“A great civilization is not conquered from without,
until it has destroyed itself from within.”
The above quote by American writer and historian Will Durant is what I was immediately reminded of upon seeing Heneral Luna, for the movie depicted a people’s downfall as a culmination of strife among themselves.
At first, I was quite hesitant to write about this Jerrold Tarog film, worried that I lack the competency to do justice to it. However, there is something about Heneral Luna that makes it too great a feat to be ignored. As I was weeping bitterly through the scenes, I knew just how important this film is, worthy of time and attention. So fresh from the cathartic movie experience last night, I share three main reasons why I think Heneral Luna succeeded as a local heroic film:
1. It is educationally essential.
History books have not always been kind to our heroes and to our past struggles in general. In college, we become exposed little by little to the truth about these realities, backed-up by theories highlighted in neon on photocopied reading materials. However, it takes tapping on mainstream media to educate and excite the general public about the essential truth nestled at the very core of our nationhood, sovereignty, and identity. And this is the first merit of Heneral Luna: It is educational and informative enough to foster critical thinking but without the frills of academics, for it made clever use of the powerful tool of the big screen. And despite its courteous admittance of fictionalizing history, one could simply gloss over inaccuracies in favor of artistic license.
This article by Tito Genova Valiente published in ‘BusinessMirror’ eloquently captures the bitter truth the movie was brave enough to tackle: “Heneral Luna reminds us how we failed as a people during the revolution because our leaders were splendid fiascos [sic]. There was one general but he was angry at the weaknesses of others and he was called a madman. In the end, he [was murdered]… And yet, no one is outraged that the leaders and heroes of this nation would have time to plot and engineer the butchering of a real general while we were at war with the enemy.”
2. It effectively stirs right emotions and sentiments.
Heneral Luna is an outpouring of wisdom and virtue. The most memorable line in the movie is probably: “Mga kapatid, mayroon tayong mas malaking kaaway kaysa mga Amerikano: ang ating sarili” (“Brothers, we have an enemy bigger than the Americans: ourselves”). This pronouncement, however clichéd, is a wake-up call to see ourselves for who we really are. For what fate could be worse than that of a hero who died not in the hands of his enemy but in the treachery of his own ally?
However, Heneral Luna does not stop at skepticism for it also evokes hope for humanity through the characters of Luna, Roman, Rusca, Garcia, and other nameless soldiers who loved the country enough to sacrifice their lives for the common good of its people. Among the many striking lines in the film, I was especially moved by that of Paco Roman: “Hindi pagdurusa ang dumaan sa pasakit” (“It is not suffering to go through trials”). This statement exceeds human nature’s tendencies and even reeks of biblical truth, a relentless nagging to endure the perpetual battle against oppression.
3. It gives hope to Philippine cinema.
Finally, Heneral Luna made its grand foray into a world of potentials, possibilities, and promising opportunities for Philippine movie industry. By fearlessly featuring relevant controversies in Philippine history through a film, it was able to raise the quality of Philippine cinema. Its viral success through word of mouth proves that there is nothing quite like it. Most of those who have seen the movie have nothing to say but praises, and rightfully so, for it does not disappoint but rather lives up above and beyond expectations. As a matter of fact, three hours ago as of writing, it has been announced in their official Facebook page, and then later on in Variety and Rappler, that Heneral Luna has been selected as the Philippines’ Official Entry to the 2016 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film Category. However ironic this may turn out to be, the important thing is that it restores Filipino’s faith in local artistry amidst this generation of Hollywood hallucination.
There is much more raving to do about this flick, but, at this point, all I have left to say is: regardless of the Oscar’s outcome, Heneral Luna has already succeeded in igniting the nationalistic embers of our hearts, which what matters after all. And the success of Heneral Luna is our success.
Photos from: filipiknow.net and filmpolicereviews.com
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