(Note: Tickets for the 5th Silent film fest screenings are free and will be distributed by the respective embassies and cultural agencies. Please Contact (Mylene Narciso-Urriza, NCCA) for Brides of Sulu; (Goethe Institut) for Nosferatu; (The Japan Foundation, Manila) for Akeyuku Sora; (Embassy of Italy) for L’Inferno; firstname.lastname@example.org (Embassy of Greece) for The Greek Miracle; and (Instituto Cervantes, Manila) for Pilar Guerra. For other inquiries log on to http://www.shangrila-plaza.com)
For decades it has been the belief of experts that no Filipino film from the silent era has survived, until now. “We’ve uncovered the ‘Brides of Sulu’ which has been released in the U.S. home video market for years already. It is in fact not just a Filipino film but two Filipino films that were re edited together,” said Teddy Co member of Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA) and a former Vice Chair of the Cinema Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Co was a speaker during the press conference for the 5th Silent Film Festival at Shang Cineplex. The Festival will run from August 26 to 28 at Shang Rila Plaza Mall. Silent films from Spain, Greece, Germany andItaly will be featured along with a live soundtrack by Filipino musicians such as Razorback, Panday Pandikul Cultural Troupe, Bandang Malaya, HDC Trio and the FEU Chorale. And for the first time a Filipino silent film that was recently discovered will open the fest.
Co revealed that he first stumbled on “Brides of Sulu” in the magazine “Film Facts” while browsing in Fully Booked, “‘Brides of Sulu’ at first sight doesn’t seem like a Filipino film. But if you look at the credits Filipino actors are credited. If you look at technical credits they’re all American names. There’s no credit for sound recording and producer. They only had a supervisor.”
The discovery of the title spurned additional research that resulted to one conclusion, “This film may not have been produced by Americans but was more probably bought by them for U.S. release. They did some re editing and promoted it in theU.S.market. They put in an American narration with a colonialist perspective on the scenes of the film. This is what led us to believe that it was originally a Filipino silent film.”
He compared it to discoveries in art, “In painting, there are older works that have been covered up by newer ones. What we’ve done is tear up the layer that has covered the original painting. So we can discover the original work.”
Co explained the significance of the find by relating the known existing works from the era, “The silent film period was from 1912 -1932. The first sound films made by Filipinos only came out 1933. By 1934 all films made locally already had sound. We’re talking about a period of 20 years. Unfortunately practically all of these films are gone. In fact films made before world War II there are only five remaining: Zamboanga (1937), Tunay Na Ina (1938), Giliw Ko (1939), Pakiusap (1940) and Ibong Adarna from (1941).”
“Brides of Sulu” was actually a composite of two earlier Filipino silent films that exists on record. “There were only 70 films made from 1912-1932. We discovered that in 1931 there were two films made about the Moros, the Filipino Muslims set in the south. These are ‘Moro Pirates’ directed by Jose Nepumoceno and ‘Princess Tarhata’ director unknown. It was produced by Araw movies which was a Filipino company. When we found the ads we saw things that were incredulous at first but made some matches. The lead star of ‘Tarhata’ is Deli Moreno. The lead star in ‘Brides of Sulu’ is Adelina Moreno. Filipinos have a penchant for giving nicknames, Adelina Moreno in one film and deliMorenoin the other.” Mysterious Director John Nelson has no other film credit, while sharing the same initials as known Filipino director Jose Nepomuceno. Film archivists believe Nepomuceno agreed to change his name for the U.S. market.
There’s more evidence, “Even the stories match up. We found a capsule review. We think it is ‘Tarhata’. This is the dramatic portion of the film which were acted out and shot in the studio. The studio still exists today. Manila Talkatone is there in Pandacan. There are documentary parts in the film which we think is from another film. We also have reason to believe it came from another Moro film called ‘Moro Pirates’.”
Brides of Sulu is about the Tausug Princess who fell in love with a non Muslim man called an unbeliever. Because of this she raises the ire of her father the Sultan of Sulu and also her would be suitor who is also a Sultan.
Before the screening on August 26, there will be a presentation by Co on their findings. He added, “We hope to use this as a platform to emphasize the importance of film archiving and preserving our films. Phil. cinema is our cultural memory. It’s where we’ve put our cultural memory for the last hundred years. We only have 5 films from before the war. And we have nothing from the silent cinema except maybe, possibly what used to be Brides of Sulu.”
Co credits the fruition of the research and exhibition to Ben Suzuki, the former director of the Japan Foundation. Suzuki ‘jumped the gun’ by announcing during last year’s Silent film fest that the Phil. would participate forcing him to ‘fast track our efforts.’ Akeyuku Sora (The Dawning Sky), Torajiro Saito’s 1929 Japanese film, takes on the big screen on August 27, 5pm. Adding life to the film is musical accompaniment by contemporary group Bandang Malaya.
