FILM REVIEW: DEKADA ’70 1/2

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“Buong buhay ko yan na lang lagi ang sinasabi nila sa akin…wala kang magagawa eto ang gusto ng asawa mo…wala kang magagawa eto ang kapalaran mo…wala kang magagaw dahil dapat…putris naman, dapat hindi ganuo…tapos sasabihin ng daddy n’yo hindi lang ang anak ko ang pinatay hindi lang ang anak ko ang dinukot…lalo akong nanggigigil, lalo akong nagagalit dahil kung nanay ka talaga, hindi ka lang dapat nanganganak kundi naiapaglaban mo rin ang anak mo dapat kaya mong pumatay para sa anak mo…gusto ko lang malaman bakit nila pinatay ang anak ko…hindi masamang tao ang anak ko, kahit sa oras na ito humarap ako sa diyos kahit sa dimonyo hindi masamang tao ang anak ko…hindi masamang tao ang anak ko!” – Amanda Bartolome

“You could stop being proud of me! Nagsawa na ako sa ganuon, gusto ko naman ngayon ako mismo just for a change, maging proud sa sarili ko!” – Amanda Bartolome

The Plot: Dekada 70 is a story of a family caught in the midst of a tumultuous time in Philippine history – the martial law years. Amanda (Vilma Santos) and Julian (Christopher Deleon) is a picture of a middle class couple with conservative ideologies, who must deal with raising their children, five boys – Jules (Piolo Pascual), Isagani (Carlos Agassi), Emmanuel (Marvin Agustin), Jason (Danilo Barrios) and Bingo (John Sace) in an era marked by passion, fear, unrest and social chaos. As siblings struggle to accept the differences of their ideologies, as a father faces the painful dissent of his children, a mother’s love will prove to be the most resonant in the unfolding of this family’s tale, will awaken to the needs of her own self, as she embarks on a journey of discovery to realize who she is as a wife, amother, a woman and a Filipino. – Star Cinema

Dekada ’70 (English: 70s Decade) is a 2002 Filipino drama film released based on a book called Dekada ’70 written by Filipino author, Lualhati Bautista. The film tells the story of the life of a middle-class Filipino family who, over the space of a decade, become aware of the political policies that have ultimately led to repression and a state of Martial law in the Philippines. Filipina actress Vilma Santos stars as Amanda, who realizes the implications of living within a dictatorship after sorting out the contradictory reactions of her husband and five sons. Her husband (Julian), played by Filipino actor, Christopher de Leon, supports his eldest son’s (Jules), played by Filipino actor, Piolo Pascual; efforts to rail against the government while refusing to follow Amanda’s wish to find a job. Her second son (Gani), played by Filipino actor, Carlos Agassi, is in the United States Navy. Her third son (Eman), played by Filipino actor, Marvin Augustin, writes illegal political exposes. The fourth son (Jason), played by Filipino actor, Danilo Barrios fell victim to a corrupt police department, and her youngest son named (Bingo), played by Filipino actor, John W. Sace, is still a boy. – Wikepedia (READ MORE).

The Reviews: “…At the center of the film and the family is Amanda (Filipino cinematic diva Vilma Santos) who vicariously experiences living under a dictatorship through her husband and five sons’ different reactions before coming into her own as a person. Her husband, Julian (Christopher De Leon), seems a walking contradiction: He offers rationalizations for the government while supporting his eldest son’s revolutionary activities, but has a fit when his wife wants to get a job. As for the sons, firstborn son (Piolo Pascual) joins the guerillas in the mountains. The second son (Carlos Agassi), forced into a shotgun wedding, defiantly works for the American Navy. The third son (Marvin Augustin) writes journalistic exposes he can’t publish, while the fourth son (Danilo Barrios) is a mystery to his family until his brutal, motiveless murder (probably by police) reveals a lost girlfriend. The fifth son (John W. Sace) is still a boy. Santos’ Amanda effortlessly and movingly chronicles the changed consciousness of the family and the country, with understatement her most reliable tool. Pic begins and ends with images of Santos at the forefront of a political demonstration, and nothing, from first image to last, for 128 minutes, is allowed to spontaneously or slyly deviate from the logic of her consciousness-raising.” – Ronnie Scheib, Variety Magazine (READ MORE)

