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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Nonoy Marcelo’s ‘Tadhana’ now screening at National Gallery Singapore

“I find the festival interesting as it showcases films by Filipino artists alongside those of others from Southeast Asia and Australia, placing them in the context of geographic location and in the cinematic history of the region”

Famed cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo’s film ‘Tadhana,’ the Philippines’ first full-length animated film, is being screened at the National Gallery Singapore’s ‘Painting with Light,’ an annual festival of international films on art.

Award-winning Filipino cartoonist Dengcoy Miel is among those discussing Marcelo’s art at the festival.

This is the fifth edition of the festival, now being held from July 1 to 24. This year’s theme is “Interventions in Space,” showcasing the diverse ways artists address realities to explore different perspectives about social issues, creating interactions between social commentary and art.

According to the museum’s media release, which was sent to me by lawyer and historian Saul Hofileña Jr., the festival highlights also include the world premiere of a 4K restoration of one of the earliest experimental films from the Philippines — ‘Conversation in Space’ by artist and historian Rod Paras-Perez.

This important film leads a line-up of experimental animation films from Southeast Asia from the 1960s to 1980s, a fascinating look at a cross-over between art and film. The films of a few other Filipino artists will be shown as well.

I find the festival interesting as it showcases films by Filipino artists alongside those of others from Southeast Asia and Australia, placing them in the context of geographic location and in the cinematic history of the region.

‘Painting With Light’ presents over 50 films by artists who explore concepts of class relations, indigeneity, and other indicators of social structure and systems. Among the other topics of the films are the ecological impact of urban development in Cambodia, civic action in Myanmar, and the loss and reclamation of indigenous culture in Australia.

The director of the National Gallery Singapore is Dr. Eugene Tan, who has led unforgettable and hugely successful exhibitions and has enabled the National Gallery to establish meaningful relations with the Centre Pompidou and Tate.

Suenne Megan Tan, senior director of Museum Planning and Engagement of the National Gallery Singapore, welcomes visitors to the festival and implores the audience to establish a deeper connection to art through the medium of film.

A great delight to Filipinos is the Filipina writer and curator Clarissa Chikiamco, who co-curated ‘Between Worlds,’ an exhibit of paintings by Juan Luna and Indonesian artist Raden Saleh at the National Gallery Singapore in 2017-2018.

Together with Roger Nelson and Cheng Jia Yun, Chikiamco programmed the ‘Painting With Light’ festival. The artisticdirector is Tamares Goh and the festival lead is Pauline Soh.

Cineastes will be thrilled to know that the Myanmar classic ‘The Daughter of Japan’ (1935), one of the earliest surviving feature-length talkies from Myanmar, will be screened for the first time in Singapore at the event.

All the films in ‘Painting With Light’ are screened onsite, with a selection of films available online for Singapore viewers at the festival microsite ( ).

There are also meet-and-greets with filmmakers and Gallery curators for select films, in-gallery screenings, and artist talks. Beside the Centre Pompidou and Tate Britain, the Gallery also works with Musée d’ Orsay, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea.

• • •

Speaking of Nonoy Marcelo, I last wrote about him two years ago, when he was nominated for the National Artist honor.

He passed away on Oct. 22, 2002, “leaving behind a substantial and unforgettable body of work that resonates in the memories of his contemporaries and sparks the imaginations of those discovering him for the first time,” I wrote.

Severino “Nonoy” Santos Marcelo was born in Malabon on Jan. 22, 1939, to David Marcelo and Rita Santos, academics at the Far Eastern University. Marcelo himself obtained an AB English degree at the same university, where he was cartoonist for the school paper.

It was there that he created his unforgettable characters, the beatnik Ptyk and Blidit the frog, that he used for his social commentaries.

Gen-Xers know Marcelo best for his character Ikabod Bubwit, a savvy rodent who navigated the complexities of Philippine society by dint of diskarte and street smarts. Ikabod is so iconic that the Philippine Postal Corporation immortalized him on a postage stamp in 2019.

Marcelo’s other characters that I recall reading about are the street sweeper Alik Otik, her grandson Kinse, and his cat Myawok, part of the cast of his comic strip ‘Tisoy.’

I also wrote about National Artists not too long ago, that the award should be given while the recipients are still alive so that they can enjoy its benefits. In Marcelo’s case, the award should still be given posthumously – he more than deserved it.

*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

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