SOFIA: Saving Philippine Cinema, One Movie at a Time

Friday, June 03, 2016

I have always loved watching movies but looking back, my love affair with Philippine Cinema really began when I attended my first Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival back in 2009. Cinemalaya was just 5 years old. I was only able to watch one film—Last Supper No. 3. That one film changed my views about movies and I've never missed a year of Cinemalaya since then. The Philippine film industry is almost monopolized by few film production companies. I don’t want to drop any names (but I know you’ll figure it out), but these film outfits make films that are very formulaic and rely heavily on musical score to drag emotions out of its viewers. Don’t get me wrong, scoring is a big deal when it comes to movies. Anyway back to my point. It was then that I started patronizing independent films or my beloved indie. It doesn’t conform, it’s not heavily populated with product placements and they’re almost always scored wonderfully.

I love art. All kinds—music, visual, performance art… everything. Can I just say that I’m not pointing that out to sound pa-cultured? LOL. I love art because it’s tied to history. Unfortunately, Philippine History is full of blood and betrayal that so many Filipinos tend to forgive and forget. Add that to our colonial mentality tendencies and we’re sure to take history for granted. That being said, I know the importance of preserving historical artifacts and that includes films.

I’m no film student but I’ve educated myself to know the importance of film in history which is why when I saw an announcement on Facebook that the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA) is looking for new members, I knew I had to join. I was really hesitant though, because I am not a film major so I sent their FB group a private message asking if they accept such members. I don’t even have a background on archiving. So I told them if they don’t, I still would like to extend my assistance in any way I can because I really believe in what they are trying to achieve. So I came to their general assembly. I was worried about so many things, first, I thought I was late and second, because I don’t know anyone. Seeing the fellow members, I got nervous because they all looked like they’re all from the film industry. I wanted to leave. Fortunately, I decided to stay.  The first part of the program is a film viewing. I read there was a special surprise guest and boy was I surprised! After filling out the registration form, I asked the CCP usherette if the event started yet. She said, “No, ma’am. Hinihintay pa daw po nila si (dramatic pause—oh yes she did!) Ms. Jaclyn Jose.” I said okay. That took a while to register. I think I did a double take when it finally did. THE Ms. Jaclyn Jose. THE first Southeast Asian to take home Cannes Best Actress award is gracing this event. And I’m going to see her. WOW. But this post is not (only) about her so I didn’t ask to take pictures with her. Haha. I was starstruck though, but I was there for SOFIA.

She came with her daughter Andi. I’ve met actors before pero iba yata talaga ang aura pag nanalo ka na ng Best Actress award. In Cannes. SOFIA did a film showing of her movie Itanong Mo Sa Buwan directed by Chito Roño. Her leading man here is the late Mark Gil, Andi Eigenmann’s father. It was a great film restored through the efforts of SOFIA. It has that Gone Girl vibe. Watching the film, you will notice remnants of a film negatives from the original movie. Itanong mo sa Buwan is one of the films lucky enough to be restored but how about those in black and whites? Filipino silent films? 

In an article written by a SOFIA member for Inquirer, Ramon Nocon states, “Philippine Cinema can lay claim to having produced some 8,000 or so films since its birth in 1919. But of that figure, the painful truth is that only 3,000 of those titles can be considered extant while the rest, regrettably, are irretrievably lost—never to be seen by current and future generations of moviegoers.”
What a waste. Wouldn’t you want your children or grandchildren to see the old grandeur of Philippine Cinema? Long story short, I am now official member of SOFIA. And if like me, you love movies and believe in the magic of film restoration and would like to learn more about it, you can join SOFIA too. You don't have to be a film major or mass communication graduate to join. In fact, I studied Pharmacy before. Some of the movies they helped restore include Mar S. Torres's Maalaala Mo Kaya (1954), Gerry de Leon's Noli Me Tangere (1961) and Lino Brocka's White Slavery (1977). For list of films they helped restore, you can check out their site here.

Photos from SOFIA Phils.

For everyone’s information, you can apply for regular, associate or institutional membership. Regular membership are for those people whose line of work is directly related to film. You can be an associate member if, like me, you’re a film enthusiast whose line of work isn’t related to film while institutional membership is as it says, for companies who wish to be part of SOFIA and is willing to help by giving funds to support film restoration. Annual fee is for Php 400 for regular and associate members and Php 1000 for institutional members (which covers up to 2 representatives from the company). 

SOFIA is a non-stock, non-profit and non-governmental association so help from volunteers are needed especially in times of fund-raisers and other events. They also do workshops and seminars educating people about the process of film restoration. If you wish to join, you can visit their Facebook account here or their website here.

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  1. Sounds like SOFIA (and you) is doing great work. I love watching movies and series! I'm very happy so many people work on independent film and work on keeping history of film and old movies. All of that is so important. I always love to watch different things and try new types of movies out. And how great that you met this actress!! I know how that feels haha. It's lovely when you meet a favorite actor or actress!