Many on Mubi like to show their knowledge of Cinema from Around the Globe and invest heavily their time is finding great films from the most obscure corners, yet this Three Godless Years seems to be even unknown to them.
For those who are bring this film to our attention, please tell us about the film and why it is coming to light now here on Mubi. How did the film fall into obscurity?
(And Please, let’s allow this thread to be about the film and not turn into a back and forth on game voting strategies)
Do those clips propose to answer the question:How did the film fall into obscurity?
it does look interesting. even the titles are in english :/
Sorry, Parks, I have to…..
Come on People who are voting for this film, tell us about it.
Oy re: the film?
And you’re just begging someone to drop the m-bomb on you, Uli, aren’t you?
at this point I don’t care, here it is, I start a thread for them but they can’t take a few minutes….. ch… I say, ch…
I think it’s like 1:30 AM in Manila right now, isn’t it?
Well, as much as I would love to dedicate my precious time in answering this question, I would like to say first a few things about the state of Philippine Cinema now, and this is what’s happening.
Philippine Cinema is in a state of crisis. Apart from our fear of our classics like Three Godless Years (1976), Manila in the Claws of Neon (1975), Manila by Night (1980), Tanging Ina (1937) for being lost, we’re also struggling in promoting our films abroad, and more importantly to the Filipino audience.
PROMOTING THE CLASSICS to the Filipino Audience
You see, the Filipino youth do not know Three Godless Years. This is because of the rampant promotions of HOLLYWOOD FILMS all over the country. the capitalistic forces such as Supermalls centralizes the distribution of films in the country. SM Malls favors Hollywood film because they’re more profitable i.e. entertainment value. This rise of cinema outlets in Malls during the 90s and its full blown operations during the 2000s have drastically changed the taste preference of the Filipino audience. People started to forget about the classics of 70s and 80s, a period which they all call ‘The Golden Age of Philippine Cinema’ Even the government have forgotten that the country has a film heritage. Within Philippine Society, these titles only get noticed when they’re featured in a Newspaper, television (we have many channels like CINEMAONE and PHILIPPINE BOX OFFICE showing these films every now and then, but only those subscribe to cable TV can avail it), Radio(?) and of course, the internet. The obscurity of these classic films deepens at an alarming rate, and we, cinephiles of Manila, are worried especially for the younger Filipino audience who only care if not for Transformers, the Twilight Saga. The American hegemony is very strong among the Filipino youth since everybody wants to experience the Charice Pempenco and Manny Pacquiao stardom in the States. Who cares about Philippine cinema, everyone wants to sing and dance and play boxing now. (-_-)
International Distribution of the Classics
You see Mr. UliCain, during the 70s and 80s, directors were contended with local distribution since the Filipino audience at that time really dig Filipino movies by master directors, even the most uncanny films like A Speck in the Water by Ishmael Bernal still gets a following. Only a few films got invited in international festivals and a few got international distribution. It’s one heck of a great era in Philippine Cinema since the audience and the film making industry are one. Its like India nowadays but with a revolutionary spirit. 70s and 80s was also the time when all creative activities are controlled by the Marcoses’ dictatorial regime. There was a strict censorship code running around the country seizing radical ideas to prosper. But there was an attempt, ironically, by the government during the 80s and 90s to introduce the WEST via a Manila International Film Festival which we now call CINEMANILA International Film Festival.
When Philippine Cinema entered the 90s, international distribution was not in the mind of Filipino capitalists since they figure that the Filipino audience are enough to fill their pockets. Three Godless Years was actually released in VCD and DVD format during the 90s and 2000s and it was released only locally since it might be that an international release is not economically feasible for these local distributors. Or even for international distributors who might find the film not marketable for the international audience.
