Last September 22, Cinemata organised a screening and talkback session featuring films on the Philippines’ martial law era in partnership with DAKILA, Active Vista Human Rights Festival, Altermidya, AlternaTV, and Amnesty International Philippines. The screening, titled “Legacy of Struggle: Cinematic Perspectives on Martial Law” was held at the UPFI Film Center in Manila, Philippines.
The collection is a showcase of films reflecting on the profound impact of Philippine martial law—a historical chapter that continues to cast its shadow over the country to this day. The films serve as proof of cinema’s ability to capture historical struggles and provide glimpses into the challenges endured, the unwavering resilience displayed, and the enduring echoes resonating within Filipinos’ collective memory.
In her opening speech, Cinemata Lead Curator Jen Tarnate said: “By juxtaposing contemporary films with classic works, we aim to demonstrate that films are not just stories but can also serve as instruments in bridging the past and the present. These films serve as windows into our history, providing a deeper understanding of the struggles, aspirations, and resilience of those who lived through these challenging times.”
The presence and active participation of filmmakers and audience members in the talkback session added immeasurable depth to the event, with panel guest speakers Edjop film director Joe Cuaresma, Concerned Artists of the Philippines’ Secretary-General Lisa Ito-Tapang, and Pagtangis ng mga Aninong Umiindak sa Hangin producer Jazelle Cacatian and art director Rora Clara Santos engaging in an exchange of insightful questions and ideas from the audience.
In collaboration with the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ Center for Heritage Studies, Cinemata contributed to digitally enhancing socially relevant films using AI video enhancements and mastering the audio levels for better viewing. A mix of original film, analog video, and born digital, these films can now be enjoyed in high definition (HD)
1. Beyond the Walls of Prison (1987)
Director: Lito Tiongson
Produced by AsiaVisions with the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).
TRT: 60 mins
Synopsis: A film essay on life within and beyond the prison walls of the Marcos dictatorship. It features interviews with former political detainees who all expressed their desire to be reintegrated into the mainstream of society while keeping their commitment to social transformation alive.
2. Ka Satur (1984)
Director: Sonora “Nona” Ocampo with L. Aguirre and M.C. de Vera
TRT: 27 mins
Synopsis: A short documentary that features an intimate portrait of Satur Ocampo, a journalist imprisoned from 1976 to 1986, offering a unique perspective on his life from a journalist to an underground activist during Martial Law, and the emotional complexities as seen through the lens of his daughter.
3. Edjop (1986)
Director: Joe Cuaresma
Produced by: The Edgar Jopson Foundation and the media cooperative, Alternative Horizons (AlterHorizons)
TRT: 54 mins
Synopsis: The documentary Edjop focuses on the life and struggles of student leader Edgar Jopson, who was killed by the military in September 1982. The 34-year-old was an intellectual who stood with the masses to pursue social change.
The documentary won First Prize at the 1987 Cultural Center of the Philippines Film and Video Festival. The original U-matic tape is part of the AlterHorizons AV Collection under the care of Jose Cuaresma and its re-digitisation was initiated in 2019. The film was originally made in U-matic and re-digitized for preservation and access.
Along with these classic films, new works on Philippine human rights shed light on the Martial Law period in the Philippines and its enduring societal impact:
4. SINGKWENTO: Lito Ocampo (2022)
Producer: AlterMidya- People’s Alternative Media Network
TRT: 4 mins
Synopsis: For Lito Ocampo, a Filipino photojournalist who experienced torture and detention during Martial Law, photography paved the way for him to show the people’s struggle against the dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos.
This film is part of Altermidya’s ‘Singkwento: Pagtatagpo ng Noon at Ngayon’, a series dedicated to highlighting the experiences of artists and journalists under the Marcos dictatorship.
Director: Laurence Llamas
TRT: 14 mins
Synopsis: A young performer named Amalia faces overwhelming odds that unexpectedly change her life, revealing a darker side of injustice and torture in the Philippines during Martial Law.
This film is the First Prize Winner in the Experimental Category in the 35th Gawad Alternatibo.
Director: Maricon Montajes
TRT: 14 mins
Synopsis: Brigada Nueve (Cell No. 9) is a film on the collective experiences of former female political prisoners in the Philippines. They share their struggles, the truth of living inside prison walls, and how they fought for their freedom.
“Legacy of Struggle: Cinematic Perspectives on Martial Law” is part of the Cinemata Archium project that aims to ensure the preservation and accessibility of Southeast Asia’s short films, capturing cultural heritage, shedding light on social issues, and fostering an inclusive platform for engagement and dialogue. This project serves as a vital step towards preserving and promoting an invaluable cinematic heritage, enriching our understanding of Southeast Asian history, struggles, and aspirations.