.[4] It is worth mentioning that the awards referred to, named after José Rizál’s heroine Maria Clara, were organized and administered by media commentators, as were the awards that succeeded the Maria Clara and that held sway for over two decades, those of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (hereafter FAMAS).

Lest we overlook the role exercised by a just-as-important player, the Philippine government, city-based awards started to be handed out during the second decade of the FAMAS’s existence.[5] Both types of awards – government and press – continue, with varying degrees of credibility and occasional bouts of controversy, to the present. A difference in purpose distinguishes one from the other: at best, the commentators’ award provides recognition for works which may have been overlooked commercially or critically during their initial run, with a strong credibility factor compensating for the belatedness of the acknowledgment; at best, too, the local-government prize may be limited to a handful of entries, but the winners, if genuinely deserving of the prize, enjoy a boost in their box-office earnings.

A third type of award is what may be called the openly institutional award. The FAMAS, although nominally an academy, did not really exclusively consist of film practitioners; the local filmfest awards, while sponsored by local governments, could display partisanship only at the risk of being criticized by oppositionists in mass media. Only one institution with equivalent political clout claims for itself a moral supremacy beyond the judgment of mortals: the Catholic Church, which, through the Catholic Mass Media Awards, provides the “good cop” counterpart to the “bad cop” of its historically determined tendencies toward censorship.

The FAMAS remained the force to be reckoned with into the so-called Second Golden Age of Philippine cinema. Without the self-critical perspective that could have been provided by members of the industry, and with the increased commercial activity brought about by the rise of the independents after the collapse of the studio system during the 1960s, the results of the FAMAS began exhibiting signs of wear, possibly of internal corruption.[6] Even the recognition that the organization gave Lino Brocka’s consecutive mid-’70s triumphs, Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974) and Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), did not guarantee in the public’s estimate that the FAMAS would be able to sustain the same consistent credibility that it did during the peak of the studio system’s best and brightest, notably Gerardo de Leon’s.[7]

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Enter the Critics

Thus was the stage set, so to speak, for the emergence of film critics. The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Critics Circle), in the public mind, promised an alternative to what was then the only major player in Philippine film award-giving, the FAMAS. The MPP’s Urian Award promised reform in principle and in practice, with both areas so self-idealistic that their observation had been as flawed in some years as they had been perfected in others. Ideologically, the Urian subscribed to a still-prevalent misreading of Maoist prescriptions on art and literature, with form regarded independently of its purportedly superior partner, content.[8] Thus, “in the case of two films which are equally well-made, the film with the more significant subject matter [was] to be preferred” by the group.[9]

Methodologically, the critics announced a two-part system consisting of intensive film coverage, with re-screenings prescribed for front-running titles, and of decision-making by consensus. Such a mode of practice had had the effect of upending and sometimes reversing expectations for so-called critical favorites, when films without strong initial impact but which proved capable of sustaining multiple screenings won over early long-term favorites.

To see where the MPP had been, in practice, boxed in by its own declarations, one will have to return to its “Criteria for Evaluation.” Its tenets, on the one hand, merely expound on the importance given to content using nationalist ideals, expressed as “a truthful portrayal of the human condition as perceived by the Filipino [dealing] with the Filipino experience to which the greater number of moviegoers can relate.”[10] On the other hand, its prescriptions for form enumerate criteria according to conventional categories drawn from standard local and international practice – i.e., picture, direction, screenplay, acting, cinematography, production design, editing, sound, and music.[11] The increasingly lavish spectacles indulged in by the group point to the soundness – and profitability – of this strategy.

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Corrective Attempts

Encouraged by the MPP’s success vis-à-vis the FAMAS, a number of other sectors in Philippine film and media sought to institute their own awards system, using the same political strategy the MPP provided: pinpoint an existing awards group (usually still the FAMAS), evaluate the group’s shortcomings and weaknesses, and present a new-and-improved version. Thus the Film Academy of the Philippines, which laid claim to being the true local movie academy by virtue of its formation by industry-based guilds, came up with the FAP Awards. The Philippine Movie Press Club, in frankly admitting that its membership comprised film journalists rather than critics or industry practitioners, set up its Star Awards.[12]

One last award-giving group took on the challenge of rectifying what it perceived were the errors of the Urian. As one of the Young Critics Circle’s founding members, I and Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr., another former MPP member, concluded that what could have been the YCC’s strong suit – its claim to having academically trained members – turned early enough into its liability, when the ivory-tower tendency of a number of colleagues manifested itself in the form of highbrow arrogance directed against industry practitioners. More insidiously, the use of fashionable Western-derived theory became the weapon by which such self-proclaimed nationalists caused irreparable damage in their relations with serious-minded practitioners, all the while lacking the critical willingness to train such deconstructive approaches on the theories themselves. Since the theories as applied remained distinctively associated with their hemisphere of origin, the YCC’s deconstructive project (itself a Western-derived methodology) can be seen as nothing more than a transmutation of colonial mentality in its use of center-derived frameworks applied to a Third-World margin’s progressive cultural concerns.