Lack of Film Scholarship from Outside of the country
We’re never like Japan, US, UK, France. These countries have a healthy culture of film criticism and film scholarship. There isn’t much international people interested to work with our cinema in the 80s, 90s and 2000s perhaps because the films are inaccessible to their own country. But one must note that Philippine cinema is young in terms of critical input to the film culture heritage of the world. I say that Philippine cinema truly started after World War II. And re-birthed in the 70s and 80s. What’s missing is vibrant, independent silent era, the most important era for film scholarship, i believe, because it provides an anchor for the particular national cinema. Japan has a silent film culture, and so as France, US and UK. But the silent era of Philippine cinema is erased by War and Censorship during the Japanese Occupation (booo! the Japanese) since they’re responsible for the massive destruction of film prints from this era.
This provides the international film critics’ and scholars society a HOPELESS working condition to start a scholarly study of Philippine cinema. This stigma worsens during the 70s, 80s and 90s since there is still NO NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVE for these international fellows to work on. Three Godless Years and other classics we’re only heavily studied by local film scholars whose books are published locally.
It is only now, just as this moment, October 27, 2011, as I am typing this, that SOFIA (Society of Filipino Archivists for Film) announced the arrival of a NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVE. For sure, Three Godless Years will be in their priority list for the restoration and digitization so as Manila in the Claws of Neon and Manila By Night.
A glimpse of what the film prints of Three Godless Years look like:
The Struggle of People Like Me
Writing this is a struggle. LOL! Well its a good starting point for an article im writing about Philippine cinema now. People like me who are really passionate about the Filipino film industry have priorities beyond just a mere campaigning for Three Godless Years for this poll. We have a whole lot of other problems to solve here locally. We need film critics to write for Philippine Cinema. We need funds run projects. We need collaboration with international distributors. We need a front to battle out Hollywood out of our local cinemas. We need an aggressive offense to pluralize the film culture and bring lesser known local films to the masses.
We’re only a small group, around a hundred, but only a handful are working and they’re working very very hard to save the cinema in deep shit. This might give you an idea why the subtitles of Three Godless Years are not in the priority list of people right now because they’re very busy with other stuff and films to promote locally and abroad. But yes, we’re working on it and we’re working on it very hard just to get everything across.
One of my favorite films I haven’t seen.
Here’s a review posted on Noel Vera’s blog
“Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God) starts on an ominous note: artillery and fire; corpses swept up by waves onto a beach; war and destruction. A narrator tells us the three years during the Second World War, when the Japanese occupied the country, were “three years when there was no God.”
The story proper begins in media res; that is, in the middle of the action. Crispin (Bembol Roco), is at the town school, looking for Rosario (Nora Aunor). He finds her in a little hut in the schoolyard, shaded by trees. Crispin wants to say goodbye to Rosario—the Japanese are coming and he is joining the underground resistance.
This quiet scene is important; in the few minutes they have together, we have to see that Crispin and Rosario love each other deeply, and that Rosario is desolate at seeing him go. Mario O’Hara, Tatlong Taong’s writer-director, handles this scene with great restraint: there are no histrionics, no desperate declarations of eternal love.
Rosario is hurt and distant; Crispin tries to be consoling, even when he understands that Rosario is beyond consolation. It’s Crispin’s understanding that shows the depth of the relationship: they love each other so much they’re inside each other’s heads. They know, instinctively, what the other is feeling, and (a nice touch by O’Hara) this intimacy is less a source of pleasure than it is a source of acute pain.
The next few scenes are transitory: how Rosario and her family are abandoned by their terrified neighbors; how the Japanese steal their rice and pigs and chickens; how they are reduced to eating roasted sweet potato for their main meal. When Crispin comes again for supplies and for rest, he is a blooded rebel, with friends. He tells Rosario in graphic detail what it feels like to kill a man. Rosario, disturbed, prays that God take care of Crispin—even at the expense of her own safety.
Enter Masugi (Christopher De Leon), and his doctor friend, Francis (Peque Gallaga). Masugi’s a half-breed soldier—part Japanese, part Filipino; Francis, it’s implied, is a Spanish mestizo. Masugi is lost, and tired. He demands directions, and something alcoholic to drink. Rosario, angry at Masugi’s boorish behavior, demands that he leaves. Masugi is attracted to Rosario; being drunk, and being used to the invincible authority of a Japanese officer, he makes a pass at her. Rosario slaps him; insulted, Masugi hits her. Francis holds Rosario’s family at gunpoint while Masugi chases her down into the basement and rapes her.
