Thursday, August 25, 2005

A CHILD OF THE MOVIES PAYS TRIBUTE TO BROCKA

FROM THE MANILA TIMES
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

‘Anak ni Brocka’
A child of the movies pays tribute to Brocka
By Dennis Ladaw


ARGUABLY, Lino Brocka was and still is the most prolific Filipino filmmaker in the country. Nearly 15 years after his death, nobody else has achieved the same kind of prominence he still enjoys.

Thus, it’s surprising that none of his peers have gone out to pay tribute to the man and his accomplishments. It had to take an indie filmmaker to pay a worthy tribute to the man who put Philippine cinema on the world map.

Writer/director Sigfried Barros Sanchez is barely 30. He was only 16 when Brocka was killed in a car accident in 1991. He was born a year after Brocka made his breakthrough film, Tinimbang ka Nguni’t Kulang. Yet Sanchez is the man who went out to make Anak ni Brocka.

Anak ni Brocka is part documentary and part fiction. In the film, Sanchez creates a scenario where a 20-year-old young man has been telling everyone that his father was Brocka. It’s an unlikely story but an intriguing one. The great director was openly gay and the idea of his having fathered a child has his closest friends rolling over the floor.

In the film, a fictional TV investigative news staff pick up on this “rumor” and in searching for this “younger Brocka,” they inadvertently get to investigate the life and times of the late director. Shades of The Blair Witch Project abound as Sanchez’s crew obtain sound bytes from the Filipino man in the street. Their reactions are hilarious while the comments from actors who worked with Brocka are more insightful.

Sanchez said he wrote Anak ni Brocka in 1998 when he attended Ricky Lee’s famous scriptwriting workshop. He recalls, “During one of the breaks, I started teasing Ricky Lee. I said, ‘You have so many possessions in your home. Who are you going leave all that to when you pass on?’ Ricky answered, ‘Don’t give me that. It’s not a problem for me. Lino Brocka never had a child, so why should I have one?’”

Sanchez refused to get Lee off the hook. He continued, ‘But Brocka has a son. I know he has a son and I’m going to find him!”

Lee didn’t find the joke funny, and neither did Sanchez’s classmates. They egged him on. Lee said, “So you say he has a son. Then go look for the boy and bring him to us!”

Sanchez admits he wasn’t familiar with the works of Brocka at that point. He was compelled to rent and borrow VHS copies of the director’s works, if only to familiarize himself with the man. Watching his films converted Sanchez, and Brocka quickly became one of his favorite directors. He wrote Anak ni Brocka and made it his class project. After finishing the workshop, he pitched the script to some of Brocka’s contemporaries, including Joel Lamangan. “None of them showed any interest in the script. They found it too weird,” he said.

Life & Times asked Sanchez if this indifference was perhaps brought about by the fact that Brocka was a vocal critic of the Marcos administration—Marcos coddled many of the leading players in the movie industry. “It’s a possibility,” he said.

Cinema One, the Filipino movie cable channel of ABS-CBN liked Sanchez’s idea and offered to finance the project. He hired a cast composed primarily of stage actors to play the motley TV crew and several name stars who had worked with Brocka. Some of them like Chanda Romero appear in the interviews while others like Bembol Roco and Gina Alajar play brief roles. Sanchez also gets some interesting quotes from Brocka’s old friends, including UP classmates Behn Cervantes and Bobby Malay and fellow artists like Jun Lanot.

Anak ni Brocka is not flawless. The fictional drama that happens to the news crew tends to bog down the film and takes the focus out of the story’s main subject. Also, the cameo appearance of Bembol Roco as a corrupt government official is awkward since Sanchez repeatedly inserts clips of Roco in Maynila: Sa Kuko ng Liwanag. Also, noted actors like Gina Alajar and Angie Ferro are on hand as working class people being interviewed by the TV reporters. Yet their scenes seem phony when compared with the brilliant footage of the real slum people discussing Brocka.
Nevertheless, Anak ni Brocka is a fitting tribute to a great artist. It’s also a priceless document that preserves a brief but shining moment in Philippine cinema. Sanchez would do Brocka proud.
Anak ni Brocka will be screened at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in September.

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