The YCC projects an image of scholarly seriousness, coupled with disdain for the showbiz trappings of all the other awards ceremonies. However, the limitations of its members’ origins in non-film-specific disciplines comes out in its illiberality, particularly its refusal to recognize mainstream achievements even as it directs attention to a few maverick, possibly deceitful, accomplishments. Its own ceremonies enact a symbolically disturbing spectacle of coercing industry personalities to go to the State University and face a seminar-type crowd that hypocritically downplays the trappings of celebrity in favor of straight-faced discourse.

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Genuine Scholarly Recognition

The UP Film Institute therefore enjoys a position of having critically engaged faculty who also happen to be involved in the medium as teachers, observers, commentators, and practitioners.[13] The UPFI faculty members also have access to a film theater and a flexible screening program that could facilitate the revaluation of the year’s achievements, in addition to film-viewing privileges outside of UP. Their use of theory can be guaranteed as rigorous in terms of both aesthetic evaluation and sociological discourse. Best of all, their relationship with the industry does not have to be premised on an us-or-them binary, a long-running and fruitless form of self-policing that actually had its roots in the MPP’s defensiveness regarding some of its members’ avowed intentions to become industry practitioners. Since the UPFI faculty, by virtue of the impending publish-or-perish requisite coupled with recognition for creative output, will have to be at least occasional practitioners, the prospect of guarding against members “crossing over” to the other camp becomes moot and, literally, academic.

My proposal to my colleagues at the UPFI does not differ much from the same set of reforms I presented verbally to the YCC (rejected in print by the group’s then-chair, who was running a series of attacks against members perceived as critical of the YCC core’s self-proclaimed “deconstructive” project). Listed are the various elements of the proposal:

  • The US model of critics’ awards, which proceeds from a rough tallying of members’ choices, does not improve on the local version, since the constituency of each US critics’ organization is too large to allow for consensus-by-deliberation. European practice is more feasible. The German critics’ awards, which recognize films according to categories such as “Outstanding” and “Noteworthy,” are closer to a democratic ideal, since any number of winners (including a no-winner decision) can be declared.
  • Films should not be classified according to budget, length, or mode of production. The time may also be apt for dispensing with the barriers between celluloid and digital, between installations and screenings, and between broadcasts and theatrical presentations. Hence, any number of short, alternative, digital, even full-out experimental works may be recognized alongside any number of full-length commercial releases, instead of prominence being handed to the latter and the former being relegated to a comparatively minor category (i.e., Best Short/Student Film).[14]
  • Prizes for individual achievement are conventionally delimited in current practice by fixed categories and by single-entry recognitions. In this instance, international festival practice is more apposite. Categories may be opened according to their relevance for the year in question, rather than in observance of the standard requisite of having a definite number awaiting nominations and singular winners. Also, practitioners can be recognized for a clutch of achievements, if such happens to be their contribution for the year, instead of the usual practice of the awards body singling out just one representative accomplishment for each person.
  • Institutions may also be recognized, in order to encourage their leadership in promoting progressive film awareness and culture.
  • Foreign-film distributors may be given recognition for releasing non-Filipino movies regarded as difficult or daring because of their aesthetic or ideological content.
  • The recognition should not take the form of trophies. Short citations on parchment can be handed out to each winner. The announcement of the awards could also easily incorporate these citations. The nomination process should be deemed essential only for award-givers bent on arousing public curiosity in order to sell a show; for a truly discourse-oriented system as the UPFI’s should be, the announcement of nominees should be skipped altogether.
  • A recognition ceremony does not need to manifest the pretension of a discursive session. Since the citations were already publicized, the winners may just be invited to a celebratory event, preferably including a meal for the honorees, possibly in coordination with the CMC’s larger awards event. (In the event the CMC cannot yet implement its college-wide awards system, the UPFI can hold its own until it becomes possible for the college to integrate its awards programs.)

