Who is Isabel Acuña? Smiling next to her husband, the vaunted “Father of Philippine Cinema” José Nepomuceno, she is surfaced from forgotten history on the 2019 cover of the Pelikula: A Journal of Philippine Cinema as a similarly important force: pioneer casting director, art director, and producer. Many other facets of Philippine film history are likewise recuperated in the pages of the journal as it returns 20 years since its first release in 1999. Coming just at the heels of Philippine cinema’s centennial celebration, it dives into the vibrant, many yet unwritten, narratives of Philippine cinema, chronicling and provoking important conversations on its various pasts and possibilities.
Sedition. This was the criminal charge brought against Lino Brocka and Behn Cervantes for speaking up for workers during a transport strike in 1985. By then, the Marcos dictatorship had cultivated innumerable vehement critics, many among the ranks of artists and film workers, who campaigned for the restoration of civil liberties and protested state-sponsored human rights violations—campaigns Brocka and Cervantes advanced to the chagrin of the state that tried to silence them under threat of the maximum penalty of death.
Philippine cinema has had an illustrious history of social commitment. No strangers to red-tagging, vocal film artists have risked life, limb, and liberty to speak truth to power in their movies and on the streets. In the pages of PELIKULA, we trace the history of People’s Cinema and the activist tradition in Filipino filmmaking from earlier dark eras and vibrant periods of resistance to the world now transformed by COVID-19. This volatile age of pandemic lockdowns and systematic shutdowns of our freedoms once again calls upon film artists and film lovers to carry on this heroic legacy in these, our own, dark times.