Saturday, January 27, 2007

where have the brocka's and bernal's gone?

Ask any Filipino to cite a local film that promotes excellence and values, and the you’d most likely get a blank stare, or a diminutive enumeration of popular movies at best.

The dilemma of the Philippine movie industry is it’s caught between luring audiences with a commercialistic approach or calling everyone to appreciate quality entertainment with truths and right values. And admittedly, the masa would inevitably gear towards the previous one with reasons ranging from that it is easy to watch, to that it is easy to digest.

Thus far, the problem.

It wasn’t at all any different in last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. More and more every year, (MMFF is now on its 32nd) it seems to be getting superficial and, in some ways, immature when it could have been presenting films of literary and artistic competitiveness.

I’m talking about Philippine movies of as great caliber as “Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” “Oro Plata Mata,” or “Tanging Yaman”.

But these days, the industry gives everyone a hint of its near collapsing state. Various movements are made and even the recently concluded MMFF was called to a halt. “If the MMFF is abolished, Filipinos will get to watch nothing but Disney movies during the holidays,” said Bayani Fernando, who spearheads MMFF, in a January 7 Philippine Daily Inquirer article. “I don’t [even] know if these protesters are really speaking on behalf of the movie industry.”

Philippine cinema is indeed on top of a shaking pedestal. Money runs the mill on most film companies—not its quality and artistic value.

When asked whether Filipino films are a dying lot, film critic Ed Cabagnot was quoted in Palanca awardee
Ian Rosales Casocot’s blog
as saying, “Philippine film might as well be dead.”

Casocot also commented on the 2005 MMFF: “If you are sensitive enough to take note of the critical apathy given the recently-concluded Metro Manila Film Festival, you may have to acknowledge the fact that the festival, once touted as an engine for driving new interest in Filipino films, has found itself in a new plateau of indifference.

“This is sad because, in the light of local filmdom’s already flagging fortunes being battered to bits by ‘stronger’ international releases, we do need annual exercises such as the MMFF. As a showcase of the Filipino Best, it has had its moments of true glory, premiering for example such worthy efforts as ‘Atsay’, ‘Burlesque Queen’, ‘Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa’, ‘Crying Ladies’, ‘Rizal’, and ‘Panaghoy sa Suba’.”

For so long, film or cinema has brought itself into the mass media from its early stages starting off as a novel breakthrough, later changing into one of the most important tools of communication and entertainment in the modern world; one of the best forms of medium to present creativity with a message.

No matter how the Filipino film industry shows signs of positive revival, the process is still slow. Perhaps it is due to its producers’ misguided motives, or due to the masa still currently stuck in mid-quality entertainment, intimidated with experimental works.

Indeed, visions from the movie greats like Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal concerning the country’s filmmaking talents fall short of where it is supposed to reach. Well, digital films are the exceptions. These are the only means for tight-budgeted producers to make films that disregard notions of the dreaded word “flop.”

A new Golden Age of Philippine Cinema is now unfolding before the very eyes for those who are willing to witness it. Because of digital technology, it served as an unexpected life-saving device to those who gained merit on various creative works.

According to, a website that aims to be the repository for Filipino film (and some foreign) discussions, stated that digital technology has helped give Pinoy filmmaking a comeback.

Art is not always difficult to understand. It is the common misconception of a typical Pinoy, but writers, producers, and directors should never inhibit themselves from creating what they think is the best for the industry. It should never be in drought.

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