Membership in the UPFI Film Awards Desk, although de facto in the sense that it consists of the country’s film faculty, should also be allowed a certain degree of versatility and voluntariness. Hence, a call for participation in the Desk should be made annually by the UPFI Director; the Desk members elect a Chair, who then serially assigns Desk members (including herself or himself) to cover current film releases, local and foreign, as close as possible to the opening date. Film coverage consists of earliest-possible dispatches by the assigned viewer on whether the release should be seen by the rest of the Desk members, and whether the release raises issues that need to be addressed by the Desk. Quarterly citations may be announced, and at year’s end films being considered for awards should be shortlisted (the equivalent of being nominated) and re-viewed, but not publicized.

Desk members should be able to challenge any other member perceived as involved in films under deliberation, if such involvement induces a bias on the part of said member, whether for the film or against rival entries. Such a member will then have to inhibit herself or himself, if necessary via a memo from the Director, from the Desk’s deliberation processes.

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Looking Forward

A system of award-giving that allows itself flexibility in determining formats and categories will be in tune with still-evolving changes in film technology. Moreover, it will emphasize the fluid nature of aesthetic preferences and the collaborative nature of film-production activity. In order to stress the importance of critical discursiveness, however, the UPFI awards should operate within the context of a vital and continuing research agenda, where, as an example, the awards’ citations function as encapsulated insights for full-length articles. The awards themselves would then serve as enticements for the general public to read up on writings by the members of the faculty, with a possible mechanism for feedback to be set up eventually.

The future direction of film may be regarded as dead-ended, if the decline in local production were to be taken pessimistically. However, said decline may also be seen as parallel to the historical drop in book production when journalism first emerged, and the retreat into safer commercial strategies when television started to challenge the cultural hegemony of film. The provision of narrative pleasure continues to the present anyway, whether in print or via imagery, regardless of past challenges. In fact the turn-of-the-millennium example in American popular music might be more instructive: although the production of studio-style efforts declined, the actual number of new CD releases set historical records, precisely because of the democratization of the means of production and dissemination. Once this access to formerly exclusive (and unreasonably expensive) production and distribution applies to filmmaking, the complaint by local moguls that they could not make as many movies as they used to will be drowned by the ready availability of personal films everywhere.

The system of awards proposed in this statement will be unique from the outset, and potentially responsive, liberal, and discourse-oriented. More important, in recognizing the unpredictable nature of collaborative endeavors, it assumes a position of humility in relation to popular culture while inviting the best contributions from some of the best-qualified evaluators in the country. The UPFI faculty ought therefore to proceed forthwith.

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Notes

[1] Submitted to the faculty of the University of the Philippines Film Institute on July 4, 2003 at the College of Mass Communication, Diliman, Quezon City. I expressed appreciation to my then-junior colleagues at the UPFI – specifically Roehl Jamon, Edic Piano, and Johven Velasco – for their comments and encouragement.

[2] For a summary of the introduction of film in the Philippines, see Ernie de Pedro, “Overview of Philippine Cinema,” Filipino Film Review 1.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1983) 26-27. A past edition of the Guinness Book of World Records cited Filipinos as most consistent movie-goers in the world, based on the average number of times a citizen goes to the movies during a certain period. Current editions use absolute measures (total number of citizens who go to the movies), which results in China topping the list. Re production activity, instead of the usual total number of films (which has resulted in India being undisputed topnotcher), one might set said number against total population for a per-capita figure. In this case, even with lessened film-production activity, the Philippines would still be “more active” than India. See Joel David, “Primates in Paradise: The Multiple-Character Format in Philippine Film Practice,” unpub. diss., New York University, 2001.

[3] Nicanor G. Tiongson, “Vision, Mission, and Goal Presentation,” submitted to the Nomination Committee for the Deanship Search of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (Quezon City, March 19, 2003) 6.

[4] The Manila Times, after declaring in its past pages its choices of best film, set up its Maria Clara Awards, which lasted two years, in 1950. The last winner, Gerardo de Leon’s Sisa, is still available as a duplicate print. See “Exhibit Module 7: Filipino Film Awards” in Cinema Paraiso: An Exhibition of Cinema Artifacts and Memorabilia, exhibit catalog (Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2003) n.p.

