Monday, May 17, 2004

erosion: philippine cinema

The prurient part of me was interested in an old movie billboard I saw (you know the type, a nymphet whose “larger-than-my-head” breasts are just barely prevented from escaping the fading grasp of her bra). So I mentioned it to my cab driver, telling him how I wish these things were done with more thought and effort.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t watch pinoy movies. Mas gusto ko yung English.”

And increasingly, more and more Filipinos are saying the same thing. And there’s where the crux of the matter is.

There is an entire class of people who were born into relative privilege, speak English, and prefer American films. They eschew Tagalog films.

And there is the so-called Filipino masa (masses) who used to troop to the theaters when the latest local tear-jerker or action film came to their town. But now, these people are showing us their indifference to Filipino cinema.

There was a time when people went mad for movies with Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano, my sister-in-law Snooky Serna and all the other dramatic actresses. Throngs would stand in long lines for the latest action-adventure flick with our macho leading men, or elbow their way to see the hodge-podge comedies of Joey de Leon or brazenly wait with other men to watch some starlet jiggle her boobs artistically (well, if you invoke the chiaroscuro defense, you must be artistic, right?). Mother Lily’s Regal Films and Vic del Rosario’s Viva Films made a lot of money and everyone seemed happy.

But the situation wasn’t as good as it seemed.

Movies were made and released at an astonishing rate (leading to the creation of the “pito-pito” system, wherein a movie was conceptualized and shot in 7 days, with post-production taking another 7 days), swamping the movie houses with products whose poor quality was obvious. Low budgets, invisible writing, horrid acting, amateur editing, crappy sound, lousy everything eventually began to affect even the most ardent cineaste and lowbrow moviegoer.

Bad films began the erosion of public faith in the Tagalog movie.

Look at the scenario today. This month, only two new films were released. Two. And in an industry that is used to much much more in terms of releases, insiders say that two films per month looks like how things will be from now on. Two films a month equals 24 movies a year. Did you ever imagine our local industry would generate such low numbers? And it would be fine if this small number of films was of fantastic quality, but sadly, it is more of the same bland fare (and even the sex isn’t as tantalizing). True, there are "festival films" made just for competition, but these, on the whole, reek so much of artistic pretension that they're impossible to watch.

Where are the good regular Tagalog films?

Where are masses who support these films?

Where are the screaming fans of Piolo and Claudine?


They’re marching to Middle Earth, taking a boat to Troy and battling the undead with Van Helsing.

And who can blame them? When faith is lost, it is very difficult to reclaim. And the local film industry is doing precious little to address the painful erosion.


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