“Last seen in ANAK (SFIAAFF ‘01), Vilma Santos delivers an understated, profoundly moving performance as the matriarch whose awakening redefines the traditional mother and wife role she donned for years. This is the story of an incredible character that survived an unforgettable decade.” – Michael Magnaye, The 22nd San Fransisco Asian-American Film Festival, 2004 (READ MORE)

“…Rono and Bautista, who writes her own adaptation, have obviously worked very closely in fleshing out the novel on screen. The result is an effective and even subtle tableau of scenes to present the Bartolome family’s struggles from the late ‘60s to ‘70s that not only set the domestic drama, but also prefigure the wider social and historical saga unfolding before the nation. No scene is wasted, no useless pandering to the viewer’s sense of spectacle or penchant for soap opera is even attempted. The competent production design, the agile editing, the stark photography (which impresses even the Paris-based Filipino-Spanish painter Sanso who calls it comparative to the best in Europe) ensures a panoply of images that is immediate, recognizable, and keen. Like Regal Films, Star Cinema has been compelled to throw in its stable of stars so that the Bartolome siblings look distractingly too much like a boy band. But because they play well-thought-out characters, their damage is put to a minimum. In some cases, like Piolo Pascual as Jules, the young communist rebel, the effect is heart-wrenching. Pascual plays, along with Vilma Santos as Amanda, one of the centers of gravity of the movie; the other center consists of Santos and Christopher de Leon. As arguably the first unabashedly feminist Filipino novel, “Dekada” shows a woman’s awakening to her nature and gender through the men of her life-her husband and her first born. Their age, generation and preoccupation divide both men, and Amanda serves as their bridge and transition. In the process, Amanda herself is transformed. She becomes herself. The most moving scenes of the movie are of Jules and Amanda meeting on the sly and forced to carry on mother-and-son endearments hurriedly because of the threat of arrest. But the most poignant scene is Julian and Amanda confronted with the terrible loneliness of their advanced years, left by their children, he turning away from her to hide his tears, and she asking him to face her and not to be ashamed. It helps that the scene is played by Santos and De Leon, truly one of Filipino cinema’s most effective screen couples. As Amanda, Vilma Santos shows again why Brocka, before he died, had likened her to water. “She can register anything,” he said. In “Dekada”, its the same Santos of vigor and transparency. The only difference is the depth, the resonance, and the greater confidence. Can she ever go wrong?” – Lito B. Zulueta, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 December 2002 (READ MORE)

“…Ang Dekada ’70 ay isang mahusay na adaptasyon sa pelikula ng nobela nitong may parehong titulo. Napanatili ang kaluluwa ng nobela sa pelikula sa kabila ng limitasyon ng pelikula bilang isang audio-visual na medium. Marahil, nakatulong ng malaki ang pagkakaroon ng iisang manunulat lamang. Naging maayos ang takbo ng pelikula na tulad sa nobela nitong nahati sa mga taon ng dekada ’70. Mahusay ang pagkakaganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan (maliban kay Carlos Agassi) na nakapagbigay hininga sa mga tauhang noo’y nababasa lamang. Naibalik ng pelikula ang larawan ng dekada ’70 sa mga eksena nitong nagpapakita ng mga demonstrasyon, protesta at rallies na tunay na nangyari noong panahon na iyon. Ang musika at tunog ay madalas na akma at nagpapaigting sa emosyong nais ipahatid ng pelikula. Naging mahina lamang ang disenyong pamproduksiyon ng pelikula na hindi naging masusi sa make-up, at kasuotan ng mga tauhan sa pawang hindi parating umaangkop sa panahon…” – Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Association (READ MORE)

