Tracing the history of Cebuano cinema

THE reemerging and colorful Cebuano cinema in the present has a rich history which has been lost for quite some time. Intrigued by its mystery, two American authors who run the University of San Carlos (USC) Graduate School of Cinema Studies took the challenge of compiling and tracing the far-reaching branches of Cebuano Cinema through history.

Lilas: An Illustrated History of the Golden Ages of Cebuano Cinema is the recently published compilation of Cebuano movies created from the two productive periods: the 1950s and the 1970s. The book is the brainchild of Dr. Paul Douglas Grant and Misha Boris Anissimov which, with the help of copy editor and copy writer Dr. Erlinda Alburo, the former director of the Cebuano Studies Center, was finally made available to the public after three years of research.

Grant is a professor of cinema studies and co-chair of research of the School of Architecture, Fine Arts, and Design, USC. He is the author of Cinéma Militant: Political Filmmaking and May 1968. He is also the translator of Serge Daney’s Postcards from the Cinema. Anissimov, on the other hand, is a lecturer and a co-founder of the Cinema program of USC. He also served as the first program cinema coordinator as the founding editor of the Sinekultura film journal. He also holds a masters degree in Cinema Studies from the institution.

“I started this research as part of my student work being a student of Paul Grant in the graduate program. For our research course, one of the tasks was to go to the Cebuano Studies Center. I started my research there. There was this one movie that I’d heard so much about, starring Gloria Sevilla and Mat Ranillo and I wanted to find out more about it. I used it as a kick-off point in my research and I started going through more years from ‘69 to ‘70 to ‘72. And all of a sudden martial law came in and all sorts of political upheaval is happening and all of a sudden I noticed from the newspaper clippings that a wave of productions started kicking in. What made me wonder was the fact that throughout the 1960s, Cebuano films were made very infrequently. Then all of a sudden, 31 Cebuano films were made between 1973 and 1975 and in 1974, 17 feature films were made which makes it the biggest single year of Cebuano film production,” said Anissimov.

Shedding light on their journey in creating the book, Grant shared the story of tracing the possible existence of the first film ever created in Cebu by Cebuanos, entitled El Ijo Disobidiente (The Disobedient Son). Created in 1922, it was produced by the prominent dramatist Florentino Borromeo, who also became Cebu’s first film director. “It gave us some sense of how difficult and sometimes frustrating it is to try and trace the history of Cebuano cinema,” said Grant.
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