Monday, May 25, 2009

Joey Gosiengfiao obituaries

"Movie director Joey Gosiengfiao takes final bow"

[Article by Bayani San Diego Jr, originally published in the Philippine Inquirer 16/03/07]

MANILA, Philippines -- Movie director Joey Gosiengfiao died Friday, one day after suffering his sixth heart attack on his 66th birthday Thursday, according to friends.

He was best known for the sexy, campy box-office hits he directed for Regal Films in the 1970s and 1980s: “Temptation Island,” “Underage,” “Bomba Star,” “Katorse,” “14 Going Steady,” among others.

His films launched the likes of Dina Bonnevie, Snooky Serna, Maricel Soriano, and Gretchen Barrettto to full stardom.

“He was a brilliant director,” Regal producer Lily Monteverde told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of the

Monteverde candidly remarked that her relationship with Gosiengfiao was “love-hate.”

“We used to fight a lot,” Monteverde said. “He had lots of ideas and he had his own mind. Very assertive. He was ahead of his time. When he made ‘Temptation Island,’ people thought he was crazy. It is only now that people started appreciating his works.”

The 1981 campfest “Temptation Island” was revived as a stage play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2003.

Last Monday, a retrospective of his films started to run on Cinema One, ABS-CBN’s Filipino movie channel on cable.

“His last on-cam interview was with Cinema One,” said Ronald Arguelles, director of programming of Cinema One.

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Lav Diaz described Gosiengfiao as “the eternal master of Pinoy camp.”

Gosiengfiao championed the works of Diaz and other young independent filmmakers such as Rico Ilarde and Jeffrey Jeturian, by acting as their supervising producer in Good Harvest Films, a subsidiary of Regal, in the late 1990s.

“It was a very creative period,” Ilarde recalled. “Direk Joey had this tiny office under the stairs, in the Regal compound …. He used to call us his children.”

In a lot of ways, Gosiengfiao acted as “mediator” between the young filmmakers and movie mogul Monteverde, Ilarde recalled.

Last year, when Ilarde’s “Sa Ilalim ng Cogon” had its local run at IndieSine in Robinsons Galleria, Gosiengfiao volunteered to help promote the film. “He knew that I didn’t have much money, but he still gave his all-out support.”

Gosiengfiao’s “children” went on to win awards and accolades in international festivals abroad.

“He was very proud of us,” Jeturian said. “Two months ago, Direk Joey called me, to ask if I could recommend a writer for his comeback film.”

“He was extremely happy before he died,” Diaz, who was in Bicol shooting a documentary, told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

He was in high spirits because he was busy with work, said Diaz.

“Apart from the Cinema One retrospective, he even started renovating his house last Saturday and he was also organizing an all-girl band with [fellow filmmaker] Maryo J. [de los Reyes],” Diaz said.

More than his show biz persona and notoriety as owner of the defunct gay bar Chicos, “I choose to remember him as a bohemian campus figure in University of the East (in the 1960s),” said fellow filmmaker and friend Elwood Perez.

“Joey was a theater luminary. He directed the musical ‘Gigi’ and costume drama ‘Becket’ in UE. He also directed some plays for the Repertory Philippines like the gay play ‘Boys in the Band.’ We also started as stage directors on the TV drama anthology ‘Balintataw’ at the same time (in 1967). He introduced me to authors like Sartre and Kafka.”

Cremation is set this Friday, according to Perez and Monteverde, at Loyola Marikina and a “memorial service is being organized by his friends.”

Gosiengfiao is survived by two brothers, US-based historian Victor and Ateneo employee Manuel, said Perez.

Eternal Master of Pinoy Camp: Joey Gosiengfiao was planning his directorial comeback

[Article by Bayani San Diego Jr, originally published in the Philippine Inquirer 18/03/07]

MANILA, Philippines – Cinema was the most enduring passion of director Joey Gosiengfiao, who succumbed to a heart attack, his sixth, on Friday - a day after his 66th birthday. Inquirer Entertainment witnessed Gosiengfiao rummaging through movie queen Amalia Fuentes’ DVD collection, borrowing several titles - all Hollywood classics - last October.

“He loved watching movies,” recalled Regal Films’ Lily Monteverde, who produced Gosiengfiao’s biggest hits: “Temptation Island,” “Underage,” and “Katorse.”