A total of three government agencies got together for the retracing the roots of “Brides of Sulu” : Film Development Council of the Phil. (FDCP), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). Co believes this is significant, “For the first time 3 of the film and cultural agencies involved in art and cinema are part of the Silent film festival which I think is a good thing. This kind of support should continue in the years to come for this festival.”
Tickets for the screenings will be distributed by the respective embassies and cultural agencies. Contact (Mylene Narciso-Urriza, NCCA) for Brides of Sulu; (Goethe Institut) for Nosferatu; (The Japan Foundation, Manila) for Akeyuku Sora; (Embassy of Italy) for L’Inferno; email@example.com (Embassy of Greece) for The Greek Miracle; and (Instituto Cervantes, Manila) for Pilar Guerra. For other inquiries log on to http://www.shangrila-plaza.com
Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
“The Silent film fest here in Shang Rila could be the only one running in Asia. The Filipino audience is extremely privileged. We are seeing these films with live Filipino produced music. It’s a rare privilege because there are less than ten annual silent film festivals in the whole world,” said Teddy Co (formerly) the Vice Chair of the Cinema Committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and currently a member of Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA).
Co was a speaker during the press conference for the 5th Silent Film Festival at Shang Cineplex. The Festival will run from August 26 to 28 at Shang Rila Plaza Mall. Silent films from Spain, Greece, Germany and Italy will be featured along with a live soundtrack by Filipino musicians such as Razorback, Panday Pandikul Cultural Troupe, Bandang Malaya, HDC Trio and the FEU Chorale. And for the first time a Filipino silent film that was recently discovered will also be part of the fest. To explain its full significance Co goes on, “There are more than 5000 film fests around the world. They range from the big ones like Cannes, and Berlin to the obscure. In the Phil. we have Cinemalaya and Metro Manila Film Festival. But if you want to find out how many Silent film festivals there are annually there are less than ten. The most famous one is Pordenone in Italy every October. It’s already been running for more than 20 years.”
The 5thSilent Film Fest is presented by Goethe-Institut Philipinen, The Japan Foundation, Manila, Instituto Cervantes, the Embassy of Italy, the Philippine-Italian Association, the Embassy of Greece, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines (NCCA), the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA), Film Development council of the Phil. (FDCP) and the Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
The precursor to all vampire films “Nosferatu” (A Symphony of Horror) a 1922 German film by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau based on the novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. A recognized Silent Film musician and expert Stephen Von Bothmer will accompany the Far Eastern University (FEU) Chorale for live score. Co was also able to provide the context to the performance, “I’ve seen Nosferatu as a silent film. Last year, a goth rock band provided the music which was very fitting. This year it’s a chorale. Every time you change the score, the old film becomes new again. That is why these silent films as an art form will never die. The music will always be there. The music will always be changing, dynamic and shifting. There will always be new music for silent films even if the silent era lasted for only three decades.”
With the recent discovery of two Filipino silent films in an American title called “Brides of Sulu,” Co is encouraged that others may still be found. The cooperation of other countries to him that are already involved in the 5th Silent fest may be of great help: “For thePhilippines it’s very important. With the participation of the Spanish and Mexican Embassies, maybe they can open their film archives. We think there are some Filipino films that have been exported. Maybe they are now labeled in your archives as Spanish films. Not just the silent films but sound films.”
Another beloved silent film classic is an example of this according to him. “The latest version of ‘Metropolis’, there was so many additional scenes that were lost were discovered inBuenos Aires3 years ago. ‘Metropolis’ again has been reborn because they find new scenes here and there. It never stops and every time they always make a new score.”
Goethe-Institut Philipinen Program Coordinator Luisa Zaide also announced that there will be a screening of the new version of “Metropolis” with the UST Orchestra in celebration of the 400th year anniversary. The performance date however is “yet to be finalized.”
The ground breaking 1925 silent film classic “Battleship Potemkin” was also screened in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2004 with the Pet Shop Boys providing the live sound track. The event attracted 40,000 people and is the largest audience for an art film. Co quoted “…Potemkin’s” director Sergei Eisenstein, “He said, ‘Film for every new generation should be reinterpreted by new music,’ it sums up what we’re trying to achieve here in the Silent film festival.”
Tickets for the screenings will be distributed by the respective embassies and cultural agencies. Contact 527-2209 (Mylene Narciso-Urriza, NCCA) for Brides of Sulu; 811-0978 (Goethe Institut) for Nosferatu; 811-6155 to 58 (The Japan Foundation, Manila) for Akeyuku Sora; 892-4531 loc 143 (Embassy of Italy) for L’Inferno; firstname.lastname@example.org (Embassy of Greece) for The Greek Miracle; and 526-1482 (Instituto Cervantes, Manila) for Pilar Guerra. For other inquiries, contact 633-7851 loc.113 or log on to http://www.shangrila-plaza.com