Summarized and photographed
By Jude Bautista
November of last year, Ronald Arguelles of Cinema One had the keen foresight, respect and love for Mario O’Hara’s work to honor him with a Lifetime Achievement award. When the standing ovation had died down Mario said that reviewing his past work was bittersweet seeing his many friends and colleagues who had passed away. It was very typical of him to honor Nora Aunor who was also a Cinema One Original awardee that night. She is his favorite actress having directed her in the now classic “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.” At a rare occasion when the spotlight was shone on him Mario could not help but give praise to someone else.
After a long standing ovation, Mario in his speech said, “Maraming salamat, upo na kayo. Ngayon ko lang na ranasan ‘to ang isang buong introduction gaya nito. I find it very emotional, makita mo yung ginawa mo 30, 20, 10 years ago. Marami na kasing na matay. Kaya very emotional you remember so many talented people that you worked with at wala na sila. But then katulad ni Miss Nora Aunor na mga patuloy na kakasama sa hanap buhay na ito. Patuloy na ipinapakita ang kahusayan. Ito ang nagsisilbing inspirasyon sa akin para patuloy na gumawa ng mga magagandang mga produkto.
I would like to congratulate sa lahat ng involved dito sa Cinema One festival. Sana patuloy kayong maging matapang. At sana I’m sure marami sa inyo na ngangarap na pumasok sa commercial world. Sana patuloy pa rin kayong maging independent. Maraming salamat sa Cinema One.”
Nora Aunor and Mario O’Hara were once again reunited as actress and director for the TV5 mega event “Sa Ngalan Ng Ina.” Manny Pangilinan believed in O’Hara and Aunor so much that he Executive produced it himself. The past 2 years has seen a resurgence in O’hara’s work as director, having also competed in Cinemalaya with “Ang Pagllitis Ni Andres Bonifacio” in 2010. Alfred Vargas, Lance Raymundo, Danielle Castaño and Janvier Daly were among the principal cast.
In the video presentation that night, some of the great directors of today were asked to describe Mario’s contribution to Phil Cinema:
Joey Reyes: “Hindi niya ginawang trabaho ang pag direk, ginawa niya intong bahagi ng kanyang buhay. Hindi niya ginawa itong hanap buhay. Ang director ay may mensahe sa kanyang na piling sining. Kung walang mensahe ang director hindi siya matatwag na alagad ng sining. At si Mario O’Hara ang kanyang buhay ay kanyang mensahe.”
Joel Lamangan: “Hindi hinog sa pilit ang pagiging socially relevant ni Mario O’Hara. Bahagi ng kanyang function bilang filmmaker ang bihagin itong ka isipan, yung klima at higit sa lahat yung social dynamics ng mga tao sa knayang mga pelikula.”
Mother Lily Monteverde: “Mario O’Hara is my best friend. I’m very close to him I learned from him. And I love him very much.”
Noel Vera: “O’Hara’s love is seared in the character and when you get to know him you see it in him.”
The program that night encapsulated a storied career:
“As an actor he is unforgettable ‘Tubog sa Ginto’, ‘Stardoom’, ‘Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang’ and ‘Maynila Sa Kuko Ng Liwanag.’
His filmography as writer includes some of the most important films from Philippine Cinema’s Golden Age: ‘Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang’, ‘Condemned’, ‘Insiang’.
His achievements as writer director are indelible: ‘Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos’, ‘Ang Babae Sa Breakwater’, ‘Ang Paglilitis Ni Andres Bonifacio’
From the Cinema One Program:
In 1976 the film Insiang directed by Lino Brocka from a story and screenplay by Mario O’Hara, became the first Filipino film to screen at Cannes. In 2003, after an absence of two decades Filipino film returned to the Cannes Film festival. The movie was ‘Ang Babae sa Breakwater’ written and directed by Mario O’Hara. This low budget independent film was one of the pioneers leading the charge of Philippine cinema on the international festival circuit. Today Philippine movies are a fixture at Cannes, Venice and other festivals. This would not have been possible without the ground breaking work of the quiet self effacing Mario O’Hara.”
One of the exceptions to Phil presence in Cannes was Raymond Red’s Palm D’Or win in 2000 for “Anino” but it was for the short film category. Mario’s work stands in the feature category later won by Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza and recently also participated by Aureus Solito. Paalam Mario O’Hara, isa kang tunay na alagad ng sining.