“…Dekada 70 journeys with the central character Amanda Bartolome (Vilma Santos), the reticent wife of an alpha-male husband, and the worrying mother of a boisterous all-male brood. Thoroughly relegated to domesticity in a world slathered in testosterone, Amanda begins to undergo a transformation when her family becomes imbricated in the sociopolitical realities brought about by the Marcos dictatorship. The declaration of Martial Law, the lifting of the writ of habeas corpus, the curfews and police searches, all these could have easily floated past Amanda’s head had her sons not found themselves caught in the crossfire between the government and the pro-democracy movements. As one son after another faces the oppressive forces of the dictatorship, Amanda gradually realizes that the personal is political. While chanting slogans for sociopolitical change, she finds her own voice and comes to terms with the fullness of her own person…There are touches of seventies style Filipino humor that foreign audiences might miss; they effectively establish that this is a real, average Filipino family trying to navigate through the eye of the political storm. The acting is generally impressive, most especially that of lead actress Santos, who gives a luminous, sensitive performance. Santos essays the transformation of Amanda so effectively that we do see clearly at the end of the film that there has been a fundamental change in her character. If there is something to be faulted about the film, it is Roňo’s failure to keep melodramatic moments in check. The funeral sequence of one of Amanda’s sons, for instance, becomes an over-extended session of copious tears. The rich story material of Dekada 70 could do away with such “in your face” paroxysms, which only work to dull the film’s cutting edge political trajectory. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that Roňo had created a noteworthy, epic-scale Filipino film, and on a Third World budget at that. It also cannot be denied that Roňo had not forgotten the sentence of history on his home country…” – Antonio D. Sison, Insititute for Pastoral Initiatives University of Dayton (READ MORE)

“…about Vilma’s performance in “Dekada ‘70”: Some jurors, viewers and reviewers have expressed dissappointment over it because they regard it as too passive, low-key, unemotional, too much taken up with observation, and reflection instead of action. Thus, it doesn’t deserve the best actress award. We disagree. We think that, precisely because Vilma’s portrayal was so restrained for the most part, it was more difficult to achieve. It’s far easier to rant and rave, to “feel” bigtime, to run the gamut of emotions from A to Z- but, if Vilma did that, she would have gone against her character’s nature, as written…during the first half of the film, Vilma’s character occasionally felt unhappy, taken for granted or unappreciated as a person, but she held her emotions in check to keep the peace in the family. It was only later, when the national trauma of martial law rule affected her sons in various tragic ways, that she found the voice and rediscovered the heart to assert herself as a person and to give her emotions full play. We submit that Vilma’s portrayal is excellent precisely because she vivified he character as the wife and mother was in the ‘70s. Her thematic and emotional high points towards the end of the film rivetting, but it was her quieter, more controlled moments that showcased Vilma’s true gift as an actress. During those moments, Vilma didn’t just observe what was going on, she was constantly conflicted only, she had been programmed not to speak out because it wasn’t her “place”. Thus, when she finally changes and expresses herself in the end, the contrast makes her transformation all the more stunning. In the movie’s first half, Vilma is such a good actress that, although she may not be the active element in her family (her husband is), she is quietly involved in each and every scene, and every new development is seen from her point of view. Even better, despite her relative lack of dialogue at this point, we can “read” her thoughts on her face as clearly as though she were speaking. And we see her slowly changing before our very eyes, gradually overcoming her reticence, discovering her true worth, and finally finding and expressing her true self. This is very difficult to do, as any true thespian will affirm. Which is why, unlike some people who dismiss Vilma’s portrayal as passive and weak, we think it ranks among her best, right up there with her performances in and fully deserving of the filmfest’s coveted best actress trophy.” – Nestor Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer (READ MORE)

“…The reason “Sister Stella L” will probably end up better appreciated is that the movie was shown during the martial law era. The movie was relevant to the times and Vilma was portraying an activist nun, a role not usually associated with the Star for all Seasons… As the mother, Vilma does justice to her character, holding back her strong emotions until the end, when she finally confronts Christopher de Leon and wants to break up with him. Despite the many tragic events that befall her character, Vilma chooses to underplay her role except at key points towards the end of the movie. Boyet is his usual competent self as the chauvinistic husband of Vilma who is forced to change when his wife breaks out of her shell. Piolo Pascual also deserves mention for his realistic portrayal of the activist turned NPA rebel…” – Edmund L. Sicam, Philippine Daily Inquirer (READ MORE)

