The 'miracle' behind 'Himala' HD restoration

By Miguel Dumaual,

Posted at Nov 07 2012 09:01 PM | Updated as of Nov 08 2012 05:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- In order to restore the 30-year-old film "Himala" in high definition (HD) quality, more than 700 hours were spent to manually "clean up" the original raw record of the Ishmael Bernal classic.

"Basically, what we do is, from the negative or the print, depending on the source of material you have for the film, we scan them and put them into digital form, we scan them into HD," Manet Dayrit of Central Digital Lab. told ANC Alerts on Wednesday, explaining the process behind the restoration of "Himala."

Written by Ricky Lee, "Himala" is the first film to be restored in HD quality by the ABS-CBN Restoration Project, in partnership with Central Digital Lab.

Filipino audiences can now relive the story of Elsa (Nora Aunor), a barrio lass whose visions of the Virgin Mary changes her life and her community, once it hits selected cinemas nationwide on December 5, 2012.

"Depending on the type of damage the film has, we go on automated process, and then a manual process, where we remove the dirt, the scratches, the molds. And that's frame by frame," Dayrit said of the restoration project for the 1982 film.

"It takes hundreds of hours. For example, 'Himala,' it took 700 hours manual restoration work. Aside from the picture, we also do the audio. the cracks, the pops, the wows. We try to make it as pristine as we can," she added.

Why now

Calling the restoration effort a "very painstaking process," Leo Katigbak of the ABS-CBN Film Archives said it had been previously impossible to achieve the feat.

"We've always wanted to restore the classics, it's just that the cost was very prohibitive before. Even when we would broach it to Manet a few years back, the technology just wasn't there, and it wasn't economically feasible," Katigbak said.

"But over the last few years, the technology has improved, and the cost has declined, that made sense to do it now," he added.

The restored version of "Himala" was first screened at the 2012 Venice International Film Festival in September. But a long history of international recognition for the film preceded the Italian showing.

Notably, it was recognized as a contender for the prestigious Golden Bear Award at the 1983 Berlin International Film Festival. It also won the Bronze Hugo Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival in the same year; and in 2008, was hailed as the Best Asia-Pacific Film Of All Time by the CNN and Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

'Good timing'

Its many critical achievements over the years and its place in the history of Philippine cinema are among the reasons "Himala" was selected as the first restoration project of ABS-CBN Film Archives and Central Digital Lab.

"It's also good timing," Katigbak said, as the film's 2012 release under Star Cinema coincides with the movie's 30th anniversary, "so it made sense to hype it up."

Pointing the costs of restoring "Himala" in high-definition quality, Katigbak said "we also wanted to give it best platform possible."

In addition to its Venice screening and its upcoming Philippine premiere, "Himala" will also be available to watch on HD pay-per-view and will be released on DVD.

"We're going the whole nine yards for that. If you're going to spend that much on a movie, you might as well give it the best send-off possible," Katigbak said.

Next in the pipeline to get the HD treatment, according to Katigbak, is Peque Gallaga's "Oro, Plata, Mata."

Other well-loved Star Cinema films are also set for restoration, including: Olivia Lamasan’s “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and “Madrasta”; Laurice Guillen’s “Tanging Yaman”; Rory Quintos’ “Anak”; Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Bagong Buwan”; and Chito Roño’s “Dekada ’70.”