MANILA -- For the first time, a new movie will herald the heroism of Paciano Rizal, Jose Rizal’s older brother who has largely been relegated in the shadows of Philippine history and cinema.
Dubbed “Heneral Rizal,” the short film will have its premiere at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival this week, along with two other notable shorts “Nang Em” starring Gloria Sevilla and “Basurero” with Jericho Rosales in the title role.
Veteran actor and Tanghalang Pilipino head Nanding Josef portrays Paciano Rizal in the nearly 20-minute film which chronicles heretofore unrevealed details about his life.
“Tuwang tuwa ako dahil si Rizal may statement na si Paciano mas bayani pa kaysa kanya," Josef told ABS-CBN News. “After Rizal’s execution in 1896, he became more active in the Katipunan and became a general."
It was Paciano who first planted the seeds of nationalism in Jose. Ten years older than Jose, he also grew up witnessing the abuses of the Spanish colonial government.
Historical accounts indicate he was a founding member of the reformist student organization La Juventud Liberal that was under the guidance of his friend and teacher, the martyred Padre José Burgos.
“In the film, may komentaryo si Paciano kung bakit sina Padre Burgos and Jose Rizal wanted to prove that Filipinos should not bow down to the Spaniards. He wanted to pursue the universal truth that everyone is equal,” Josef said.
Based on the accounts of renowned Philippine studies expert and anthropologist Dr. Floro Quibuyen, “Heneral Rizal” is edited and directed by Chuck Gutierrez, who recently made the celebrity protest videos and Tagalog translations of Charlie Chaplin’s monologue from the movie "The Great Dictator," and the song “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the musical "Les Miserables."
Josef said “Heneral Rizal” draws parallels from the past and present situation of the Philippines and prevailing issues of racism and terrorism.
“Minadali namin talagang tapusin ito for Cinemalaya. Resonant ang message nito about the injustice and the tyranny of oppressors then and now. Wala pa ring nagbago sa opresyon ng mahihirap ng colonizers hanggang ngayon oppressed pa rin ang mga walang lupa," he said.
Gutierrez used interweaving images of Philippine history in the movie, highlighting the semblance of the national hero, which was shot in Intramuros.
“Rizal appears as a physical symbol of the everyday Filipino today who can still do something for the country by seeking the truth and committing to act on it,” Josef said.
With the guidance of Gutierrez, Josef personally took his own video, close-ups and all, with the help of his table lamp at home in Paranaque. “Ako nag-ilaw sa sarili ko,” he said laughing.
Also adjusting to quarantine restrictions, director Suzette Ranillo had a locked-in shoot for the Visayan movie “Nang Em” with her mother Gloria Sevilla and other cast and crew in a condominium in Metro Manila.
“We had rapid tests done," she said.
Based on a true-to-life character named Emilia, "Nang Em" shows the struggles of an 85-year-old woman as she navigates her way through quarantine and adjusting to the so-called new normal. The 19-minute docu-comedy drama will also touch on mental health, Ranillo said.
“Nang Em” is Ranillo’s third project as director after “Carehome" with Nora Aunor, and “Pagbalik,” an entry in the 2019 Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
“Nang Em is part of my legacy for the continuance of Visayan films," said Ranillo.
"Basurero," meanwhilke, speaks of another brutal reality at the present time. It depicts the inner conflict a of a fisherman, played by Jericho Rosales, who dumps salvaged drug war victims into the sea to save his sick daughter.
Directed by Eileen Cabiling, “Basurero” was also showcased at the 24th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea last year and at the Tampere International Film Festival in Finland in March 2020.
The 16th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will open on August 7 at 2 p.m. via the official CCP Facebook page and Kumu, followed by the premieres of the short films in competition on Vimeo and talkbacks after the screenings on Facebook and Kumu.