FOR filmmaker, film historian, and author Nick Deocampo, historical scholarship is essential. His books demonstrate this, whether they tackle Philippine cinema and its history or try to make sense of its culture and chart its future — and his latest series manages to do all of the above.

The three-volume opus Sine Tala gives a rounded view of how cinema evolved in the country to form historical records, operates as material culture, and provides a pedagogical tool for learning. More than a compilation of Mr. Deocampo’s essays and lectures over the years, it is an “encyclopedic work of love,” as described by National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik.

At the Aug. 8 launch of the book series, the Cinema Palma at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was filled with students, teachers, and lovers of film, and it was to them that Mr. Deocampo dedicated his work.

“I think we need to equip ourselves with words like these because I felt very impoverished when I was a young student like you. I knew more about Hollywood cinema and its history and aesthetics more than I knew about Philippine cinema, so I took it as a challenge,” he said in his speech.

The key to the production of knowledge is research, said Mr. Deocampo, and it will result in the films that you make and the books that you write.

“This intellectual rigor and discipline is something that we truly need in this age of disinformation, misinformation, and globalization, wherein we can all just get lost in terms of identity and who we are as a people,” he concluded.

Sine Tala is divided into themes — history, culture, and literacy — drawing from over 250 essays written over the past 40 years.

The first volume traces Philippine cinema’s trajectory from the oft-forgotten, erased tradition of shadowplay in pre-colonial times, to early silent cinema, all the way to the digital era, passing through the major influences of the Spanish, Americans, and Japanese.

The second volume covers almost all other aspects of cultural life — the influence of theater, music, and even religious practices, all finding their way into the cinematic form and Filipino material culture.

The third volume, according to Mr. Deocampo, may be the closest to his heart. “I am at the phase of my life wherein my advocacy for education, for pedagogy, is just very strong. I believe that it is through education that cinema can really be meaningful in our society,” he said.

It takes on the semiotics, or science of signs, that can be deciphered and decoded from the likes of Lino Brocka’s filmography, which communicated through film language the realities of the Marcos military regime and post-martial law era. It also charts the futures of the educational film market, the role of film screening in a digital age, and the development of multimedia.

In a foreword by University of the Philippines Film Institute associate professor Patrick F. Campos, the relevance of studying all this is made clear.

“Film is essential as an instrument or agent of history in the reorientation of historical consciousness. The book urges us to pay attention to film in particular, and cultural production in general, in the way that it affects the balance of power,” he said.

Neither static nor timeless, Mr. Deocampo shows history as grounded in place and time yet also dynamic and always part of ongoing dialogue. Moreover, it is committed to a vision of a future, said Mr. Campos.

The resulting book series was co-published by the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Ateneo University Press.

Sine Tala is priced at P1,500. To order the box set, go to — Brontë H. Lacsamana