“…Unlike Vilma Santos’ Sister Stella L. character, who becomes politicized practically overnight, her Amanda role in “Dekada ‘70” takes longer to mature politically (almost the whole decade). And she goes through a very painful process because she experiences the abuses of the marcos regime by seeing her own children suffer. With Vilma hurting inside and suffering almost in silence, we have here in “Dekada ‘70” some very moving dramatic scenes that are mostly devoid of hysterics but are still very effective nonetheless. Actually, we see yet another facet of Vilma Santos’ acting talent in this film. In the story, she goes through guilt (with the fate of one of her sons), pain, anguish and anxiety (particularly with the eldest, Piolo)-plus discontent as a plain housewife who wants to do something more with her life other than to keep house for her husband and kids. The great actress that she is, Vilma is able to manifest clearly the different layers of her character in a very quiet manner, which-you have to admit-is quite difficult to achieve. But Vilma-after all these decades -can do no wrong anymore in the field of acting. Although it’s not the greatest performance of her career (it’s still Sister Stella L), her portrayal of Amanda in “Dekada ‘70” is no doubt one of her finest. More importantly, her role (and her approach to it) is different from the hundreds of other roles she has done in the past…” – Butch Francisco, The Philippine Star (READ MORE)

“…Santos’ performance is so vivid and insightful that we can see her changing in front of our very eyes… We were enthralled…we were moved. And we valued the film’s important contribution to the very urgent task of reminding everyone of the trauma in our collective lives that was the martial law period of the ’70s,” noted Nestor Torre of Inquirer News Service. Chito Rono’s Dekada ‘70 made its world premier at the Asian American International Film Festival in June of 2003. The film has also won numerous domestic awards. The Young Critics Circle voted Dekada ‘70 Best Film of the Year (2002), Best Screenplay, Best Sound and Best Performance in a tie between actress Vilma Santos (Amanda) and Piolo Pascual (Amanda’s eldest son). The Best Film of the Year award is reserved for the director, such that no separate prize for direction is needed. The Best Performance award is the most coveted as it is conferred on the performer whether male or female, adult or child, individual or ensemble in leading or supporting role. Vilma Santos also received an award for Best Actress from Star Awards for Movies, Film Academy of The Philippines, and Gawad Urian Awards. Piolo Pascual also received an award for Best Supporting Actor from the Young Critics Film Circle, Metro Manila Film Festival, Star Awards for Movies, Film Academy of the Philippines, FAMAS Awards, and Gawad Urian Awards. The Gawad Urian Awards also presented Dekada ’70 with the award for Best Screenplay…” – Sara Stokoe, Asia Pacific Arts (READ MORE)

“…In Chito S. Roño’s superb “Dekada ’70,” a family in the Marcos-era Philippines has a domineering father and five sons, but it is the mother (Vilma Santos) who provides the mental stamina. She fights for her family in ways the father can’t even dream of. “To give birth to these children isn’t enough,” she says. “You have to defend them, protect them.” That’s the ’70s. In 30 years, that kind of woman will deal with difficult questions of divorce and motherhood, one in which women want freedom, yet must be willing to share blame when something goes wrong. The young woman who leaves her husband and thinks about aborting her pregnancy in South Korean filmmaker Gina Kim’s “Invisible Light” is an experimental example. Moon’s great performance in “A Good Lawyer’s Wife” almost makes you believe wrong is right, and, taken with her much-lauded portrayal of a girl with cerebral palsy in “Oasis,” reveals her as one of the world’s best actresses. Hollywood, take note. – No stereotypes of Asians here…” – G. Allen Johnson, Festival Celebrates Real Women, San Francisco Chronicle March 4, 2004 (READ MORE)

“…The young actors that were cast in Dekada ’70 were all guilty of doing too much “acting”. I don’t think actors should be acting-out, or (in this case) over-acting, unless they were filming a farce, or a comedic parody. Inexcusable mediocre performances plagued every scene. Instead of ensuring the characters were having a real conversation (real interaction), it seemed as though they were merely spitting out lines which they had memorized word-for-word, the delivery, inflections, and pauses unnatural. People don’t talk to each other like this in real life now, do they? Of course not. It is sometimes possible for a younger actor to deliver a satisfactory performance though the guiding hand of an experienced veteran. This of course is quite rare, as it calls for a unique, uncalculated, natural chemistry that can never be faked. Award winning greats like Vilma Santos and Christopher De Leon should never be subjected to work with a group of inexperienced pretty faces who are incapable of displaying a sense of depth and sophistication. Proof that casting makes for a vital element that determines the success of a film…” – Edwin Manalo (READ MORE)

