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Cinema ‘76: The little cinema that could

It was the year 1976–the magnum opus era in Philippine Cinema that saw the birth of Lino Brocka’s Insiang, Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?, and Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal Sa Tubig, to name a few. There were no oversaturated plots of hacienda love stories, or marriage scandals with the housekeeper–mainstream films that capitalized on the taste of the masses, and were distributed like a dismal commodity.

Indeed, 1976 was the Second Golden Age of the Philippine film industry–so much so that an entire cinema has been put up to remember the abundant harvest that was.


The cinema for indie films

Nestled at the heart of San Juan, Cinema ’76 lies unsuspectingly by a quiet neighborhood. At first glance, it looks like an odd place for a movie house, but its quaint size (they have a seating capacity of 60!) and charming woodwork makes for an interesting and inviting film experience.  You can even bring your own snacks!

Founded by the country’s holy trifecta of film outfits–namely, Buchi Boy Films, Tuko Film Productions, and Artikulo Uno, the powerhouse behind Heneral Luna–Cinema ’76 has nowhere to go but up.


The future of Philippine cinema

While the opening of the Metro’s newest cinema since February might seem to be a benefit for the development of films and plays, one can’t help but think how much we, as a society, are guilty of blindly consuming blockbuster after blockbuster–contributing more to the business than the art form itself.

This is despairing as it is, but it has also become all too real. Just ask Erik Matti. The Honor Thy Father director has flat out told Philippine Star that, “The future of Philippine cinema is not bright,” owing to the recent tough sell and underhanded disqualification his latest film venture ploughed through.

We, as an audience, have been screening what’s on our screens instead of applauding them. Years ago, critics and enthusiasts stated that the status of Philippine cinema produced a positive trend in sales and numbers due to box office hits, but from the same over romanticized and recycled film plots that continue to fill seats. Because of the more independent and less mainstream films’ lack of exposure and appreciation in the market, it’s easy for our cinematic lenses to get clouded.

That’s where Cinema ’76 comes into the picture. While there are festivals such as Cinemalaya and Cinemanila, an annual affair is simply not enough to sustain the deserved life expectancy of a film.

Cinema ’76 gives these pieces of art a much needed home where people can continue to appreciate, as they are dedicated to screening the best of local cinema–from Sana Dati and Ang Nawawala, to Esoterika: Maynila.

“The singular mission of Cinema ’76 is to create a new theatrical distribution platform for filmmakers, [while] growing and developing the audience that would be receptive and supportive of independent Filipino films,” co-founder Vincent Nebrida shared with Coconuts Manila.


Making a comeback

Recent public outcries over film festival disqualifications, screening time cut short, and collective calls to watch and support in order to break even, piqued the public’s fiery passion to give justice to such films. It’s not just because they were able to generate profit that went beyond the producer’s expectations, but these films are serving as eye openers for the masses.

Slowly but surely, hope springs eternally. Let’s not forget the major traction in the international arena–Brillante Mendoza’s Ma. Rosa Cannes ovation and Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo Venice Film Festival salute, being the most recent.

In case you needed another reason to ditch your usual Friday movie date night at the mall, what makes Cinema ’76 a cut above the rest is it’s more than just a cinema. It is building a community. Often it is their events that attract big crowds–from screenings with present cast members and free pizza, to open forums with directors. Starting September 24, they’ll be offering workshops for scriptwriting, directing, cinematography, and film marketing, among others.

While the status quo in the film industry nowadays is not the sole catalyst for success, appreciation and inclusion of one’s roots is. To do things differently is a plan, but to show the things that matter is what changes the game.

Cinema ‘76 has the innate capacity to bring about changes with regard to the perspectives of people, the thoughts of potentials inventors, and the authenticity of the craft that filmmakers in our country have long been fighting for. Rolls of film here and there, just to keep the ball rolling for what they value as their calling.

By Isabella Argosino

By Flores Gilda

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