“He grew up in a moviehouse,” fellow director Elwood Perez remembered. “He was from a prominent clan of lawyers in Tuguegarao. An uncle owned a theater, where Joey played behind the telon (screen). ”Perez said he met Gosiengfiao when they were students at the University of the East. “He confided that his life was like the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie,” Perez recounted. “His mom Maria was pure Japanese and looked like Lana Turner. She was erudite and genteel. Their house was filled with books. I used to borrow books by Sartre and Kafka from their library.”

He would forever remember Gosiengfiao as “a bohemian in a turtleneck, a cigarette dangling from his lips, like French actress Jeanne Moreau,” Perez said.

From school plays, they jumped to TV, as directors on the drama series “Balintataw.” When the movies beckoned, they made the big leap together.

After working as co-directors in “Lipad, Darna, Lipad” in 1973, Perez’s family produced Gosiengfiao’s solo film, “La Paloma,” in 1974. It top-billed Mona Lisa, Celia Rodriguez and Vina Cansino.

“La Paloma” is one of the films featured in the Gosiengfiao retrospective, currently running on Cinema One, ABS-CBN’s Filipino movie channel on cable.

“We got a 16mm black-and-white copy from Direk Joey,” said Cinema One’s Ronald Arguelles. “We planned to hold a big screening event, to raise funds for his medical needs.”

Last time Arguelles saw Gosiengfiao was on March 6, during a taping of an interview for the retrospective. “In that interview, he mentioned that his favorite movie was ‘Bedspacers’ because it was based on his student life,” Arguelles said.

“He should be remembered for his support of young filmmakers,” Perez asserted. Gosiengfiao was supervising producer for Good Harvest, a subsidiary of Regal which produced the so-called pito-pito movies (low budget, shot in seven days and processed in seven more) by independent filmmakers Lav Diaz, Rico Ilarde and Jeffrey Jeturian in the late 1990s.

“In a way, pito-pito movies were the precursor of today’s digital movies,” Jeturian said. “Budget was limited, but we had a free hand.”

“That was an exciting and highly creative period,” Ilarde said. “With a budget of P2 to P4 million, Good Harvest produced gems.”

Jeturian related: “Two months ago, Direk Joey called, asking me to recommend a scriptwriter because he was planning his directorial comeback.”

According to Arguelles, Gosiengfiao’s last full-length film was “Nights of Serafina” in 1996.

Jeturian reported: “Direk Joey wanted a writer who understood his humor. I suggested Chris Martinez, who directed the stage version of ‘Temptation Island’ at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2003. ”On its last night, Gosiengfiao watched ‘Temptation Island’ at the CCP with his stars Azenith Briones and Dina Bonnevie, according to Martinez. “At curtain call, I gave him my bouquet of flowers.”

Martinez recalled that his UP theater friends had mounted “Nights of Serafina” parties in their younger years. “We would rent a VHS copy of ‘Serafina’ from ACA Video and laugh all night.” Later on, they threw ‘Temptation Island’ parties. “All my friends knew that movieĆ­s lines by heart. [Comic] John Lapus produced the stage version. He had the script transcribed from a videotape copy.”

Diaz hailed Joey as an “eternal master of Pinoy camp.”

Bonnevie insisted that no one could rival Gosiengfiao when it came to witty lines and wacky ideas. “One line has stuck in my mind: ‘Once a waiter; always a waiter.’ For ‘Temptation,’ he had a giant ice cream cone and fried chicken in the middle of a desert!”

Gosiengfiao was also her guardian, she said. “I was only 17, and my dad entrusted me to him. He rushed me to the hospital when I was [sick, and] when I fought with [my boyfriend and co-star] Alfie Anido, he acted as mediator.”

From La Poloma (1974)

"Joey Gosiengfiao, 1941-2007"

[Article by Noel Vera from his Critic After Dark blog, posted 20/03/07]

Joey Gosiengfiao wasn't a friend--I wouldn't presume to have enjoyed the privilege. I wasn't close enough to him--didn't spend enough time with him to become close--but it wasn't for want of wanting. Of the many people I've met and come to know deeply or casually in the Filipino film industry he was one of the most good-natured, the most endearing. Never saw him angry; in a crisis he was often upset, but he never allowed himself to cross over to anger--never occurred to him, I suspect; even when he was reprimanding someone he sounded like a favorite grand-aunt telling you something unpleasant for your own good (you hung your head in shame--how could you upset your dear aunt…). Talking to people in the industry--not the celebrity actors or actresses, who demanded the best treatment, but ordinary folk who pushed the wheels of moviemaking slowly and painfully forward--I learned that he was the most beloved director in Regal Films. I don't know anyone who disliked him. Well, some might have been mad at him at one time or another, but for specific reasons, during the course of doing business; I don't know of anyone who resented the man's character, or stayed mad with him for a very long time.

