The first films shown in Manila in 1904 were French and Italian, with Spanish subtitles. In 1912 an American director made a film on the life of the national hero Jose Rizal. In 1919, Jose Nepomuceno known as the “Father of the Philippine Movies” made his first film which was based on the highly acclaimed musical play of the day, Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden) by Hermogenes Hagan and Leon Iglesia. He had resort to what must have been a quite novelty at that time, covered the whole range of cinematic activity, acting as script-writer, cameraman and distributor. The period before the Second World War saw the production of sentimental films, the traditional zarzuela, comedies and above all musical comedies. The cinema of the new Republic was dominated by Lamberto Avellana, Leopoldo Silos and Gerry de Leon, the last of whom made two films based on novels by Rizal. The directors of the period now turned towards filming on location.
In the 1970s and 1980s the predominant figures in the Filipino cinema were some stars, idolised by their fans; but three directors have also made a name for themselves. Ishmael Bernal is sophisticated and intellectual, while Celso ad Castillo is notable for the powerful visual impact of his films. The best known of the three was the late Lino Brocka, with films of great realism like Insiang and Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon). The popularity of the seventh art in the Philippines is demonstrated by Manila’s hundred cinemas, showing not only Filipino films but the productions of Hollywood (of which the Philippines are the second best customer).