Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
The link between the traditional Zarzuela and cinema is closer than we think. Here in the Philippines it harkens back to one of the earliest forms of theater. But Instituto Cervantes Manila Director Dr. Carlos Madrid believes that there is a direct link to movies, “We have a very significant movie in Silent film cinema in Spain. CURRO VARGAS is one of the earliest examples of 2 forms of entertainment. From Zarzuela, the days of pre cinema to cinema is the adaptation of a Zarzuela to silent film. CURRO VARGAS for generations in Spain its an iconic symbol of the country boy who has to struggle to survive, to win the heart of his beloved. In that sense CURRO VARGAS encompasses so many topics of traditional Spanish dramas.”
Madrid is referring to the Spanish entry in the 8th Edition of the International Silent Film Festival to be held at Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall from August 28-31, 2014. This is the festival where Filipino musicians score silent films from different parts of the world live. This year will also feature a world-renowned pianist from France Hakim Bentchouala-Golobitch. The screenings are free and open to the public on a first come first served basis. Every year there are long queues so make sure to check listings and schedules.
USA-CITY OF LIGHTS starring Charlie Chaplin with RADIOACTIVE SAGO PROJECT (Aug 28), Germany-DER MÜDE TOD (Destiny) with MANILA COMPOSER’S LAB in cooperation with Dr. Pierre Oser (Aug 29), France-VERDUN: VISIONS D’HISTOIRE (Verdun:Versions of History) with pianist HAKIM BENTCHOULA-GOLOBITCH (Aug 29), Italy-MA L’AMOR MIO NON MUORE! (Love Everlasting) with Caliph8 & Soprano Fame Flores (Aug 30), Japan- CHUJI TABI NIKKI (A Diary of Chuji’s Travels) with KAAPIN (Aug 30), Spain- CURRO VARGAS with GLASS CHERRY BREAKERS (Aug 31), Philippines- ANG TIGMO SA AKING PAGPAULI (Riddles of my Homecoming) with KALAYO (Aug 31).
The silent film festival has been going on at the Shang Cineplex for 8 years. The event has hosted films contributed by embassies and is anything but profit driven. French Audio Visual Attaché Martin Macalintal said, “The venue is beautiful. The venue is wonderful and it’s been lent to us very generously. I’m grateful for their continued hosting of this important cultural event.”
Dr. Carlos Madrid explained there were several agencies involved with the Spanish entry, “For Instuto Cervantes and Embassy of Spain to bring the film here we got the support of the Ministry of Culture through the Filmoteca Española. It was likely that this film was screened in the Philippine before World War II given the appeal of the Zarzuela had before. It is a very live movie sample of the early days of Spanish movie making.”
The fest according to him unites contries culturally and historically, “We got for the music part no less than Sammy Asuncion. We gave him the freedom to do whatever they feel. I would like to emphasize the Silent film festival is such a success. It unifies so many aspects; it is film they go beyond language barriers. It is something you understand, whether you know the language of the country or not. When we connect it to music you are also going beyond language barrier. So the Intl Silent Film festival we are recovering the cultural heritage of different countries from the world. Connecting film with contemporary heritage of which we have the privilege of being a guest and also creating a live event. As you may know all the audiences respond quite well to it. We are lucky to participate in this festival.”
Legendary Guitarist Sammy Asuncion has participated in the Silent Film Fest since the early years with his band SPY and PINIKPIKAN. This year he has a new band called GLASS CHERRY BREAKERS, which has a renowned musicians like Megan Aguilar on vocals, Ronald Tomas (sax) and Nicky Cabardo (keyboards).
Asuncion during the course of researching the film found a lot of similarities between Spain and the Philippines, “You will realize that we have a lot in common that we also do in our everyday lives in the Philippines. The older guys like me who was able to witness the Spanish way of living before. You will realize a lot of things that we’re doing now in the movie: costume, dance in the plaza. In our province in Bukindon you pay to be able to dance with a woman. I didn’t realize that maybe this is where it came from. The music was from 1923 the kundiman that we’re doing now is based on the old Spanish music before. You can really hear that. I’m very grateful to do this because I am a musician.”
Asuncion’s personal style of improvisation works perfectly with live scoring, “When I play I like to improvise. I cannot enjoy my night if I can’t do it my way. Even my own songs I tend to change it every time I play it. It’s never the same. Here I would like to feel the music and intertwine. We will be doing some patterns but during the actual presentation there will be a lot of surprises the band is capable of doing that.”