Best of all was the aura the man radiated--when you stepped up close, no matter what problem or stormy emotion clouded your brow, the sight of those chinky eyes, that wide smile, the hair that looked like fresh-mown grass set your soul (spirit, mind, whatever) instantly at ease. You could sit down with Joey, talk to him, and feel like he was your friend, no matter how short the acquaintance.

That's the man; as for his films--if you browsed through the Cultural Center of the Philippines' 1994 Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, the volume on Philippine Film, you'll find entries on dozens of filmmakers and actors and even writers (the most neglected of the species, I would argue), but you wouldn't find a word on Gosiengfiao (I hear they're updating the books; I hope the omission was corrected). I'm not familiar with the process they used in choosing who gets an entry and who doesn't but if what I've been told was correct, you need to win an award to get in--which is total nonsense. I've argued before and since (and recent award winners only serve to prove my point) that awards (even Hollywood's famous gold doorstops) are a result of compromise and politics, and the need to make the industry appear righteous and respectable--art and quality have little to do with the process.

Joey Gosiengfiao's films are anything but righteous, much less respectable. That was their glory and greatness, and the reason he could never win an award--Christ, I think, with his abhorrence of respectability, would like the man's style. Take, for example, the scene between Eddie Gutierrez and Ricky Belmonte in Bomba Star (roughly translated, Porn Star, 1980). Belmonte and Gutierrez are working out in a gym; Gutierrez starts casting looks at Belmonte; Belmonte coyly returns his looks. The two start teasing each other, tickling each other, suddenly find themselves on the floor wrestling with each other...enter Gutierrez's lover, played by Marissa Delgado--she doesn't do anything, just strikes a glamour pose, a sardonic expression on her face and the world's longest cigarette holder between her fingers. I wish I could explain why the moment is so irreducibly funny, but I can't; if I could, I suspect it wouldn't be funny at all.

Gosiengfiao wasn't just campy; his love scenes can be offhandedly sensual in startling ways. I remember gasping in shock in Nights of Serafina (1996--his last feature film) when Mike Magat, having bent Georgia Ortega over to take her from behind, shoves her face into a tray full of food, Ortega moaning in pleasurable response. It was a disgusting, demeaning, swinish display--and powerfully erotic (it was also a brilliant parody of James Cagney's grapefruit scene in The Public Enemy).

Then there's the death of fourteen-year-old Dina Bonnevie's baby in Katorse (Fourteen, 1980--Joey did five other films that year, and they're all arguably worth watching (What can I say? Filipino filmmakers make six feature films in the time it takes a Hollywood director to make one)): Dina, working hard in the cotton fields, leaves her baby in a basket beside a pile of picked cotton; the cotton falls over, and smothers the child. On one level, you have the horror of a child's death--Gosiengfiao, unlike, say, Steven Spielberg, isn't so softhearted (softheaded?) that he'd cut away; the cotton in the basket trembles feebly, helplessly, as the baby struggles for breath.

At the same time you can't help but realize that the scenario--young beauty suffering in a cotton field--is a parody of classic Hollywood movies (Gone With the Wind comes to mind) and that the situation is so instantly, melodramatically horrifying it's funny. Mind you, it takes a perverse, witty, cinephilic mind to get all this--cinephilic enough to have seen the 1939 epic, perverse enough to know that Selznick's folly is the height of kitsch (not The Greatest Movie Ever Made, just The Kitschiest), witty enough to realize that the scene is a throwaway sick joke, meant to keep you off-balance and on your toes.

Arguably, Gosiengfiao's masterpiece came out that following year (along with five other pictures). Temptation Island is the story of a group of beauty contestants who set sail in a cruise ship; the ship bursts into flames, sinks (don't ask), the survivors--four women, two men and a maid--land on a deserted island, where they struggle to find food, water, shelter, and an outlet for their hairdryers.

I have to give credit where credit's due--Jessica Zafra was the first to express admiration for the film. I like to think I took that admiration further--far as I'm concerned, there is no Pedro Almodovar, no Matador, no Dark Habits, no Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (don't talk to me of Almodovar's work from All About My Mother onwards--I can't stand the gruesomely sticky, eager-to-please-and-win-awards spirit in which they were conceived); there is only Temptation Island. By turns grotesque, deadpan witty and surreal, it's the only film I know that can redeem the titanic sentimentality of a syrupy perennial like "Somewhere" and leave you howling in laughter and tears, both. A great film, surely, and surely for that one work alone Gosiengfiao will be admitted into the Pearly Gates with all the hosts of Heaven in attendance, decked out in their brightest pastel robes, garlanded with the most garish orchid (Know the etymology of the word? Check it out) wreaths, strumming with their harps the most elaborate arrangement of Sondheim's song ever created.

