Lino Brocka: The Artist of the People

Lino Brocka: The Artist of the People

“The artist is always a participant. He tries to be true not only to his craft but also to himself. For it is the supreme duty of the artist to investigate the truth, no matter what forces attempt to hide it. And then to report it to the people, to confront them with it, like a whiplash that will cause wounds but will free the mind from the various fantasies and escapist fare that the Establishment pollutes our minds with. ” – Lino Brocka

Everyone is a chronicler of truth, but we cannot stop in being witnesses alone. Catalino Ortiz Brocka, or distinctively known as Lino Brocka might have other plans prior to his flourishing yet controversial career as a filmmaker, but he was not able to hamper his fervor and ability towards art.

Lino Brocka was born to a fisherman and a schoolteacher in Pilar, Sorsogon on April 7, 1939. He pursued a degree in English Literature at the University of the Philippines, and was an active member of UP Dramatic Club, from the time when he was eager in becoming an actor.

He graduated from high school with six medals, and attained a scholarship from University of The Philippines. However, he decided to leave his studies for missionary works. He became one of the first converts of Later Day Saints (LDS) in the country , and he served as a Mormon missionary in a leper colony of Hawaii, of island Molokai.

After his life as a faithful missionary, he began to thrive in directing and writing for both the stage and television. Brocka engaged in films that mainstream filmmakers have failed to depict: issues like poverty, oppression and corruption in the government.

His first film was in the year 1970, “Wanted: A Perfect Mother”, became an official entry to the 5th Manila Film Festival in 1970. Through his movie Insiang in 1976 that portrayed the marginalized sector during Marcos’ regime, his career as a filmmaker began to grow, where it internationally gained attention, despite the local government’s censorship.


He and his friends established CINEMANILA, a movie company that produced award winning films such as “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang.” Eventually, the company closed down but his advocacy did not stop.

Brocka refused to produce films in favor of the Marcos regime, and despite the career he found in filmmaking, he founded the Free the Artists movement and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) in opposition to the government’s restriction of freedom of expression. CAP asserts that an artist should be of the people, for the people, tackling social issues in the country.

He then cried for social justice, demonstrating present realities such as suppression and censorship, making him a critic of Marcos. After Marcos was brought down from the government, Lino Brocka’s fight didn’t stop. He continued to make critical films even in Corazon Aquino regime.

His French co-production L’Insoumis or Orapronobis in 1989 boldly depicted the anarchy and fear from which people suffered after the Marcos administration. He was a fearless critic, communicating to the people the reality present through his films, that even having to attain restrictions and censorships during the Martial Law, his films were smuggled abroad for screenings.

Through the use of film, he was able to fight and stand against any oppression, which broke the grounds of any filmmakers hold. His struggle for rights and freedom has awakened not just the other filmmakers, but the people who also appreciate art.

He received a Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1987, honoring his contributions in Literature, Communication Arts and Journalism. Even after his death in 1991, he was proclaimed as the National Artist of the Philippines for Film in 1997.

Lino Brocka, a filmmaker and a social activist, used what he had to instill critical awareness on social and political injustice to the Filipino people. Despite gaining admiration and criticisms due to his controversial films, he left a mark through his role he partook in initiating change. Genevieve Sarmiento and Niña Uy | Tudla Productions


“We must expose and fight what is wrong.” ~Lino Brocka

“We must expose and fight what is wrong.” ~Lino Brocka

Response Speech by Lino Brocka upon receiving the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts

The filmmaker, like his peers in the other media, now realizes that the artist is also a public person. He no longer isolates himself from society. Instead of working in his ivory tower he is a citizen of the slums, of the streets, of the battlefields if need be. The artist is becoming a participant. He tries to be true, not only to his craft but also to himself. What he says on the screen, he also says in the streets. For it is the supreme duty of the artist to investigate the truth no matter what forces attempt to hide it. And then to report this truth to the people, to confront them with it. Like a whiplash it will cause wounds but will free the mind from the various fantasies and escapist fares with which “the establishment” pollutes our minds.

