BIOGRAPHY OF CELSO AD CASTILLO
Excerpts from Encyclopaedia of Philippine Arts by L. Pareja
Born in Siniloan, Laguna 12 Sept 1943. Movie director, scriptwriter, actor. He is the son of Atty. Dominador Ad Castillo, lawyer/writer, and Marta Adolfo. He studied at Manuel L. Quezon University and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1964.
Castillo started as a writer for a komiks magazine. With the help of his father, he published his own magazine where he wrote all the stories from cover to cover, using different names as authors. A movie producer commissioned him to write a script on the character of " James Bandong ", named after Britain's superspy. The film made money and it was followed by a sequel, Dr. Yes, 1965, a spoof on the British film, Dr. No. He wrote and directed his first movie, Misyong Mapanganib (Dangerous Mission), in 1966.
The most memorable of his earlier films is Asedillo, 1971, based on a Filipino rebel of the 1920s who was hunted down as a bandit by the American colonial government. With this film, Fernando Poe, Jr. acquired the image that was to set him off as a legendary gunslinger, a defender of the poor and oppressed. Castillo also made Ang Alamat (The Legend), 1972, with Poe as a reluctant hero who battle a whole private army all by himself to defend his townfolks.
Succeeding Castillo films aspired towards thematic originality: small-town perversion in Ang Madugong Daigdig ni Salvacion (The Bloody World of Salvacion), 1975; incest in Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw (Rainy Days in Summer), 1975; political and period gangsterism in Daluyong at Habagat (Tall Waves, Wild Wind), 1976. Even his sex films had a to message to tell. One finds spiritual undertones in the story of an oversexed girl in Nympha (Nymph), 1971; a struggle of conscience in a stripteaser who laughed on the outside but cried on the inside in Burlesk Queen (Burlesque Queen), 1977; tribal conflict in Aliw-iw, 1979; a conflict of family values in Snake Sisters, 1983; and the politics of domination in Isla (Island), 1983.
Other notable Castillo films are Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Pedro Penduko (The Wonderful World of Pedro Penduko), 1973; Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth), 1975; Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan (The Legend of Julian Makabayan), 1979; Totoy Boogie, 1980; Uhaw na Dagat (Thirsty Sea), 1981; Pedro Tunasan, 1983; Virgin People, 1983; and Payaso (Clown), 1986. It was Castillo who started a trend in Philippine movies known as the wet look which later helped establish bomba film as a definite genre.
Castillo won the Filpino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) awards for best director and best story for Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak (When the Crow Turns White, When the Heron Turns Black), 1978, and also won the Urian awards for best director and best screenplay for the same picture. He shared the story credits with Ruben Nicdao, and the screenplay credits with Lando jacob, Ishko Lopez and Ruben Nicdao. He won the FAMAS best director trophy again in 1985 for Paradise Inn, a Lolita Rodriguez-Vivian Velez starrer. He also has a FAMAS best supporting actor award, for Sampung Ahas ni Eba (Ten Snakes of Eve), in 1984.
Probably the most versatile director-actor in Philippine cinema, the name Celso Ad Castillo is certainly a household word to Filipinos. His life was lived as a practical atheist for being mired in the glitter, glamour, and glory in the world of celluloid. An instance of introspection that came to him from an artwork in film changed, however, many aspects in himself. He discovered in that unique experience that, after all, a Powerful Being is behind every hidden beauty of all creation (and how he unabashedly and convulsively wept at the very realization of Allah's Reality !)
A little bit later he found himself directing a film in Kuala Lumpur that was intended to be a Malaysia-Manila joint venture. This occurred during the last two months of 1989. While working on that film, his keen insight into subtleties that lie within things again came into play. He sensed the beauties of Islamic values that pervade all through the Malaysian ambience. He was intrigued to the point of raising inquisitive questions about Malaysia and its people until his critical move to seek Islamic conversion at PERKIM headquarters. And how he cherishes the novel name he has chosen: ''Arif Amiruddin bin Abdullah ''
His rare talent makes him unusually hyperactive – to the extent of directing three movies at the same time (in 1986). Courting mediocrity ? Nope ! He made one splash of a killing, instead, by running away with three top awards in that 1986 Metro Manila Film Festival: Best Director, Best Story, and Best Screenplay. These were nothing new to him, however. In 1973 the Philippine Movie Press Club awarded him the Cinema Director of the Year honor; in 1977 he was adjudged best Director at the Metro Manila Film Festival, and in 1979 he won three separate Best Director awards from three groups of film critics (FAMAS, URIAN, and Citizens Council for Mass Media). As if these were not enough, three other different best Story awards went to him film entries in that same film festival. His genius lies not only in movie direction, therefore, but also in scriptwriting.
Arif Amiruddin had also blazed the international scene of cinema industry. His films saw participation in international film festivals as: Venice Filmfest, Los Angeles (California) World Film Exposition, Asean Film Festival (Malaysia), Hongkong Film Festival, Berlin (West Germany) Film Festival, UNESCO Film Conference (Paris) and Milan (Italy) Film Festival).
Nowadays he finds challenge to make movies based in Kuala Lumpur. He is still finding his way into the local scene before he could earn proper recognition as a no-nonsense movie director and actor. The path is craggy, indeed, but he remains undaunted. He could choose the easy way – go back to Manila and wallow again in the usual prestige he has earned there through the 50 films he has made since 1965. He has vowed, instead, to make Malaysia his permanent home and work out a union with the Islamic faith.
Lately he is obsessed with the idea of translating the BOOK OF SIGNS, a video film about the Qur'an and Science into the Filipino national language for TV exposure in Manila. His long term plans include creation of films in Bahasa Malaysia that would have some Islamic flavor and a lifetime translation of the Qur'an into the Filipino national language. As he puts it: My becoming a Muslim is not merely changing the color of my status in Philippine society. It has given to me a great mission and an obligation to propagate Islam in the Philippines. It is not merely a duty but also an obsession; not just a must but a sacred calling.
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