The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

Natatanging Gawad Urian kay LAMBERTO V. AVELLANA

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Si Lamberto V. Avellana ay haligi ng pelikulang Filipino at isa sa iilang nabubuhay ngayon na nakasaksi sa naging pag-unlad ng pelikula sa ating bansa. Unang nakilala si Avellana bilang direktor ng mga dula sa Ateneo de Manila, kung saan siya nagtapos ng Bachelor of Arts degree noong 1938. Noong 1939, itinatag niya, sa tulong ng kanyang maybahay na si Daisy Hontiveros, ang Barangay Theater Guild, na siyang nanguna sa pagpapalabas ng lehitimong dula sa bansa.

Pumasok si Avellana sa pelikula nang katatatag pa lamang ng unang mga istudyo. Kinikilalang panandang-bato sa kasaysayan ng pelikulang lokal ang una niyang pelikulang Sakay (1937) na, sa paglalarawan na rin ng kritikong si T.D. Agcaoili ay siyang nagsimula ng "tunay na mapanlikhang pelikulang Filipino, na gumagamit at nagsasanib sa pelikula ng ilang elemento ng makabagong pamamaraan at pagsusulat ng dulaan, na matagal nang kailangan ng pelikulang Filipino."

Ngunit ang tahasang ambag ni Avellana sa pelikulang Filipino ay ang paggamit niya ng mga pamamaraang tunay na sinematiko, sa partikular, ng mise-en-scene, na noo'y ni hindi kilala ng mga direktor na gumagamit ng kamera para lamang sa pagsasalaysay (at di pagpapadama) ng istorya. Sa madaling salita, si Avellana ang unang "tumuklas," luminang, at nagpayaman sa pamamaraan ng pelikula bilang peiikula sa ating bansa. Dahil sa kanya, naluwal ang pelikula bilang anyong pansining.

Bukod dito, si Avellana rin ang unang sumalungat sa nakamihasnang popularidad ng nakasusuyang mga istorya ng pag-iibigan at ng mababaw na drama. Sa pamamagitan ng mga istoryang may seryosong tema at makatotohanang tauhan, matagumpay na napaglangkap ni Avellana ang mahahalagang isyu ng kanyang panahon sa nakaugaliang pamamaraan ng paggawa ng pelikulang Filipino.
Ayon pa rin kay T.D. Agcaoili, si Avellana ang unang pumuksa sa mapanirang "mito" sa industriya, tulad ng paniniwalang "walang pandama" at "walang kamalayang panlipunan" ang manonood na "bakya," kung kaya't "eskapistang" pelikula lamang ang bagay sa kanila, at pati na ang sinaunang paniniwalang tanging mga kilalang bituin lamang ang sangkap ng mahusay na pelikula.

Bilang pagsalungat sa eskapismo, iginiit ni Avellana ang paglalarawan ng "tunay" na realidad sa Pilipinas. Ayon na rin sa kanya: "Ang ibig ko'y realidad na malalim. Ibig kong humango ng kagitingan sa putikan — sa pinakasariwang anyo nito. Mas iibigin ko pang makiisa ng damdamin ang manonood sa aking mga tauhan. Ibig ko ring salaminin ng aking mga tauhan ang mga kakulangan ng karaniwang tao, at ibig kong magsalita sila sa makatotohanang paraan, tulad ng pagsasalita ng tunay na mga tao. At naroon na rin ang seks, bilang bahagi ng isang pelikulang buhay na buhay."

Tinitingala rin si Avellana bilang guro ng ilan sa pinakabatikang aktor ng bansa, mula kina Leopoldo Salcedo, Rosa Rosal at Tony Santos, hanggang kina Vic Silayan, Charito Solis, at Leroy Salvador. Sa mga pelikulang dinirihe niya para sa mga ito, lagi nang nakukuha ni Avellana sa kanyang mga artista ang napakahusay na interpretasyon ng kanilang mga papel, kung kaya't ang pariralang "Avellana touch" ay naging kasingkahulugan na rin ng mahusay na pag-arte.

Ang pinakamahuhusay na pelikula ni Avellana ay ilan na sa pinakatatanging pelikula sa bansa. Ang Anak-Dalita (1956) ay uminog sa mga "taong-yungib" ng Intramuros pagkatapos ng giyera, na bagama't nahubaran na ng halos lahat, ay nakuha pa ring mabuhay at ipaglaban ang kanilang karangalan. Sa kabilang dako, inilarawan ng Badjao (1957) ang pang-araw-araw na pamumuhay ng mga taong mandaragat ng Mindanao. Isinalaysay naman ng Kundiman ng Lahi (1959) ang kahirapan ng isang babae sa buhay at pag-ibig, samantalang isinapelikula ng Portrait of the Artist as Filipino ang elehiya ni Nick Joaquin sa pagkamatay ng Intramuros at ng dalisay na adhikain sa buhay at sining.

