“The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society,” said Pope Francis in his Amoris Laetitia: Apostolic Exhortation on the Family. “A mentality that can only say, ‘Then was then, now is now,’ is ultimately immature. Memory is necessary for growth.”
This Independence Day, My Pope recommends four historical films, whose stories and lead characters remind us of the struggles and triumphs of our forefathers in their efforts to achieve emancipation for our country (and in the case of one film, for others).
Jose Rizal (1998)
Directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya from a screenplay by Ricky Lee, Jun Lana, and Peter Ong Lim, this biopic stars Cesar Montano as Dr. Jose Rizal, incarcerated at Fort Santiago and awaiting execution by firing squad. Sweeping awards left and right (including second runner-up in the Audience Award of the Toronto Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival), the movie was first screened on Independence Day 1988 as part of the Philippine Centennial celebration. Joel Torre (who also played Rizal in the film Bayaning 3rd World and stars as the national hero’s alter ego Crisostomo Ibarra in this one), Jaime Fabregas, and Gloria Diaz also star.
Heneral Luna (2015)
Veteran character actor John Arcilla delivers a powerful performance as General Antonio Luna, impassioned commander of a revolutionary army tasked to wage war on American troops. When lackluster ticket sales led theater owners to pull out the film just five days after its screening, positive reviews spread through word of mouth and social media quickly saw the return of the movie to over 100 cinemas, where it raked in P200 million on its fifth week. How’s that for stirring national pride? Jerrold Tarog directs, edits, and provides the music of this critically acclaimed movie. Mon Confiado, Arron Villaflor, Joem Bascon, Archie Alemania, Epi Quizon, Nonie Buencamino, Paulo Avelino, Leo Martinez, Mylene Dizon, and Ronnie Lazaro round up the cast.
Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral (2018)
Paulo Avelino stars as Gregorio “Goyo” del Pilar, favorite general of then President Emilio Aguinaldo, and one of the youngest to fight in the Philippine-American war. A sequel to Heneral Luna, this film also by director Jerrold Tarog captures the lead character as more human than hero—the cocky ladies’ man proves a poor leader, unable to lead his troops into a proper battle before becoming a US marksman’s easy target. “Be loyal to a country, never to an idol,” reminds the movie’s blurb. Carlo Aquino, Mon Confiado, Epy Quizon, Gwen Zamora, Empress Schuck, Alvin Ayson, and Rafa Siguion-Reyna star.
Quezon’s Game (2019)
Who knew that the Philippines once saved countless Jews from death camps by providing them with sanctuary in the country? This film isn’t just an eye-opener to that little-known historical fact, it’s also a revelation of actor Raymond Bagatsing’s believable turn as Manuel L. Quezon, a performance he perfected by immersing himself in YouTube videos of the former President of the Philippine Commonwealth. Rachel Alejandro stars as his wife Aurora and the Briton Matthew Rosen directs. You can still catch the movie in local theaters.