But Gosiengfiao was more than just a director--in 1998 he and Regal Films owner Lily Monteverde conceived of the Good Harvest pito-pito (seven-seven) films, precursors to today's digital productions, with a budget of only two or three million pesos (roughly fifty to sixty-five thousand dollars), shot theoretically in seven days, post-produced for another seven (actually ten days, with a little more time for post-production).

Filmmaker Rico Ilarde (Dugo ng Birhen (Blood of the Virgin) and Babaing Putik (Woman of Mud 2001) describes the experience of working in Good Harvest: "It was a wild, magical time in that Good Harvest office. Under the stairs at Regal, next to Mother's Sto. Nino altar. People would just pile in and we'd take turns using the only conference table in the room-- it would be Mario O'Hara's staff, then after the next hour, Tata Esteban and company, then Lav's team (which included Mammu Chua, his AD), then Jeffrey's, and so on and so forth. It was controlled chaos at its finest and Direk Joey was the General, coach, general manager (and Queen) of the whole lot of it.

"I remember first seeing Lav (it was after the HUBAD (sa Ilalim ng Buwan (Naked Under the Moon)) shoot in Ilocos) and damn if he didn't look like he just came from hell and back-- he was practically and literally black from being under the sun so much. And he looked dead TIRED like a bag of bones! I told myself, "Shit, what have I gotten myself into?" Little did I know I'd look the same way after my shoot cause it was that type of deal-- make a film at a breakneck pace with little more than an allowance, all for the chance to get your "break", or your see your dream film realized.

"It was a FUCKING WILD, WILD TIME, man. I proudly swear by my time in Good Harvest and talk about it like a badge of honor.

"Good Harvest was a tough place to work in mostly because of the low budgets and pay (and post dated checks), but it really fostered a commitment from any and every filmmaker that walked inside it. Just like the way the old boxing guys talk about the "hallowed" gyms in Philadelphia in the 70's --that if you could survive just the sparring alone then you had "IT"--Good Harvest forced you to develop your skills and really learn your craft on REAL TIME, and if you could hack it there, then nothing would ever intimidate you out in the "regular" world.

"Direk Joey was the perfect leader-of-the-band because he was very film literate and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of films. In fact, I think his lifelong habit of watching films till daybreak, and sleeping at 7AM (when the rest of the world was waking up), eventually negatively affected his health."

Many were horrific beyond belief--we won't talk of them here--but a handful were genuine little gems.

Sana Pag-ibig Na (At Long Last Love), about a father's infidelity, was the lovely first effort of Jeffrey Jeturian. Gosiengfiao would also produce his sophomore effort, Pila Balde (Fetch a Pail of Water, 1999); Jeturian would go on to direct, among others, Tuhog (Bigger Than Life, 2001), and Kubrador (The Bet Collector, 2005).

Serafin Geronimo: Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion was Lav Diaz's ambitious debut (arguably the most impressive debut of any Filipino filmmaker since Raymond Red's Magpakailanman (Eternity) in 1983), a Filipino retelling of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment in the contemplative style of Andrei Tarkovsky or Theo Angelopoulos. Lav would go on to make films with ever more epic ambition and lengths on miniscule budgets--the five hour Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001), the ten-hour Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004), the nine-hour Heremias, Part 1: The Legend of the Lizard Princess (2006) (Lav may be taking more and more time telling his stories--and how!--but they're nevertheless hypnotic, fascinating journeys into the further reaches of the Filipino soul).

Mario O'Hara didn't debut in 1998--he's a contemporary of Gosiengfiao's. But his work had been inconsistent since his great epic noir Bagong Hari (The New King) more than ten years before, and it was only with the pito-pito films that he came out with not one but two great works, shot back-to-back in twenty days: Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman on a Tin Roof) and Sisa. Gosiengfiao would go on to produce O'Hara's Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000), arguably the best of his recent work, and to my mind the best, most wildly imaginative of recent Filipino films.

By his works ye shall know him, they say. Everyone liked Gosiengfiao; he liked everyone in return, I suspect, otherwise he wouldn't spend so much time and trouble seeking people both new and neglected and producing their films--and what films! His passing is, if anything, a greater blow than Robert Altman's could ever be--at least Altman is mourned by practically everyone, destined perhaps to be remembered forever (but who can tell, in a thousand years?), only a relative few Filipinos know and love Joey and his work. But we few--we happy few--we know exactly what we've lost.