Natampok ang karamihan sa mga pelikula ni Avellana dito at sa ibang bansa. Ang Anak-Dalita ang unang pelikulang Pilipinong nanalo ng Grand Prix bilang pinakamahusay na peiikula sa Southeast Asian Film Festival noong 1956. Gayundin, nagwagi ang Badjao ng mga ad hoc na gantimpala sa naturang festival noong 1957. Napalabas na rin ang mga pelikula ni Avellana sa Vancouver, Edinburgh, Coronado, San Francisco, Cannes, at Frankfurt.

Bukod sa pagiging kilalang direktor ng feature films, nanguna rin si Avellana sa paggawa ng malaman at pulyidong pagkamatay ng Intramuros at ng dalisay na adhikain sa buhay at sining.

Natampok ang karamihan sa mga pelikula ni Avellana dito at sa ibang bansa. Ang Anak-Dalita ang unang pelikulang Pilipinong nanalo ng Grand Prix bilang pinakamahusay na pelikula sa Southeast Asian Film Festival noong 1956. Gayundin, nagwagi ang Badjao ng mga ad hoc na gantimpala sa naturang festival noong 1957. Napalabas na rin ang mga pelikula ni Avellana sa Vancouver, Edinburgh, Coronado, San Francisco, Cannes, at Frankfurt.

Bukod sa pagiging kilalang direktor ng feature films, nanguna rin si Avellana sa paggawa ng malaman at pulyidong pelikuiang dokumentaryo. Kabilang sa pinakamahuhusay niyang obra ang La Campana de Baler (1961) at ang El Legado (1959), na nagtamo ng mga gantimpalang internasyunal. Ang rurok ng kanyang apatnapung taon bilang direktor ay ang paggagawad sa kanya ng National Artist Award noong 1976, bilang pagkilala sa kanyang pambihirang kahusayan at sa mahalagang ambag niya sa pagka-unlad ng pelikuiang Filipino.

Lamberto V. Avellana is a pillar of Philippine cinema. One of the few living witnesses to the growth and development of Filipino movies, Avellana began auspiciously as a stage director at the Ateneo de Manila, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938. With his wife, the former Daisy Hontiveros, he founded in 1939 the Barangay Theater Guild, which pioneered in the presentation of legitimate plays.

Avellana moved into film at a time when the studio system was just emerging. His first film, Sakay (1937), was landmark in Filipino film making, because it marked, in the words of film critic T.D. Agcaoili, "the introduction of a truly creative Philippine cinema, employing organically in film some of the elements of modern stagecraft and dramaturgy that had been lacking in Philippine movies." Avellana's direct contribution to Philippine cinema, however, is his use of cinematic techniques, in particular of the mise-en-scene, which at the time was unheard of among directors who merely used their cameras to tell a story. In short, it was Avellana who first "discovered, exploited, and enriched the idiom of film in the country.

Aside from this, it was Avellana who first rebelled against the prevailing popularity of saccharine romances and superficial melodramas. Through his treatment of stories with serious themes and three-dimensional characters, he successfully mixed the significant issues of his time with the conventions of Filipino movie-making.

According to T.D. Agcaoili, Avellana destroyed the recessive myths of the film industry, like the "bakya" crowd being 'unperceptive" and "socially unaware," and therefore deserving only of escapist fare, and the hoary one about big-name stars being necessary to the making of a good movie.

To counter escapism, Avellana chose to depict "raw" Philippine reality. As he himself put it: "I like reality in depth. I like to see dirt in nobility - - in its rawest form. I prefer my audience to sit back and identify with the characters. I also like my characters to mirror human imperfections, speaking down-to-earth dialogue, the way authentic people speak and talk. And sex as part of the film that pulsates." Avellana is further credited with having mentored some of the country's most distinguished thespians, from Leopoldo Salcedo, Rosa Rosal and Tony Santos, to Vic Silayan, Charito Solis, and Leroy Salvador. In the films he directed for these actors, Avellana was so consistent and successful in drawing out excellent performances from them that the term "Avellana touch" becamo synonymous with good acting.

Avellana's best films are some of the finest examples of contemporary Filipino cinema. Anak-Dalita (1956) dealt with the "cave-dwellers" of war-ravaged Intramuros, who, dispossessed of practically everything, managed to survive and hold on to their dignity. On the other hand, Badjao (1957) painted an idyllic picture of the day-to-day existence of a sea-faring people in Mindanao. Kundiman ng Lahi (1959) dramatized a woman's difficulties in love and life, while Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (1966) translated into film Nick Joaquin's dramatic elegy on the death of Intramuros and of pure ideals in life and art.

Many of Avellana's films have been recognized here and abroad. Anak-Dalita was the first Filipino film to win the Grand Prix for Best Picture in the Southeast Asian Film Festival in 1956. Badjao likewise won ad hoc awards in the same festival in 1957. His films have also found their way into many international festivals, including Vancouver, Edinburgh, Coronado, San Francisco, Cannes and Frankfurt. Besides being a highly acclaimed filmmaker, Avellana also pioneered in the making of intelligent, well-crafted documentary films. Among his best works are La Campana de Baler (1961) and El Legado (1959), which have won him International Prestige Awards. The highest point in his forty-year career as drama and film director is the National Artist Award, conferred on him in 1976, in recognition of his rare excellence and significant contribution to the growth of Filipino drama and film.