Return of Brocka’s ‘Maynila’ recalls unique scriptwriting course
News reports about the restoration of Lino Brocka’s masterpiece, “Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag” (now showing at SM cinemas), have brought back memories of an unusual scriptwriting course that we were asked to teach at the Ateneo de Manila Graduate School in the ’70s.
It was supposed to be one of the first full-length movie scripting courses ever offered in the country, so hopes were high that it would help develop a new generation of well-trained writers for the Filipino movie industry. —Well, that fond aspiration crumbled rather early, because it turned out there weren’t many graduate school students who wanted to get into local movies!
In fact, we were informed by the school’s administration, to our great disappointment, that there was exactly one student who really wanted to take the rigorous course! He was Doy del Mundo, scion of the esteemed Filipino novelist, Clodualdo del Mundo, and a very promising writer in his own right, we were told.
Still, one student could not support the creation of a new subject, so we guessed that that was the end of the course!
—Happily, we turned out to be dead wrong. The Ateneo believed so much in the course’s importance—and in Doy’s promise as a scriptwriter—that it didn’t cancel the subject! Our estimation for our school rose even further, because it was prepared to lose money just to help train a potentially fine scriptwriter, who could enhance the output of our movie industry for years to come!
—Well, that’s exactly what happened. We met regularly with Doy in our office for an entire semester, and he impressed us with his talent and discipline, unfailingly submitting sections of his work in progress, which we would then analyze and discuss.
Doy was such an exceptionally motivated student that he even ended up submitting two full-length film scripts!
Aside from “Maynila,” he wrote another screenplay, about a little boy who inadvertently got involved in the local entertainment scene, and it was as remarkable as his “Maynila” opus.
One of the instructive aspects of our story is the fact that, despite Doy’s “Maynila” being an obviously exceptional script, it took him years—almost a decade—to finally get a director to put it on the silver screen.
Of course, he was especially blessed that the director turned out to be the Lino Brocka, so Doy’s screenplay got the very best treatment possible, and went on to reap honors for the country in international film festivals.
In fact, in Tony Rayns’ book on the best 100 films ever made, it’s the only Filipino movie that the esteemed critic cited—a bright feather in the caps of both Doy and Lino!
Our unique tale’s ending has an even more fortuitous epilogue: Remember Doy’s second full-length screenplay for our scriptwriting course? It too finally got filmed, many more years after it was written, and it became “Pepot Artista,” which Doy himself directed, and won as Best Film in the first Cinemalaya indie film competition! —A double victory for Doy and our little, one-on-one screenwriting at the Ateneo!