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Manuel Conde to be named National Artist of the Philippines

May 28, 2009
Manuel Conde

Manuel Conde

It is an open secret (otherwise I would not know about it) that Manuel Conde will be named posthumously as National Artist for Cinema by Philippine president Gloria Arroyo on June 11.

Manuel Conde (born Manuel Urbano, 1915 – 1985)was the first director from the Philippines who was invited to an international film festival. His groundbreaking Genghis Khan, a truimph of visual imagination over small budget, was shown in 1950 at the Venice Film Festival. His most popular films were the satirical films on Juan Tamad, a Oblomov-type of jester from Philippino folklore, that lampooned the Philippine society of his time. Unfortunately this, like many of his other films, are lost, and those that still exist are in bad shape.

A recently published, lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched book by film scholar Nic Tiongson and designer Cesare Hernando brought the actor, director and producer back into the limelight. As a kind of early independent film maker he produced some of his best films all by himself. However, unlike most of the digital independent film makers of today, he managed to combine critical acclaim with popular success.

He directed comedies, war movies and historical and fantastic films, including a Philippino version of the germanic Siegfried myth! His last years were spend hunting for treasures.

From what remains of his films, it is clear that he was a major visual talent, who would be considered among Asia´s finest directors of the 1950s, if only his works were better known internationally. Other National Artists for film in the Philippines are Gerry De Leon,, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Fernando Poe Jr. and Eddie Romero. More on him on the website of the Manila-based video store Video 48, the secret film archive of the Philippines.

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