- The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century by Patrick F. Campos
The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century
Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2016. 665 pages.
If there is one thing to be gleaned from this voluminous book, it is that Patrick Campos is passionate about Philippine cinema. This passion is perhaps what drove him to deconstruct it so that we can appreciate it with newer lenses.
There are a number of reasons why The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century differs from other works in the field of Philippine film criticism. First, unlike other film scholars, Campos does not frame his analysis strictly within a socio-realist tradition, the art versus commercialism debates, or nativist and indigenization perspectives. His work is influenced by various theoretical approaches ranging from political economy to spatial analysis, from geopolitics to postmodern and postcolonial concepts. Weaving these various approaches is no mean feat, but Campos manages to do it effortlessly and, best of all, turn it on its head, thereby [End Page 99] creating a nuanced analysis that is akin to "thirding," an analytical and practical strategy of creating a counter-space drawn from opposing categories to open up new alternatives or spaces for a critical engagement with texts. It is in this "thirdspace" that Campos positions his analysis.
Second, instead of just doing a reading of selected movies, Campos uses a wide range of available materials to acquire his data. Under this methodology fall his critical and thematic analyses of movies, personal interviews, observations, direct participation, film festival transcripts, and archived materials. One cannot dispute Caroline Hau's observation, found in the book's blurb, that this project is "broad-ranging and empirically grounded."
Third, Campos's focus moves away from previous conceptualizations of "national cinema" as a canon of films that was produced only within a specific geographical boundary (stories set in the Philippines, financed and directed by local producers and filmmakers) and critical of the state, specifically those that came out during the Marcos regime. In addition, this definition only seemed to describe movies done by mostly male auteurs such as Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo de Leon, and Mike de Leon, among others. Campos questions the efficacy of using a limited definition of national cinema by pointing out its colonial origins, in both form and content, and its transnational quality as exemplified by our participation in the global film movement through the network of film festivals, film critics and programmers, and cinephiles.
Fourth, the spatial and temporal analysis that undergirds the whole work is an interesting approach to the study of Philippine cinema. It is not incidental that the book's title also includes the phrase "at the turn of the century" to signify the body of films included in the analysis. The production of these selected movies in the first decade of the twenty-first century also coincides with the peak of globalization. For Campos, what we know of national cinema may have ended or at least have gone to a different direction precisely at this juncture because cinema has taken on a more global dimension and outlook. While he is very particular about the temporal and spatial coverage of his analyses, he does so not by signaling a break similar to a before-and-after model, but by locating movies and events in a historical continuum stretching as far back as the arrival of film technology in the country during the American period until the first decade of the twenty-first century when the independent film (indie) movement broke new grounds. [End Page 100] For example, chapter 8 starts with a discussion on how Thomas Edison's newsreels were used as a pretext for the continued American colonization of the Philippines. Campos then connects and contrasts these newsreels with contemporary but diverse types of movies that also deal with the Philippine–American War, such as Amigo (2010), Memories of a Forgotten War (2001), Bontoc Eulogy (1995), and Independencia (2009). Instead of highlighting the need for American intervention...