[5] The Manila Film Festival was established in 1966 and expanded to include other cities and municipalities as the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1975 (“Exhibit Module 7: Filipino Film Awards” in Cinema Paraiso, ibid.). The MMFF’s Christmas-season playdate, however, was first realized in 1976 – a watershed year in many other ways, yielding as it did a bumper crop of quality productions before as well as during the festival itself, and heralding the first Urian awards. See “Filmography: Philippine Movies 1970-1979” in The Urian Anthology 1970-1979 (Quezon City: Morato, 1983) 501.

[6] The startling breakout films of Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, Tubog sa Ginto (1970) and Pagdating sa Dulo (1971) respectively, received only token FAMAS prizes (direction and screenplay resp.) during their years of release, overshadowed by such conventional blockbusters as Armando de Guzman’s Mga Anghel na Walang Langit (1970) and Gerardo de Leon’s Lilet (1971).

[7] Another way of looking at the FAMAS’ predicament during this period was that it insisted on rewarding the likes of Gerardo de Leon, even after the master’s evident decline – cf. Lilet’s win as best film.

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[8] The binaristic separation of form and content in progressive Philippine cultural writing was first formulated in the texts of Amado Guerrero (pseud.), who maintained that “[a revolutionary national culture] must adopt certain traditional and modern cultural forms and infuse these with content that enhances the national-democratic revolution” (Philippine Society and Revolution, 1970 [Hayward, Calif.: Philippine Information Network Service, 1996] 119-20). For all its similar reductiveness in its approaches to aesthetic and literary problematics, no such configuration can be found as a controlling framework in Mao Zhedong’s “Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art” (May 1942), Mao Tse-Tung on Literature and Art (London: Anglo-Chinese Educational Institute, n.d.) 1-44. I am grateful to Professor Wei Jiang for helping to clarify that such a misreading of Mao was prevalent even among native Chinese Communists.

[9] “MPP Criteria for Film Evaluation,” The Urian Anthology 1970-1979 2.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid. In further subservience to Western dimorphic and hierarchic practice, local acting awards, including the MPP’s own, are subdivided according to gender (actor/actress) and prominence (lead/supporting). Such a surplus of awards for performances is also evidence of star personalities holding sway over the proceedings, at the expense of more productive auteurist considerations such as the contributions of directors, writers, and craftspeople. In the face of this concession to populist preferences, conservative containment is evident in the insistence on matching one performance per performer (a premise that promotes commodity fetishism) as well as in the refusal to acknowledge gradations and fluctuations between the sexes and between leads and non-leads.

[12] The most highly regarded among these newcomers was at one point the PMPC’s Star Awards, and the reason hinged on the worthiness of the example set by the MPP: the PMPC also observed the same practice of multiple screenings and consensus-based decision-making, in some years generating better-received results than the Urian. Implicit in this proliferation of local movie awards is the set of circumstances that made the development paradoxical: these were the worsening years of martial rule, when other forms of mass media suffered unstinting repression by government and military forces. The government of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, however, zeroed in on film as their preferred showcase of libertarian democracy, even setting up a support system, the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, which eventually challenged the government’s own censorship board. Hence no one was surprised when even the Metro Manila Commission enlarged, geographically and monetarily, on the concept of local-government festivals by launching the Metro Manila Film Festival during the most profitable season, the yearend Christmas break, and when the country further expanded its film scene in global terms via the short-lived Manila International Film Festival.

[13] Here of course I am shamelessly deploying flattery and in danger of lying through my teeth. The members of the UPFI faculty who have any measure of intellectual and ethical integrity can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the rest are marked by scholarship that ranges from questionable to nonexistent and by an administrative record that veers from callous to corrupt.

[14] The MPP came around shortly after I circulated this statement and recognized digital products, a few years before local industrial production turned exclusively digital. It also continued including extra-length films (all by Lav Diaz), although it has continued to segregate “short” films in a separate category. I make no claim to having influenced the group by this or any other form of commentary: if they kept refusing to recognize digital products, they would have wound up without a “job,” in the form of their profitable annual awards ceremony. I should also mention here that a third local critics group (where I also participated), called Kritika, operated for a few years in the early 1990s and adhered to all these procedures, including the ones in succeeding entries on this list.

[Submitted in December 2003 to the College Executive Board (care of the Dean) of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication]

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Millennial Traversals

Book Edition (2019), based on Journal Editions (2015-16);
click on pic to enlarge.

Millennial Traversals

Original Digital Edition (2015);
click on pic to enlarge.

