- Digital Cinema in the Philippines, 1999–2009 by Eloisa May P. Hernandez
Eloisa May P. Hernandez's Digital Cinema in the Philippines, 1999–2009 argues time and again for Philippine cinema's continued life, albeit already in the contemporary era's most transformative and indeed progressive form—the digital medium. Most critics and scholars decry the unending lackluster production of Philippine cinema in general, which logically has led to pronouncements of its death over the years. For Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., for instance, it seems to die over and over again in film scholarship. Hernandez, however, turns to the ever-altering digital medium to trace how it has provided Philippine cinema a new lease on life by radically transforming film production, distribution, and consumption from 1999 to 2009. The book is an important contribution to the already full-bodied corpus of film studies in the Philippines as it not only takes on the argument once again for Philippine cinema, but also properly assesses what has been continually marginalized by the hegemonic, consumer-driven mainstream cinema. The [End Page 534] book lends history to Philippine digital cinema, and this narration seems to extend Philippine cinema's lamented life. This is, I believe, what the book has carved in the still "growing field of Philippine film history," as a work that aims "to proffer a more complex and dynamic study" of the said subject (16).
The book, which consists of a framing introduction, two comprehensive chapters on the history of digital cinema, and a short, summative conclusion, grew out of Hernandez's dissertation on the subject at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, under the able guidance of leading art critic Patrick D. Flores. Hernandez is associate professor of Art Studies at the College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman, and a lecturer of Fine Arts at the Ateneo de Manila University. She earned her BA in Art Studies, MA in Art History, and PhD in Philippines Studies at UP Diliman. She is the author of Homebound: Women Visual Artists in Nineteenth-Century Philippines (University of the Philippines Press, 2004) and Sining ng Sineng Filipino (UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, 2009). She is a member of the Young Critics Circle Film Desk, once serving as its president.
Hernandez describes her book as "a culmination of more than a decade of engagement with Philippine studies, art history, film history, and Philippine cinema" (xiii). In studying over the course of its time frame "digitally produced full-length narrative films that have been screened in at least two public screenings: in a regular run or in alternative venues, and in local or international film festivals" (xiv), she traces the beginnings and trajectories of the medium in the Filipino context. She thus offers two periods in what she describes as the "technological history of digital cinema in the Philippines," the period of introduction and the period of innovation (11), the subject of the book's first chapter. In the second chapter, Hernandez strengthens her claims by building on her earlier historical and archival findings through a comprehensive map of the political economy of Philippine film culture, where digital cinema seems pervasive in production, distribution, and exhibition (thus, consumption). By way of the chapters on the history of digital cinema, the book illustrates the interrogations and negotiations by all of the stakeholders in the industry in the process of coming to terms with new technologies, responding to critical and popular tastes shaped by internal and external factors, and attempting to make the industry sustainable.
Hernandez offers a cinematic history in terms of "shifts," which anchors her argument and considers the digital format as the next phase in an ongoing formal [End Page 535] transformation "from celluloid to digital" (15). The book sports an optimistic look by zooming in on the exciting innovations brought about by digital films, which over the years have suffered from being ignored by the public, relegated to usually limiting platforms like high-end film festivals, and drowned by competition with the mainstream. In a...