Read Part 1 at: The History of Philippine Cinema Part 1: The Birth of Philippine Cinema
You can also read: Motion Picture History: A Chronological Look
With the American occupation in the 1900s, early Philippine movies became considerably influenced by Hollywood. There was already the competition between local and Hollywood films this early on. Yet, the local industry still thrived and flourished for the Filipino audience.
The early years of Philippine cinema were a time of significant discovery and development of the new art form. By the 1930s, stories originated mostly from theater and popular literature. During this era, filmmaking was seen as purely an entertainment art form designed to bring viewers to the world of melodramas, musicals, and romantic fantasies.
In 1930, talking or sound pictures, popularly referred to as “talkies” was already a year old in the country with the showing of Syncopation, a popular American film released as a “Radio Picture” using the first commercial test of the Photophone sound system, at the Radio Theater, Plaza Santa Cruz, Manila. According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the said event naturally incited competition among local producers and filmmakers as to who would create the country’s first Philippine “talkie.” In 1932, the Graphic Magazine featured the film project Ang Aswang (The Vampire) as the first talkie in the country. However, the film did not turn out to be a completely sound film during its release. The film credited as the first completely sound movie in the Philippines was Jose Nepomuceno’s film Punyal na Guinto (Golden Dagger) which premiered on March 9, 1933 at the Lyric Theater.
A few film artists and producers dared to stray from the already laid out guidelines as they departed from the Holywood norms already popular during those times. They also started to comment on sociopolitical issues using contemporary or historical subjects of the era. Director, actor, writer and producer Julian Manansala’s film Patria Amore (Beloved Country) was almost suppressed because of its anti-Spanish sentiments; thus letting him earn the honor of being called the “Father of the Nationalistic Film.”
1934 to 1941 was a time of important development in Philippine cinema. This time period was considered the first “Golden Era of Philippine Cinema.” During this time, filmmaking became more organized. The local studio system was generally patterned after Hollywood studios. The prolific Philippine studios came up with around two to three productions at the same time. They brought viewers the classics Ay! Kalisud,Giliw Ko, and Diwata ng Karagatan.
In 1937, the first Filipino movie to achieve international praise was Zamboanga, a film starring Fernando Poe Sr. and Rosa del Rosario. Hollywood director Frank Capra saw the film and praised it by saying that it is “the most exciting and beautiful picture of native life he had ever seen.”
By the latter part of the 1930s, Carmen Concha, a pre-war Filipina film director, was tagged as the “First Woman Director in Philippine Cinema.” Her filmography as a director included Magkaisang Landas, Yaman ng Mahirap, and Pangarap.
When the 1930s came to a close, it was clear that filmmaking already established itself within the Filipino culture. Philippine cinema started making its own name for the country and its people.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” Philippine Journeys and Philippine Online Essays.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
“History of Philippine Cinema,” WikiPilipinas.
“Syncopation (1929),” IMDb.
“Philippine Cinema,” Filipino Cultured Blog.