Millennial Traversals: Outliers, Juvenilia, & Quondam Popcult Blabbery is my first book of the new millennium, and like most contemporary claims, that one can be deconstructed at every point: the millennium’s no longer that new, I’ve done other books since 2000 (mostly as editor, but also as dissertation author), and…the present volume is not, or not yet, a book, at least in the printed dead-tree sense that my previous solo-authored ones were. Moreover, aside from my diss, I’ve never really written, much less published, an extensive monograph, which would be the type of book I’d prefer to uphold.[1] Although I expended conscious efforts to ensure that my previously published compilations had as much internal consistency as they could handle, they were still essentially anthologies, as this current one is; and maybe the distinction of Millennial Traversals is that its pretensions reside elsewhere, no longer in trying to appear like a deliberately planned and duly parsed product. My rationale for insisting that the present exercise is still part of the continuum provided by my previous volumes is simple (shaky maybe, but simple): The National Pastime, Fields of Vision, and Wages of Cinema all exist in revised and updated form on my archival blog, so Millennial Traversals merely skipped the paper-and-ink stage and got to be introduced to its readership in digital format.[2] (I’m still planning to have “publishable” PDF versions of all the texts I’ve mentioned here, but I can’t foresee right now how soon I’ll be able to work that out.) In this manner, virtually all my non-academic (and a few academic) film and culture articles will have been compiled in book form.

The positive aspects of creating a strictly open-access book revealed themselves in separate stages. I knew that I wouldn’t have to deal with publishers’ and editors’ and readers’ quirks, which for some reason assume creative dimensions when they confront popular culture material; that included the corollary advantage of having the longest manuscript text I ever compiled, nearly double (in terms of number of articles) that of The National Pastime, my previous longest book. When I cooked up a title, I realized I could formulate something that any sensible publisher (or her accountant) might faint upon hearing, and I could lump together anything I wanted without worrying about possible objections like why foreign films? why incomplete period coverage? why the shifts to other media and even to non-media? why the wide divergence in analytical approaches? I could improve on the texts at any time and place, although I do hope to minimize my tinkering once the manuscripts go public. I won’t need to strengthen an opening essay that I knew was too lame by my standards, since I felt when I was writing it that it just needed to be placed out there in order to temper, if not overturn, my very first book’s unexpectedly influential first essay. The foreign-film reviews still seem rather perfunctory, which was why I had no problem eliminating them from my earlier books – but they somehow assumed increasing usefulness the longer I kept at them. The local film reviews similarly dropped out from the pre-millennial books because of their uncertain significance in relation to the rest of my output, although they still could function as markers of an era; in Millennial Traversals they serve to indicate my interest in as wide a variety of film types as Philippine cinema makes available.

Thanks are owed to my previous book publishers (Ma. Karina A. Bolasco, Esther M. Pacheco, Laura L. Samson), my previous editors (Lulu Torres Reyes, Jo-Ann Maglipon, Patrick Campos, Clarissa David, Violeda A. Umali, Cristina del Carmen Pastor, Daisy Catherine L. Mandap, Benjamin Pimentel, Leloy Claudio, Bienvenido Lumbera, the late Raul Ingles, Caroline Hau, Flor Caagusan, Cristina S. Cristobal, Cathy Rose Garcia, Ricky Lo, Berroth Medenilla), and my current editorial assistant, Theo Pie. I had early associations with two still-thriving critics organizations, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Critics Circle) and the Young Critics Circle; despite my sometimes passionate declarations of differences with them, I will also be unable to deny that I drew some foundational strengths, sometimes by resisting their methods but also from following some of their then-sensible practices. To them I dedicate this “book,” such as it is, and for what it may be worth. [Cover design: Karl Fredrick M. Castro; cover pic: Tiyanak publicity still (dir. Peque Gallaga & Lorenzo A. Reyes; Regal Films, 1988); author’s pic: Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil. For larger image, please click on picture above.]

Notes

To read the book lecture “The Millennial Traversals of Millennial Traversals,” please click here.

[1] Two years after this volume came out, a monograph I drafted for Arsenal Pulp Press’s Queer Film Classics, on Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night, was published.

