Arts & Leisure

Restored Insiang opens World Premieres film fest after being screened as a classic at Cannes

Posted on June 30, 2015

“IT WAS by God’s grace, a great honor and privilege that Insiang was restored in the best lab in Bologna, Italy jointly by the Martin Scorsese World Cinema Project, The Film Foundation, and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP); entered in the Classics category at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, and screened alongside world classics like Citizen Kane by Orson Wells,” says Insiang Executive Producer Ruby Tiong Tan, a stockbroker.

“That allowed the newly restored classic to even supersede its original luster, glory as the first Philippine entry into the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, (which) paved the way not just for Philippine movies to go international, but also for Asian movies as well,” she added.

Restored to its “cinematic glory,” the masterpiece of the late National Artist for Film Lino Brocka was the opening movie at the World Premieres Film Festival Philippines 2015 (WPFF) at the Premiere Cinema of the SM Mall of Asia last week.

The movie also launched a new addition to the festival: the Classics section, which this year includes seven timeless films, many of which have been restored by the Scorsese foundation/project and the L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratories as well.

Under FDCP’s auspices, the National Film Archives of the Philippines (NFAP) fully acquired the rights to Brocka’s masterpiece after negotiations between FDCP and film producer Ms. Tan last year.

The film’s road to restoration was a long and circuitous one. Ms. Tan gave the film rights to the NFAP “to preserve the country’s valuable film heritage and propel the restoration forward.

“Once the film elements reached the lab in Italy for proper inspection, negotiations for the joint restoration project among the NFAP, the FDCP and the project/foundation immediately followed,” says a press release from FDCP.

Insiang is now owned by the state and is a Philippine cultural heritage product -- serving as a model for the nation’s important films to be restored and made publicly accessible.

Shortly after the completion of its restoration in Italy, Insiang was selected to be part of the Cannes Classics section during the prestigious festival -- harking back to its international premiere in 1978 when it was featured in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs or Directors’ Fortnight. It returned to the Festival de Cannes on May 16 at the Buñuel Theatre to a packed audience.

“It is important for the Philippines, for Filipino culture, and for the film itself that Insiang be (re)-released,” said renowned film critic/programmer/director and world cinema advocate Pierre Rissient, who -- as an artistic advisor of the Cannes Film Festival -- recommended Insiang for selection at the Quinzaine. He and Film Foundation/The World Cinema Project Executive Director Margaret Bodde were present at the WPFF screening. And so was actor Rez Cortez, who played lead character Insiang’s boyfriend in the movie.

Insiang is an honest, albeit bleak document of a marginalized woman’s fight to survive during one of our country’s darkest hours. It is a testament to the artistry of the Filipino, with Lino Brocka’s direction and Mario O’Hara’s screenplay bringing the story to life. The film has become a significant part of our country’s film heritage, as it encompasses society’s tensions and strife during that time in our history,” said an FDCP release.

“Considered one of the best films of the 1970s by the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino and a stand-out film of Brocka’s social realist cinema, Insiang is a striking critique of Martial Law-era Philippines. Brocka illustrates the personal fight for justice against poverty and patriarchy sought by mother and daughter. Theirs is a conflicted relationship brilliantly portrayed by Mona Lisa and Hilda Koronel,” it added.

Koronel, Mona Lisa and Ruel Vernal ran away with best performance awards (actress, supporting actress and supporting actors, respectively) during the 2nd Metro Manila Film Festival in 1976.

Brocka once said of his classic film: “Insiang is -- first and foremost, a character analysis -- a young woman raised in a miserable neighborhood. I need this character to recreate the ‘violence’ stemming from urban overpopulation; to show the annihilation of a human being, the loss of human dignity caused by the physical and social environment and to stress the need for changes to these life conditions.”

“The restoration of Insiang and its Philippine premiere are milestones for Philippine cinema as the internationally revered classic has withstood the test of time,” the press release said.

The WPFF started on June 24 and ends on July 7. -- Susan Claire Agbayani