“Bagong Hari” ni Dan Alvaro sa CCP March 5!

BY: DENNIS ADOBAS

Dan Alvaro

Dan Alvaro

Bilang bahagi ng project ng SOFIA (Society of Filipino Film Archivists) to screen “almost forgotten cinematic gems”, ipalalabas sa CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Tanghalang Manuel Conde sa March 5, 2011, ang pelikulang “Bagong Hari” na isang action-drama-suspense film with contemporary political undertones (patapos na ang Martial Law ang setting ng pelikula) na dinirek ng internationally acclaimed Filipino filmmaker na si Mario O’Hara.

Modesty aside, allow me to say that “Bagong Hari” was my movie project in the same way also that “Babae Sa Breakwater” was.  Hindi ito pagyayabang dahil totoo ito at saksi ko sina Direk Mario O’Hara at iba pang directly involved sa production.  Kung wala ako, wala din sana itong gem of a film na itinuturing na one of the best sa history ng local filmmaking.

Project ko ang “Bagong Hari”.  Title-roler dito ang alaga kong si Dan Alvaro.  Ipinatawag ako ng prodyuser at nag-usap kami at nagpirmahan ng kontrata.

This was 1984. Katatapos lang ipalabas noon ng isa pang cinematic gem na “Condemned” starring Nora Aunor  and Dan Alvaro and directed by O’Hara na tumabo sa takilya.  Kaya nang tanungin ako ng prodyuser ng “Bagong Hari” kung sino ang gusto kong magdirek kay Dan, sumagot kaagad ako na si O’Hara!

The following day ay dinala ko si Direk Mario sa opisina ng prodyuser.  After two days ay bitbit na ni O’Hara ang scriptwriter na si Frank Rivera.  In two weeks’ time ay nabuo ang project!

Aside from Dan Alvaro (as Addon Labrador, ang Bagong Hari), the film also had in the cast big names like Joel Torre, Robert Arevalo, Carmi Martin, Ruel Vernal, child actress Glaiza Herradura, Celso Ad. Castillo and the irrepressible TV host (of “Two For The Road” with Nestor Torre) with the signature crackling laughter, Ms. Elvira Manahan.

“Bagong Hari” was intended to be an entry in the 1984 Metro Manila Film Festival.  Due to some problems with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (then chaired by Armida Siguion Reyna during the Marcos administration) hindi ito natuloy sa festival at naipalabas ito on January 4, 1985 — immediately after the festival!

*****

I would like to freely quote some portions from Mr. Noel Vera’s (Critic After Dark) review of “Bagong Hari” which appeared in his blog.  Here go:  “‘Bagong Hari’ perfectly captured the regime’s (the last days of Martial Law) utter corruption, its systemic use of violence, our need (or hunger, if you like) to have someone rise up against it…’Bagong Hari’ was an ultimate statement of violence!

“Violence is a classic mode of expression among Filipino political parties, especially during election season…Violence is one of the oldest and most preferred means of interaction between men, with the man most skilled at inflicting it revered, worshipped, granted larger-than-life status.  ‘Bagong Hari’ acknowledges this from the opening sequence, a hand-to-hand duel between two men on a beach.  Fists crunch into bone, feet are ground into faces, and faces in turn are crushed in the wet sand.  O’Hara keeps the various body parts in giant close-ups then freezes the images, partly to distance us from the horror of physical punishment, partly to aestheticize the violence, force us to dwell on its awful beauty (hard, muscular bodies being pummeled and punched).

“‘Bagong Hari’ is O’Hara at his most baroque:  two desperate men in a life-or-death struggle for the amusement of the upper classes!

“‘Bagong Hari’ is recognizably noir in that it has protagonists struggling against a complex crime plot in a dark and hostile urban landscape, because it presents such a wide range of characters–from the highest offices of power to the humblest river rat–interacting and dominating (or being dominated by) others”.

*****

Dingdong Dantes is immensely enjoying his noble role as Youth Ambassador of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).  He was present during the press launch of the National Arts Month celebration and the grand opening of the Philippine International Arts Festival (PIAF) last January 30 at the Rizal Park (Luneta).

Says Dingdong at the press launch at NCCA Building:  “I merge my name and pour my time to the objectives of the NCCA as they embark on their traditional National Arts Month, capped by this year’s PIAF this month.

“As an arts exhibitor and practitioner myself, it is my hope that I would be able to somehow help, even through my small efforts, in stimulating public interest and support to this year’s campaign of the NCCA.

“Because more than the culture of corruption, helplessness and despair that most of us feel is regrettably already fast shaping the lives of Filipinos today.  I believe there are true positive cultures inherent in us such as our untiring hope, perseverance, drive for excellence and desire to propel our pristine beginnings.

“While there is always room for advance, our zoom to international limelight, particularly in the fields of music, cinema and visual arts are all encouraging and truly honoring for all Filipinos.  With this, I give my highest regards to the likes of Charice Pempengco, Lea Salonga, Architect Felino Palafox, to name a few, who have all brought in international prestige and honor to our race, by displaying Filipino greatness in terms of arts.

“And it is my hope that this year’s nationwide festivities of the NCCA will harness and put to limelight thousands of untapped and unkown art skills all over the country, which are worth showcasing and exemplifying!”

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