A Pornographer's Confession

[Article by Jose Javier Reyes from his blog, posted 17th March 2007]

A day after his sixty-sixth birthday, a director named Joey Gosiengfiao succumbed to his sixth heart attack.

He died alone. Throughout the hours between his cardiac arrest and the time he expelled his last breath, only his assistant was with him at the Intensive Care Unit of the Quirino Medical Center.

Not a single one of his friends, peers and the ordinary men and women he was instrumental into transforming into celestial bodies in the parody of a heavenly world was at his side. Joey Gosiengfiao died at 3 am ... and not even twelve hours later, his body was cremated, consecrated in a quiet Mass and was relegated to an urn for eternal anonymity.

Barely anyone remembers Joey Gosiengfiao ... except in reference to his most popular films, the campy ones that have practically become iconic in terms of their significance to the culture of movies in the seventies. Those were the years. Yes, those were the years when he and Elwood Perez lorded over the movie industry, churning out hit after hit in what was then the reign of Regal Films and the domination of the so-called Regal Babies. He, together with Elwood, were the demigods of popular filmmaking. That was when each weekend there were at least two new Filipino movies opening in theaters and a wide variety of works were readily available for the spectrum of audience interest.

There was Brocka and Bernal ... and Gosiengfiao and Perez. No concise and valid appreciation of popular culture studies in this country can be complete without the inclusion of Gosiengfiao's name regardless of how the cinema scholar may deem the value of his works. Yes, TEMPTATION ISLAND or KATORSE may not make it a critic's list of the most important works to shape Filipino cinema in the latter part of the twentieth century... but there is no way of denying that these supposedly tacky works of pure popcorn value are as important in determining the mindset and taste of an era long forgotten together with padded shoulders, tsunami hairdos and dark blue eyeshadows. Define art any which way one prefers --- but the popular movies are as significant in creating benchmarks of the evolution of public intellect.

Luciano B Carlos or "Tatay Chaning" may have shaped popular comedy ... but Gosiengfiao and Perez defined the etymology of popular films in the seventies. These opened doors for the some of the most revered actors today when they started out as teeners with far greater talent than the pre-fabricated tween performers who populate our boob tubes and widescreens.

Little is known about Joey Gosiengfiao's contributions to the birth of real alternative cinema. When Regal Films indulged in the production of the "pito-pito" films, condescending comments and demeaning observations were hurled against these quickie films churned out by the studio, usually opening and closing on the same day in moviehouses. But if it were not for Gosiengfiao who supervised the production of the pito-pitos, there would have been no KRIMINAL NG BARYO CONCEPCION or SANA PAG-IBIG NA. There would have been no PILA-BALDE or HUBAD SA ILALIM NG BUWAN. There would have been no Lav Diaz or Jeffrey Jeturian.

Gosiengfiao, together with the incorrigible Mother Lily, opened the doors for a number of the major filmmakers today. It was he who watched over my first films in Regal ... providing perspective in the principal photography and production of my initial works critical during my transition as writer to megman. Together with Douglas Quijano, Joey Gosiengfiao saw to it that the films were delivered in a manner that could be sold to the public while never overstepping his respect for the creativity of a potential peer.

His failing health took him away from active film work for the past few years. And like all of us who are mere pawns to the machinery of a system that demands popularity and visibility, he slowly faded into the background, relegated to the seemingly insignificant and out of use. His final years were painful in more ways than one ... because the latter part of his existence personified the thanklessness of this career we have all chosen to give our lives and energies. The once powerful and revered director was scrounging for work and was not given his due respect ... because he could no longer deliver.

No, it is not a matter of finances alone but the respect that is due to someone who paved the way for generations of filmmakers to find their distinct place and voice in the hierarchy of things. While the mavericks of today are so determined to completely destroy and redefine Philippine cinema with their bravery and originality they fail to recognize that every breakthrough requires the reinvention of a paradigm ... and this paradigm is the tradition established by those who came ahead of them. Any struggle for redirection can only take place if those seeking new frontiers recognize who built the roads on which they travel.

Joey Gosiengfiao died alone. There was little ceremony ... perhaps even little tears shed for his demise. His works will never be placed side by side in the bastion of the film greats. But he was there ... and in so many ways, he is still here. For what we now understand as popular and commercial filmmaking owed a lot to what he did as a director and a producer.

Not recognizing this all too simple yet oh so important notion makes his death even all the more painful.

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