UP offers new courses on PH film and martial law
MANILA, Philippines — Courses on the intertwining paths of Philippine cinema and martial law during the Marcos dictatorship will be offered by the University of the Philippines Film Institute (UPFI) this coming semester.
They are being introduced at the premier state university, known as a bastion of student activism, as the country marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in September this year.
Multi-awarded filmmaker and educator Sari Dalena, who will teach one of the four new courses, said it was a collective decision by the UPFI faculty to offer them in line with the commemoration.
“We have a wealth of films from mainstream and alternative films, docus, that were produced during that period. (The martial law) period was well documented in terms of cinema,” she said. “Engaging the students through film education is a great way to discuss martial law and the present situation.”
The courses may continue in the coming years and the institute hopes it will inspire other educators to “share this aspect of our culture and history,” Dalena told the Inquirer on Wednesday.
Established in 2003 as part of UP College of Mass Communication and currently headed by Robert Rownd, the institute has always had film classes that tackled cinema under martial law, but “this may be the first time we’re specifically highlighting ML cinema as a course offering — with varying focus: as film theory, as genre, post-ML and contemporary works, and historical revisionism,” she added
The specialized studies come at a time when established narratives and documentation of the period, covering about two-thirds of then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s 20-year rule, have come under serious challenge by revisionist efforts on social media leading to the last elections, which brought his son and namesake back to Malacañang.
In an online announcement on Tuesday, UPFI said the four new courses would be open to students from all disciplines in the first semester.
Three of the new courses will be taught under Film 196 (Special Topics), while the fourth will be under Film 180 (Film Seminar).
One of the Film 196 classes will discuss “the semiotics of martial law and its cinema” and will be taught by multi-awarded filmmaker Nick de Ocampo.
It will “investigate the cinema that emerged during the military regime and the period of its aftermath leading to the overthrow of the dictatorship (using) semiotics theory,” the UPFI said.
It will also touch on alternative or noncommercial productions that managed to emerge and find audiences at the height of dictatorship, as young filmmakers rose along with the protest movement against the regime.
The course would explore how the medium of film uses signs “to understand the realities of a society and its cinema as they are caught in the dialectics of repression and emancipation.”
Horrors, another course under Film 196, will be handled by prominent filmmaker Ed Cabagnot. It will retrace the development of Asian and Filipino horror genres and their links to historical, sociopolitical and cultural trends.
The third Film 196 course, Martial law and Pinoy Cinema Noon at Ngayon (Then and Now), focuses on the films produced during martial law, as well as more contemporary works that explore that period.
It will be taught by Dalena and, for its culminating activity, will require students to produce a short video about martial law.
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