Dekada ‘70 (2002)

dir. Chito Rono

199 min


Although the title implies it follows the 70’s, the film actually follows a family from the time from Marcos’ first election to the mobilizations leading to his ouster (a period of 21 years). 


Featuring an impressive line up of stars including Christopher de Leon, Vilma Santos and Piolo Pascual, we see how the unfolding of the mass movement and dictatorship impacts this large, upper-petty bourgeois family.  It could almost be the story of Edgar Jopson in a way.  The family’s 5 sons each go a separate way.  One joins the NPA, another remains with the above ground workers movement, another joins the US Navy, while the youngest two try to lead “normal” lives of students. 


While this film follows an individual family’s drama, it puts up a faithful portrayal of the events and social movement.  It is shocking to see a film (backed by a relatively large budget and shown in a wide release) mention William Pomeroy, show a wedding of two Communists, street theater denouncing “Imperialism, Feudalism, Bureaucrat Capitalism,” inhuman torture by the military, the Ang Bayan newsletter, infiltration by deep penetration agents, student rallies and more. 



One of the most poignant moments was during a KM rally, when the students suddenly broke out singing the National Anthem, exposing it as a genuinely militant and patriotic song if you follow the lyrics.  (You wouldn’t think so today they way it is sung and after the US National Anthem at events).  After the song, the students then fought against a police barricade yelling “Makibaka!  Huwag Matakot!”


Even though the film ends predictably at what we assume is an EDSA I rally, one can’t help wonder how similar all of this is to today with President Arroyo.  The rallies and mass movement are still there.  Sons (and daughters) leaving for the countryside, joining up with the peasants fight for survival, military and police repression, the jailing and torture of those who are fighting for better social conditions.  Although the film takes place in the ‘70’s, it feels eerily present.


After starring in such a movie, I wonder about the present sympathies of these actors/actresses.  Can one be part of such a movie and not feel for the masses at BAYAN rallies?  Can they shut off their patriotic feelings once the camera turns off?  Or as celebrities, do they uphold the interests of the ruling clique?  For example, Vilma Santos is currently governor of Batangas, a province with a heavy population in support of the underground movement.  In 2007 she supported Satur Ocampo and BAYAN MUNA during the elections.  At the same time, the military presence has increased its presence in the province.  What about Piolo Pascual?  Currently one of the top celebrities, his character in the movie emphatically represented the movement, as one based on love, compassion & militant social justice.  Where does he stand in reality?


Although the film follows a relatively formulaic & melodramatic approach to the events, it does capture one’s attention, as you cannot ignore both the social movement and the reactionary repression which are constantly in the background.  It isn’t subtle like many of the independent and art-house style films in its criticism of society.  It doesn’t use any stylistic devices or groundbreaking cinematic tricks.  It is straight-forward, blunt and leaves the audience to reflect on how much things have changed (or not) since then..  However, as a mainstream flick, it does serve as a vehicle to reach a mass audience and presents a sympathetic if not outright supportive view of the Left and the underground mass movement.