[2] Another twist in the publication saga of Millennial Traversals is that it has come out in print form, via the University of Sto. Tomas’s UNITAS: Semi-Annual Peer-Reviewed International Online Journal of Advanced Research in Literature, Culture, and Society. Part I is listed as Volume 88, No. 1 (May 2015), while Part II is Volume 89, No. 1 (May 2016). The links below will take you to the UNITAS open-access website, where the volumes have been uploaded. Addendum: A further twist proceeds from the fact that the printed journal versions were limited in number and not for purchase. Ámauteurish Publishing therefore arranged to reprint these journal issues as a single-volume book edition, out in 2019.

The National Library of the Philippines CIP Data

David, Joel.
Millenial traversals : outlier, juvenilia, & quondam popcult blabbery : part I: traversals within cinema ; Millenial traversals : outlier, juvenilia, & quondam popcult blabbery : part II: expanded perspectives / Joel David. — Book Edition. — Quezon City : Amauteurish Publishing, [2019], c2019.

pages ; cm

Bound dos-a-dos; book opens to the right from both the front cover and the back cover.
ISBN 978-621-96191-0-3 (part I)
ISBN 978-621-96191-1-0 (part II)

1. Motion pictures – Philippines – Reviews. 2. Film criticism – Philippines. 3. Philippine literature – Reviews. I. Title.

791.4375 ¦ PN1995 ¦ P920190153

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Contents of the Original Digital Edition
© 2015 by Ámauteurish Publishing
All Rights Reserved
(Subsumed in the following subsequent UNITAS & print editions)

Please click on image for enlargement.

Part I: TRAVERSALS WITHIN CINEMA
UNITAS 88.1 (May 2015)
© 2015 by Joel David & the University of Santo Tomas
Book Edition © 2019 by Ámauteurish Publishing
All Rights Reserved
ISBN 978-621-96191-0-3

PRELIMINARIES

Half Title; Also by Joel David; Title Page; Copyright; Description, History & Coverage, Editorial & Ethical Policies; International Editorial Board; Editorial Staff; Dedication:

To the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the Young Critics Circle, and Kritika –
“…người ta thôi nghĩ về sự may mắn trong hạnh phúc.” (from a Vietnamese proverb)

Table of Contents; Introduction to the UNITAS Print Edition; Introduction to the Original Digital Edition (i-xxiii)

BODY TEXT

First Closure (1-15)

The Golden Ages of Philippine Cinema: A Critical Reassessment

Period-Enders (16-41)

Local Cinema 1980-89
Foreign Cinema 1980-89
Metro Manila Film Festival 1976-86
LGBTQ Filmfests
Pinoy Filmfests ca. 2013
Sonata (2013)
Lihis (2013)
Otso (2013)

Old-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews I (Various Sources) (42-61)

Birds of Omen
Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (1978)
Commercialism Triumphs Again
Bongga Ka ’Day (1980)
Effective Satire
Kontrobersyal (1981)
Oversimplifying Class Conflicts
Burgis (1981)
Naked Debut
Hubad na Gubat (1982)
A Halfway Sample
Maestro Bandido (1983)
Repression and Rebellion
Pedro Tunasan (1984)
Missed Opportunities
Dope Godfather (1984)
Mysterious Pleasure
Misteryo sa Tuwa (1984)
Historical Lessons
Virgin Forest (1985)

Old-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews II (National Midweek & After) (62-82)

Secret Love
Mga Lihim ng Kalapati (1987)
Grave Burden
Pasan Ko ang Daigdig (1987)
Earthbound
Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa (1987)
Image-Building
Huwag Mong Itanong Kung Bakit (1987)
Komiks without Pain
Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig? (1987)
Balancing Acts
Hati Tayo sa Magdamag (1989)
Roño’s Rondos
Itanong Mo sa Buwan (1988)
Si Baleleng at ang Gintong Sirena (1989)
Film on Film
Big Flick in the Sky (1990)
Black & Blue & Red
Bayani (1992)

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New-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews (83-119)

Heaven in Mind
Sabel (2004)
Domestic Worth
Serbis (2009)
Survivor’s Guilt
Boses (2009)
Sighs and Whispers
Biyaheng Lupa (2009)
On the Edge
On the Job (2013)
A Desire Named Oscar
Ilo Ilo (2013)
Metro Manila (2013)
Transit (2013)
Beyond Borders
Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2014)
Antonio Luna’s Fall and Rise
Heneral Luna (2015)
Roads Less Traveled
Lakbay2Love (2016)
Ice with a Face
Ma’ Rosa (2016)

Foreign-Film Reviews I (Warm-Ups) (120-137)