It’s a familiar story with wartime Filipinos; the family’s young women taken aside by Japanese soldiers and brutally used. When Masugi comes back the next day and makes friendly overtures to Rosario, we’re on Rosario’s side: how dare he take up where he left off? And how dare he look so sincere about it?
We eventually learn that he is sincere: he helps her family, and he’s happy when he learns that she’s pregnant. Rosario’s family is won over by Masugi’s canned goods and rice and his well-meaning attempts to make amends, but Rosario refuses to forgive Masugi. He’s not just a rapist, he’s Japanese—the personification of everything she, her family, and every wartime Filipino fear and hate. More, Rosario loves Crispin, and any sign of relenting on her part would mean betraying him. Rosario is cornered all around—her hatred of the Japanese in general and Masugi in particular on one side, her growing attraction for Masugi on the other. She’s waging—bravely, as she does all things—a one-woman Resistance movement all her own, except she’s less and less sure what she should resist.
Sometimes her defiance takes her beyond the boundaries of common humanity. When her father is arrested in a shooting incident and Masugi gets him out, Rosario is angry. She doesn’t care if her father is safe; all she knows is that they’re even deeper in Masugi’s debt. “Not once,” she declares when her mother chides her, “did I accept a gift from him.” Her mother looks down at her swollen belly and says: “you’re lying and you know it. You have something of Masugi’s, and you’re still keeping it.” Rosario blinks, as if slapped in the face.
Rosario’s dilemma is similar to what Huck Finn faced near the end of Mark Twain’s great classic, Huckleberry Finn, when Huck learns that his friend, Nigger Jim, has been captured and chained. Society taught Huck that it’s wrong to free slaves; should he go and free his friend? Should Huck do something clearly wrong—willfully damn himself to hell, in effect—for the sake of friendship, and love? Is Rosario ready to accept a Japanese officer—the conqueror and killer of so many of her people, and the man who raped her?
The fiercest assault on Rosario’s resolve comes from an unexpected source. Francis has just helped Rosario given birth; as she lies on bed resting, he sits beside her and talks—just talks. He tells her what kind of man Masugi is—how his parents were killed inside a Filipino prison, how he had to make his way alone across chaotic Manila, to seek safety with Francis. He tells Rosario of how the war has brutalized Masugi, and taught him not to think—simply act and fight, like an animal. Rosario and her child has changed Masugi; can’t she open up to him just a little?
I don’t know what went into this scene—presumably Gallaga’s Tagalog was less than perfect (he is a Bacoleno, and possibly more familiar with Spanish), and O’Hara must have seized upon this limitation and turned it to the scene’s advantage. Francis’ twisted Tagalog—his helplessly groping, yet determined need to say the right words to Rosario—is what makes the scene heartbreaking. O’Hara has hinted before at the closeness between the two men, but only now, between the awkward pauses in Francis’ speech, does the depth of the relationship come through.
Art critic Jolicco Cuadra claims that Francis and Masugi must have been, at one point, lovers. As proof, he offers a scene where the two are urinating: friends look at each others’ penises and shyly compare notes; lovers do not—they are already familiar with each other’s genitals. It’s a fascinating claim, and it fits neatly into the scheme of the film, but ultimately, it’s beside the point. Francis and Masugi’s love for each other is another variation on the main theme, and whether the love was physically expressed or not isn’t half as important as the fact that Francis’ love for Masugi moves Rosario, shows her how wrong she is to resist him.
Perhaps Francis’s speech was the last straw; perhaps it’s the recurrent image of Masugi grinding away on top of her, whispering endearments. But something breaks in Rosario; she feels she has to resolve this conflict the only way possible. The act she proposes is brutal in its logic, extending as it does her line of thinking to its ultimate and terrible conclusion. There must have been a moment, possibly while standing on the stone bridge, when Rosario looked back and saw the steps she took along the way—how valid they seemed at the time, how reasonable and sane—and compared to them, how monstrous the act she is about to do.