“…The characters of brothers Jules (Piolo Pascual) and Eman (Marvin Augustin) share similar anti-Marcos perspectives in the movie. A movie that attempts to add a more familiar and human touch to a real event isn’t without its melodrama. The overt use of music to drive emotion home and unnecessarily lengthy shots distract a bit from what otherwise could have been short and sweet takes of awesome performances. The pace of the film seems to slow down mid-way through the film. Yet these faults are minute enough that they probably didn’t even deserve a mention…This movie makes for a satisfying introduction to this decade in Philippine history. I shouldn’t forget to mention how faithful the movie remains to the styles of dress, the models of cars, and the music of the time to strongly present the age and era the movie takes place. Most importantly Dekada ’70 presents to us the emotional aspect, an aspect you cannot obtain through school textbooks, snapshots, and soundbites of Martial Law under Marcos. This is communicated successfully through its collection of talents seen through the eye of a veteran director…” – Pinoy Movie Reviews (READ MORE)

“…Dekada ’70 tells of how under hate, greed and corruption, one normal person transcends beyond right and wrong: instead learns that it is freedom that entails survival. Set in the 70′s, urban Metro Manila, Amanda Bartolome is a middle-class mother of five young men. Amanda acts as a supposed symbolism of detachment. First of all, she was a mother, a housewife; such were not considered integral parts of society during those times. She was not the breadwinner; she did not experience the foremost effects of the decline of the Philippines economy back then. She was a member of the middle class; her family did not take money, like the rich, nor did her family suffer the worst of the financial crises, like the poor. The lives of Amanda’s children each went in different directions in the story, and each varied. Her eldest son was Jules. Jules grew up normally, similar to every other ideal family. His upbringing was that of what ideally conformed to normal standards and circumstances. Being the eldest, however, Jules lived, and more importantly, matured through the shock caused by the declaration of President Marcos’ martial law. Thus, Jules lived his adolescence exposed to rebellious reading material, and inevitably molded his mind into that of guerilla. Jules grew up to become a member of the communist New People’s Army, and his evolution came full circle…” – Dekada 70, A Book Review (READ MORE)

“…For ten consecutive years from 1995 to 2004, the Philippines submitted films for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscar Awards. But up to this point of film history, we remain in the list of countries who has never won nor nominated for this award…The next year 2003, the country’s entry was Dekada ’70, directed by Chito S. Rono based on the novel Dekada ’70 of Lualhati Bautista. It tells the story of a middle-class Filipino couple (Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos) and their five sons during a tumultuous decade of the martial law regime. The sons were played by Piolo Pascual, Carlos Agassi, Marvin Agustin, Daniel Barrios and John Wayne Sace…” – FAP (READ MORE)

Fernando Poe Jr.’s “Lawin” (hawk) failed to soar high at the box office after Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s “Agimat” (amulet) proved to be more powerful. Working wonders at the tills, “Agimat ni lolo,” Revilla’s action-fantasy-adventure movie was the top grossing film on the first day of the festival last Wednesday, edging out Poe’s “Alamat ng Lawin,” from top slot. Caloocan Mayor Rey Malonzo, chair of the MMFF executive committee, refused to divulge the box-office figures because “that was the request of the other producers.” An MMFF insider, however, disclosed that “Agimat” earned P14 million gross on the day it opened. Imus Productions bankrolled “Agimat.” As early as yesterday noon, Revilla said he was told that “Agimat” was already leading in the box office race. A number of theaters opened as early as 9 a.m.yesterday, making it easy to determine the results after only the first screening. Revilla outshone even comedy king Dolphy’s “Home Along da Riles,” which ranked only third. Regal Entertainment’s “Mano Po,” which boasts a powerhouse cast and Joel Lamangan at the helm, came in fourth. Star Cinema’s period opus, “Dekada ’70,” directed by Chito Rono and top billed by drama royalty Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon, was fifth. The epic tale of Filipino hero “Lapu-Lapu,” with Pampanga Governor Lito Lapid in the lead, took the sixth place, and Reflection Films’ “Hula Mo, Huli Ko,” starring Rudy Fernandez and Rufa Mae Quinto, came in seventh in the box-office race. But the box-office tallies might still change after tonight’s “Gabi ng Parangal,” when the MMFF hands out the awards to this festival’s best films. Two more entries – OctoArts Films’ “Lastikman” starring Vic Sotto and Regal Film”s “Spirit Warriors 2: Short-cut” -will be shown starting Jan 1. The filmfest will run until Jan 10. – Leah Salterio Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 27 2002 (READ MORE)