A Clockwork Yellow
The China Syndrome (1979)
Kramer vs. Women
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Star-Crossed
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Brainless Love
Endless Love (1981)
Manila Event Short Take I
Ragtime (1981)
Manila Event Short Take II
Man of Iron (1981)
Epic Soapbox
The Mission (1986)
The Stuff of Dreams
Dreamscape (1984)
Bloody Fine
The Untouchables (1987)
The Devil to Pay
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

Foreign-Film Reviews II (Exertions) (138-160)

Form and Function
Silent Voice (a.k.a. Amazing Grace and Chuck; 1987)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Life after Life
Mississippi Burning (1989)
They Live (1988)
…And the First Shall Be the Last
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Soldier Blues
Casualties of War (1989)
Gloria in Excessus
Glory (1989)
Frontline
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Wet Noodles
I Come with the Rain (2009)
Two Guys, While Watching Avatar
Avatar (2009)
Hit in the (Multi)Plexus
Wan-deuk-i [Punch] (2011)

END MATTER

Acknowledgments (From the Original Digital Edition; For the UNITAS Print Edition; First Publication Credits); Index; About the Author (161-171)

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Please click on image for enlargement.

Part II: EXPANDED PERSPECTIVES
UNITAS 89.1 (May 2016)
© 2016 by Joel David & the University of Santo Tomas
Book Edition © 2019 by Ámauteurish Publishing
All Rights Reserved
ISBN 978-621-96191-1-0

PRELIMINARIES

Half Title; Also by Joel David; Title Page; Copyright; Description, History & Coverage, Editorial & Ethical Policies; International Editorial Board; Editorial Staff; Dedication:

To the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the Young Critics Circle, and Kritika –
“…người ta thôi nghĩ về sự may mắn trong hạnh phúc.” (from a Vietnamese proverb)

Table of Contents; Introduction to the UNITAS Print Edition; Introduction to the Original Digital Edition (i-xxii)

BODY TEXT

Non-Film Reviews (1-12)

Adaptation Comes of Age
La Bohéme (1992)
Disorder & Constant Sorrow
Subversive Lives (2012)
The Novel Pinoy Novel
Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata (2011)
High Five
Gang of 5: Tales, Cuentos, Sanaysay (2012)

First Persons (13-31)

Movie Worker
Love Was the Drug
The Dolphy Conundrum
The Carnal Moral of a Brutal Miracle
A National Artist We Deserve

Interviews (32-74)

Star Builders on Parade
The Fantasy World of Rey de la Cruz
Perseverance in a Neglected Dimension
The Critic as Creator
Critic in Academe

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Commentaries (75-94)

Cinemasex
Big Hopes for Short Films
Levels of Independence
Sight & Sound 2002

Culture at Large (95-109)

Kim Dae-jung & the Aquinos
Crescent Tense
Asian Casanovas
The Sins of the Fathers
A Benediction in the Offing

Foreign Scenes (110-130)

Tarriance in Thailand
Empire of the (Risen) Sun
Small Worm, Big Apple
Unease in the Morning Calm

Metacriticism (131-159)

How to Become a Film Critic
Some Words on Film Awards
A Lover’s Polemic

Last Closure (160-169)

Reflections on a National Pastime

END MATTER

Acknowledgments (From the Original Digital Edition; For the UNITAS Print Edition; First Publication Credits); Index; About the Author (170-180; 170-179 in book edition)

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Millennial Traversals – A Lover’s Polemic


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part II: Expanded Perspectives, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Millennial Traversals – Old-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews II (National Midweek & After)


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part I: Traversals within Cinema, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Millennial Traversals – New-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part I: Traversals within Cinema, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Millennial Traversals – Non-Film Reviews


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part II: Expanded Perspectives, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Millennial Traversals – Foreign Film Reviews I (Warm-Ups)


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part I: Traversals within Cinema, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!


Millennial Traversals – Old-Millennium Pinoy Film Reviews I (Various Sources)


Thank you for your interest in Millennial Traversals, my fourth sole-authored book. In addition to its distinction as, to my knowledge, the Philippines’s first complete open-access (non-journal) volume, it has reappeared as a print edition of UNITAS, the semi-annual peer-reviewed journal of the University of Santo Tomas – which has also reposted it online. Please click on this link to open Part I: Traversals within Cinema, where the article you are seeking can be found. You may also find more information on the blog page of Millennial Traversals.

Á!