And she backs down. She doesn’t have the heart—she doesn’t have the hate in her—to go through with it. It’s ironic that an act of acceptance, of love and forgiveness, can seem craven and cowardly to the one committing it.
Rosario’s decision is the turning point of the film; from then on, she is on Masugi’s side, and she never wavers, even when she meets Crispin again, even until the end. O’Hara, having taken pains to show us the wrongness of Rosario’s defiance, now demonstrates the wrongness of the rest of the world in judging Rosario for her decision. Rosario has done what she felt in her heart was true to her, what O’Hara makes us all feel was true and right and good for her; now we realize exactly what Rosario has done: gone over to the Japanese, married one of their officers—just when they were on the brink of losing the war.
Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos is remarkable for what the two halves of its story are able to achieve. In the first half O’Hara pulls us through the looking-glass to the other side. He stops the world on its axis and turns our expectations inside-out and upside-down, showing just how the wrong man—as wrong a man for Rosario as can be—can turn out to be the right one, a loving husband, after all. For the second half, O’Hara performs a simpler, even more amazing act: he allows the world to start rolling again, and lets us watch while it rolls over both Rosario and Masugi.
In The Human Factor, Graham Greene writes that nations don’t matter, people do, and that a man’s country is his wife and child; with this rationale, the English hero of the novel acts as undercover agent for the Soviet Union, betraying his country for his South African wife and her bastard child. In the novel (and later film of) Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Count Almasy betrays England for the sake of a woman he loves, an Englishwoman (later, burnt out of all recognition, Almasy with his British accent is mistaken for an Englishman—the “English patient” of the novel’s title). All three stories share one element in common, and that’s the intensity of our identification with the betraying hero—Maurice in The Human Factor, Count Almasy in The English Patient, Rosario in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. We look at the world through their eyes, and we are made to understand how reasonable their treason seem to them, how they did it for the higher cause of someone or something they cared about. All three seem to say to us: “if you can’t do anything—literally anything—for the one person you care about most; if you can’t betray your country, your friends, your own self for the sake of the one you love, then your love means nothing, your love is worthless.”
Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and its better-known, more literary cousins are subversive in the worse sense. If everyone adopted this kind of thinking as their guiding principle, the world would slide into chaos; espionage would be the primary industry of the world and no one can trust anyone who was capable of any kind of attachment.
There are those, of course, who argue that the world is already in chaos, that espionage is already the world’s biggest industry, and that no one should be trusted, ever.
A love story? Why yes, though it may come as a bit of a shock after all the wild flights of philosophy we’ve been taking: Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos is basically a love story. It’s a fiery, flawed, fearless film, reckless and outsized in its quiet intensity, its understated passion. It speaks more eloquently on the nature of love and sacrifice than any hundreds of tepid local and Hollywood equivalents, and it speaks from a mind alarmingly well-informed on the great cruelties—and great love—human beings are capable of. And, (unlike, say, The English Patient) it does so in a plainspoken manner, without resorting to complex time schemes and finely written (meaning almost unreadable) language.
By the film’s end Rosario sits alone in a church with no one to turn to, no one to protect her. She once again resorts to prayer, and asks nothing from God except to look after her baby. It’s a risky move, a desperate move; she did this once before for Crispin, and as with Crispin, her prayer was paid for by her own pain and suffering. You might call Rosario’s the tragic story of a girl whose prayers are always answered; the tragedy lies in the swiftness and brutality with which God answers her prayers. Later, Crispin sits in the same church. He is alive and well, thanks to Rosario, but (again, thanks to Rosario) alone. He asks a priest if there is a God—an old question, but asked in Crispin’s sad and bitter voice, a question with an edge.