This year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) sports a new name, but its trademark controversial image and reputation remain the same. The 28th MMFF has included a “P” in its official name. The “P” which stands for Philippines, means the entries in the festival can now be seen nationwide. The cast of “Dekada ’70″ staged a walkout. A special effects awardee returned his trophy. A film that failed to make it to the filmfest’s top seven won thrid best picture. These and other inconsistencies were the “highlights” of this year’s “Gabi ng Parangal” awards ceremony last Friday. Piolo was “Dekada ’70′s” biggest winner as best supporting actor for his compelling portrayal of a tortured rebel leader in Chito Rono’s period drama. John Wayne Sace, who plays Pascual’s brother Bingo, bagged the best supporting child actor award. “Dekada ’70″ also bagged the second best child actor award. “Dekada ’70″ also bagged the second best picture award. Regal Films’ “Mano Po” romped off with the most number of awards, including the best actress plum that went to Ara Mina, who best-ed the veteran “Dekada ’70″ star Vilma Santos. Eddie Garcia was adjudged best festival actor, while Joel Lamangan was named this year’s best director. Kris Aquino won best supporting actress also for “Mano Po.” Regal Films matriarch Lily Monteverde thanked the filmfest committee in Aquino’s behalf. Mother Lily has two more reasons to say “Chi chien” after “Mano Po” won best picture and best original story for writer Roy Iglesias. Iglesias also won the best screenplay citations for “Mano Po.” Resty Garchitorena and Tara Limberger took home the best cinematography and best film editor awards, again for “Mano Po.” The cross-cultural drama, which even partly filmed in Beijing, China, bagged a toral of 12 awards that night. Bong de Guzman snatched the best musical score trophy from such veteran composers as Louie Ocampo, Nonong Buencamino, Jimmy Fabregas and Elmer Sayson.

Best festival production design trophy was awarded to Tatus Aldana for his spectacular work on “Mano Po.” The biggest surprise came when Chito Rono’s “Spirit Warriors 2: Shortcut.” won third best picture. The award came as a surprise even to its director Chito Rono, who upon hearing the news, commented that “the award only proved how good the movie is.” “Spirit Warrior 2″ snatched the festival’s two most important technical awards – best make-up for Warren Munar and best visual effects for Dodge Ledesma and Road Runner Productions. Unlike “Alamat” and “Lastikman” which didn’t get any award, Reflectin Films’ “Hula Mo, Huli Ko” and RVQ Productions’ “Home Alone da Riles” each won an award. RVQ Productions’ “Nasaan Ka” was heralded as this year’s best theme song, while Caloy de Leon won the best sound recording plum for his work on “Hula Mo.” De Leon, however, returned the award later that night. “I want the jurors to explain to me how can a film dubbed in mono like “Hula Mo” win over other films dubbed in Dolby digital,” he said. Imus Productions’ spectacular “Agimat” float took home P75,000 after bagging the best festival float award. Noticeably absent during the awards night were “Alamat ng Lawin” lead star Fernando Poe Jr., his leading lady Ina Raymundo, and the entire cast of “Lastikman,” led by comedian-producer Vic Sotto. Poe’s long-time aide, Amay Bisaya, said the action king chose not to attend the ceremony to “avoid intrigues and politicking.” – Marinel R. Cruz Philippine Daily Ingquirer, Dec 29 2002 (READ MORE)

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