To the best of our abilities, and even if we often times fail, we must produce films that will hurt, films that will disturb, films that will not let you rest. For the times are bad and, given times like these, it is a crime to rest. We cannot rest, and should not, while there is a Filipino starving in Negros, an Aquino crying for justice, a victim of police killing lying in a garbage heap. Although it is the duty of the artist to work for what is true, good and beautiful, first we must expose and fight what is wrong.

In these times, when the government-controlled media hide the truth, when most of what we get is silly gossip, pretty flesh and sensationalized crime, we must go to the streets to find out what is happening. We must listen to those who dare risk their lives and livelihoods, who reiterate once more the utmost duty of the artist, that he be a committed person, taking the side of any human being who is violated, abused, oppressed or dehumanized, and that he use whatever instrument is his–the pen, the brush or the camera.

I accept this award for all such artists, dedicated persons whose names may never be known or published, doing their share, whether in the streets or in prison camps. Some of them may even have died, or at this very moment be fighting for their lives. This award then is for these artists.

They may gag and blindfold you, silence and imprison you, but they will never be able to destroy what made you an artist in the first place–your brave and continuing dedication to the human race.

Together with you I thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for telling us that we should continue our work.


August is a month of history and social change.

August, the month of the opening of the annual Pandayang Lino Brocka Political Film and New Media Festival, is a month replete with historical events in the country. The Cry of Pugadlawin and the first battle of the 1896 Philippine revolution in Pinaglabanan took place in August. Hence, National Heroes Day is celebrated in this month. Almost a century later happened the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the final blow to the Marcos dictatorship, and after three decades, the death of his wife Corazon Aquino, the successor of Marcos and first woman president of the Philippines. They are known heroes of popular democracy. In this day, their only son reigns as president with an arduous promise of bringing reforms in an enduring oppressive system.

And Lino Brocka, the great director for whom the said festival is given as tribute, lived through and exposed the social realities of the post-dictatorship period where the human rights situation was grimmer and the course of struggle of the oppressed was taken to its highest form for change to be brought about. That film, Orapronobis, rings ever more true to this day.

The theme of the fourth year of the Pandayang Lino Brocka Political Film and New Media Festival brings itself back to why it started: for viewers to remember and to change what ought to be changed and for filmmakers to partake in that movement for change bestowed by Rizal, Del Pilar, Mabini, Jacinto, Bonifacio with the pen, or now also the camera.

Filmmakers and viewers are changemakers. While filmmakers chronicle history and espouse change in tones overt or underlying, they must also partake in the movement for social change to be one with their subject, as did National Artists for Film Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka. In making films that allow the viewers to remember their colonial past such as Dalena’s Memoirs of a Forgotten War, they are given a better vantage point of the surviving system subservient to the rich few of this country and world such as Manatad’s Agree Ka Ba? (Do You Agree?), Burgos’ Old News and Concepcion’s Politics of US Occupation. This vantage point should be or is a perspective for change; change that can only be attained in struggle. When the filmmakers and viewers have become changemakers, maybe it is then that the film is consummate. This must be what Lino Brocka referred to as the Great Film.

Then, the Great Audience that the late Lino Brocka envisioned is probably the viewers [who pick themselves up (before or) after a movie and] who themselves make history that is delightful, powerful and interesting to document or be made into a film. With their collective struggles, the people themselves write the script of their own film, etch their own inscription in history, as marked by the documentaries Pinaglabanan (Battleground) by Tudla Productions, Women at the Forefront by Kodao Productions and Puso ng Lungsod (Heart of the City) by Ilang-Ilang Quijano.

But the Great Film—such as those political films that make people remember and act—must be offered to them. The organizers of this festival believe that the films here hues to that Great Film.

In the tradition of the Pandayang Lino Brocka Political Film and New Media Festival, filmmakers and viewers are once again mustered and marshaled to take their place in history and social change.#