The Golden Age of Philippine Cinema had two phases. The first was from post-war 1940s to the 1950s, when auteurs brought more artistic techniques and mature stories to the silver screen. The second phase occurred between the 1970s and 1980s, when films that both stood defiant against the administration and explored the boundaries of the art form with more experimental fare sought favor among the masses.
Local film buffs would argue that Philippine cinema is in the middle of its third Golden Age and that Treb Monteras is one of the creative minds responsible for its gilding. Monteras is best known for his directorial debut Respeto, runaway winner of the 2017 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. The widely talked-about film bagged seven awards at the festival, including Best Film. It also won for Best Film and Best Director at the recently concluded Cyprus Film Days International Festival.
While the first-time filmmaker deserves every accolade he receives, let’s take note of the fact that Monteras reached the pinnacle of success only after years of sheer, hard work. Prior to directing Respeto, Monteras worked on local television shows, concerts, commercials, and more than 300 music videos–a respectable career for any person, but his passion dictated that he pursue something more. To fuel that passion, he studied at the Mowelfund Film Institute, as well as the International Institute for Film and the Arts. After finding a group of like-minded collaborators, he set to work on what would become an impressive first step into the film industry, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The resurgence of local independent cinema in the last decade has prompted filmmakers to tell stories that, although cinematic, are too bold in ways that don’t quite fit the mainstream mold. This disruption set the climate for a movie like Respeto, which tells the story of a young rapper trying to climb his way up the ladder of local rap battles and rap his way out of his lower-middle class life. The film was a resounding success, earning a regular nationwide release after the festival—a rarity for indie films.
“If anything, I think we were able to prove that there’s a market for films na meron talagang sinasabi,” says Monteras of Respeto’s success.
“And I think that’s a challenge for us, to change how Filipinos perceive the film industry. Walang masama sa magpatawa, magpaiyak, magpakilig, manakot. Pero ‘wag natin sayangin ‘yung isa o dalawang oras na puwedeng mapaisip o ma-inspire ‘yung manonood.”
If anything, the direction is clear: local filmmakers need to become willing change-makers, and to make creative decisions that create a more illustrious landscape for Philippine cinema. Film, however, is also a collaborative experience where creators take the lead but the audience passes judgement—both taking part in shaping the industry’s success.
So what will it take for moviegoers to keep our third golden age going? The Third Golden Age of Philippine Cinema must continue and we must do our part. Keep watching films that defy the norms and supporting those creative passions. Be the kind of audience game-changers need.
Here's a recent project by Treb Monteras II:
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