Little can be gleaned online from “Gamitin Mo Ako,” National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal’s 1985 movie about a love triangle between a man and a mother and daughter. But the fact that this is by auteur provocateur Bernal—and with a screenplay by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio!—should be enough to convince you that this is a masterpiece.
What we know is the controversy that surrounds it, especially, the reviews that came after its release. This we know through the non-profit organization Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (Samahan ng mga Filipinong Arkivista para sa Pelikula, Inc.). SOFIA advocates for the preservation of the country’s cinematic heritage and the establishment of a national film archive. According to them, “this controversial film was lambasted by critics when it was first shown in the cinemas.”
This can be traced back to the film’s tackling of sexual themes that were considered taboo, something Bernal is no stranger to doing. Subsequently, because of these critiques, it was likely subjected to censorship, which in turn, limited access to it.
The estate of Via Hoffman, “Gamitin Mo Ako”’s executive producer, owns the lone U-matic (an analog recording videocassette format) copy of the film. Lucky for those whose interests were piqued by the film’s controversy, SOFIA is screening it this month, on Sep. 18 at the Cinematheque Manila.
The copy that will be screened, however, is not a digitally restored one, per SOFIA. In a Facebook post, they said, “We do not have all the necessary resources (time and labor, especially) for digital restoration. The only surviving copy in U-matic has only been digitized last week. It is so far the only available access/viewing copy from the producer. We are working on a relatively ‘better’ viewing copy out of the recently digitized version.”
SOFIA has yet to release ticketing information for its Sep. 18 screening.
“Gamitin Mo Ako”’s princial cast include Rita Gomez, Al Tantay, William Martinez, Stella Suarez Jr., Orestes Ojeda, and Daria Ramirez.