The priest gives a wise and reassuring reply: that Masugi and Rosario and his love for each other are a sign of God’s presence, even in wartime. The reply is a little too pat, a little too well-prepared; it’s the kind priests through the years have given to sad and bitter questions. You wonder how just much faith O’Hara puts in that reply.
Then O’Hara gives his own answer, in the form of a blind man lighting a candle for himself and his palsied brother. The blind man carefully picks up the child, and makes his way out the church just when a procession, complete with hundreds of candles and heavily costumed wooden saints, marches in. The symbolism is somewhat obvious—true faith walks quietly out the door, while pomp and pageantry make a grand, meaningless entrance. But the entire wordless scene is so quietly understated, so beautifully shot and staged—a perfect example of the purest cinema—that it literally takes your breath away. Yes, Crispin, there is a God—only he could have inspired O’Hara to shoot a scene like that."
I haven’t seen this either, but I like it already and when I do see it, I think it will be a masterpiece !
It must be a masterpiece, considering that it’s topping (by a long way) The MUBI Forum Users’ Top 20 List!
But it does look interesting (from what I can gather from Noel Vera’s review and the YouTube clips posted above), so I’m hoping for some English subtitles soon.
Hey, I’m getting on this train before it leaves the station.
i want to watch it so bad. I watched the first two parts that Matt posted, but i can’t get into it without understanding what they are saying. My aunt is from the Philipines and has never heard of the film, though i told her to watch it online. She probably won’t _
Thank you, the your comments were very enlightening and I’m sure numerous people enjoyed learning a but more about the state of your Cinema.
And it certainly helps us all to know some background of the films we see the names of continually on the other thread, with very little information about them.
Yes, Mubi can be a great tool for your plight, and you can reach many here, so please continue to offer us in-depth information, it can go a great deal further than just a title and a vote alone.
You seemed to have done most of the heavy lifting on the film, even before I learned about this thread. Thanks.
Some good resources here on MUBI, just to put things into context.
Here’s a quick outline on Philippine cinema:
And some online arguments I’ve had back in the day:
That debate was interesting in that I had to put the film industry into context internationally, historically, economically, politically, and so on. I won’t claim to be accurate, but there’s useful information in there…
As for the film itself:
It was operating under several handicaps when it appeared.
First, O’Hara came out from under the shadow of the Philippines’ best known (even now, arguably) filmmaker, Lino Brocka. He was Brocka’s actor, scriptwriter and active collaborator, and under the banner of Brocka’s production company Cinemanila, O’Hara presented his first feature film, ‘Mortal’ in 1975. Wonderful film, superior to ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ in my opinion. Big commercial flop.
The rumor was that O’Hara was Brocka’s lover, and that he was using Brocka to leverage himself a filmmaking career. When he came up with ‘Mortal,’ the question going around was ‘who was this O’Hara that he thinks he’s a real filmmaker?’
Added to this is an unspoken snobbery among film critics and filmmakers of the time. Most critics graduate from the University of the Philippines, the admittedly most prestigious institution of learning in the country at the time (still is, in fact). O’Hara went to college in Adamson University, and didn’t even finish. Lino Brocka went to the University of the Philippines, Same with Ishmael Bernal (Bernal got his degree, Lino didn’t—but they were both UP students).
Add on top of all that the fact that ‘Three Years Without God’ (my preferred translation of the title—it swings better) dealt with a very controversial subject, the Japanese occupation during the 2nd World War, in an even more controversial manner—it refused to treat all Japanese as monstrous animals, deserving only of utter contempt. The Philippines in 1976 was entering a nationalistic phase, and any suggestion that the wartime Japanese were possibly human was met with furious criticism. Some of this criticism was leveled against the film.
The film has won a few awards, then sank into obscurity. The producer who still holds the rights failed to maintain any prints; only the Cultural Center of the Philippines holds a surviving print, and this slowly turning a monochrome pink. The negative has long since turned to vinegar.
I viewed the film for the first time in a screening in, uh I think 1996. I’d seen a few of his other films—‘Bagong Hari’ (The New King) when it ran in the theaters (1986) was I considered the best Filipino action film ever made. But ‘Tatlong Taong’ was something altogether else, I thought. Been writing and talking about the film ever since.
And it’s practically been only me, criticwise, so it’s been a long and slow process.
That’s all I can remember at the moment.
Thank you both for the background. Please encourage your friends to comment on this thread as well.
yes, thanks for all the info and i really sympathize with your quest to draw attention to this film now!
good idea, uli³cain ;)
@ULI/MATT/ ADRIAN/NOEL- Thanks folks for posting the clips and info.
I just had a recent conversation with a friend about old Filipino movies we wished to see on dvd, and Three Godless Years came up as one mentioned. I’ve got some good memories of this great flick.
This film came out I believe mid-’70’s, but I first saw it in 1982 when I was in 4th Grade while the movie was on a ‘school tour’. (This was during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, and around the time when he lifted the bloody Martial Law (‘75-’82) all over the country. Ironically, for better or worse, the dictator and his wife Imelda claimed to champion Philippine arts – so there were plenty of cultural revival festivals goin’ on around that time.)
About this ‘school tour’ thing: once a month, government film crews go around public schools with projectors and screen set-ups and show classic Filipino films from the late ’40’s up to ‘76, titles which are rarely seen in public, international festival entries or ones that were banned or restricted when the Martial Law began. So every month, usually late Friday afternoons, the school auditorium is open for mandatory film viewing, with a giant piece of white fabric at the center wall, the projector at the opposite end, and around 400 students and teachers sweating under the hot tin roof. As I remember most of the films were light fare, drama, b&w comedies, creepy horror ones- entertaining all in all. But “Three Godless Years” if I recall correctly was very serious in tone with it’s depiction of collaborators and violence. At that time the war still haunts many people. Families of known collaborators still bear the shame, and are quite sensitive to the subject. Families were wiped out, villagers massacred, even our school once served as Japanese headquarters where plenty of torture, beheadings and executions took place ‘42-’45. The occupation had been featured in movies many times but were mostly told straight forward, good vs. evil action types, with heroes winning in the end. “Three…” was something else.
@NOEL- I agree, ‘Three Years Without God’ sounds better, and more in tune with our normal way of phrasing words.
the sad thing is, even if it makes it to the top 20 in this game. probably 85% of Filipinos would still not know Three Years Without God. (i prefer this title as well) and probably even more Filipinos would not know who Mario O’Hara is.
Damn, seeing the first clip, I wish I have the luxury of time I could translate the dialogue word for word.
Hah, I remember the wrong use of stock footage drew jeers from our nitpicking teachers. What was supposed to be archive of fall of Bataan April ’42 was actually battle of Tarawa ’43.
@NICO-“the sad thing is, even if it makes it to the top 20 in this game. probably 85% of Filipinos would still not know Three Years Without God. (i prefer this title as well) and probably even more Filipinos would not know who Mario O’Hara is.”
The younger generation most likely wouldn’t know it, though I believe they used to show Three… on TV. Mario O’Hara is a mainstream film director so he’s well known, at least in the Philippines.
the problem is most Filipinos don’t even bother knowing the director. all they know are the stars (some of them do not merit the title actor)
Nico, everywhere there is the same problem, Hollywood is so prevalent in society, that homegrown, small films get lost in the mix (EVEN IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I understand and respect your plight, now exhaust all avenues and get the word out.
English subtitles are now available for Three Godless Years.
These subs are synched to the Wingtip version, the same one you can find on Karagarga.
Download link for English subs: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=GSVHNHGN
Download link for movie: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=2ZWOXPBZ
“probably 85% of Filipinos would still not know Three Years Without God. (i prefer this title as well) and probably even more Filipinos would not know who Mario O’Hara is.”
I feel for you. The same happens in my country and in even worse conditions….
I’m pumped up for this, thanks again Noli!
Thanks for the update, Noli. It’s great to know that subs are finally available, and I’m sure quite a few people will now check out the most talked about film on moobi.