Filipino Movies: Ingenious or Ignominious?
The Filipino Movie industry has been around for more than a century.
In spite of this, Filipinos are still debating one thing: Are Filipino movies good or bad?
Our movie industry is riddled with too many contradictions that everybody has an opinion about them. Too good, too bad. Too progressive, too backward. Too intelligent, too banal. Too original, too clichéd.
Others think that it has a very bright future, but some believe that it is hopeless, doomed, and even dead.
But, what exactly are the problems of the Filipino Movies?
Let's scrutinize the people involved in our industry.
We have the best. They are well trained and very hard working. Even if you give them antiquated facilities, they will always manage to get by and do their job competently. No doubt, an old facility will show its limitations on film, but we must admire our technicians' patience, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Remember how Raul Silos, Sr. invented the Siloscope, a type of lens that projected a wide screen image, long before Hollywood invented the Cinemascope, a wide angle lens capable of projecting spectacular, bigger-than life films. And how do you think Francis Ford Coppola managed to create his award-winning film Apocalypse Now sans the help of the Filipino technicians? We can conclude therefore, that given the most modem facilities, our technicians could do an even better job.
Who says all our actors are lousy? Sure, we have lots of awful ones, but we also have a
great number that we can include in our crème de la crème list. It is a pity that many have passed away like Charito Solis, Pancho Magalona, Leopoldo Salcedo, Vic Silayan, Dindo Femando and Rita Gomez, but we have others who are still alive and kicking and they're very good. Rosa Rosal, Lolita Rodriguez, Hilda Koronel, Christopher de Leon, Vhong Navarro, Cesar Montano, Tommy Abuel, and superstars Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, plus many, many more.
We have a very small number of Screenwriters. In 1981, the Screenwriters Guild of the
Philippines (of which I was a member) had only 61 scriptwriters working for the Filipino movies. In an industry that was producing at least 400 films a year, each
Screenwriter has to write 6.6 screenplays to fill the demand. We have good scriptwriters, but to produce 6.6 screenplays a year, can we expect a well written screenplay? Mind you, most of these scriptwriters are also writing for television dramas and working full-time in an office. In my case, I had to write at least 8 teleplays every week to avoid replays (which the sponsors hate). However, if you were working for a network owned by "You know who" during his regime, the network was able get away with many things. Case in point: when Alma Moreno became too busy with her film assignments, Alindog had replayed one episode ten times. When the show's sponsors finally complained, that was the only time the network did something and Charo Santos became a regular replacement for Alma Moreno.
Again, it's a pity that many good ones have left us, like Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka, but we still have others who are as competent, like Eddie Garcia, Eddie Romero, Laurice Guiilen, Mariiou Abaya, Mario O’hara, Chito Roño and more. Of course we're not trying to discount the fact that we also have a stable of asinine movie directors.
Filipino Movies eve trendy.
No doubt, this problem is rampant. Whatever genre makes a killing at the box office causes every producer in town to jump on the bandwagon. Result: a glut of the same stuff being produced without regard to quality and uniqueness. Even titles are trendy. There was a time when long titles were in vogue. Every Filipino movie had a long title: DILIGIN MO NG HAMOG ANG UHAW NA LUPA (written by Diego Cagahastian); IBALIK MO ANG ARAW SA MUNDONG MAKASALANAN (written by Marina Feleo Gonzales); LUMAKAD KANG HUBAD SA MUNDONG IBABAW (written by Henry Cuino); Then the trend focused on one-word titles: BRUTAL (written by Ricky Lee); ATSAY (written by Edgardo M. Reyes); JAGUAR (written by Jose ”Pete” Lacaba). Then the word PUSO (heart) became so popular (as if we didn’t have enough of this in the 1950s): SINUNGALING MONG PUSO; DITO SA SKING PUSO; NARITO ANG PUSO KO; PANGARAP NG PUSO; And many, many more PUSO. I was in fact, waiting for someone to make a movie called: PUSO NG SAGING SA AKING KARE-KARE.
Filipino Movies refuse to learn.
Not all, but many people in our industry are in the so-called DENIAL STAGE. Like a cancer victim who asks initially: “Why me?” Many in the the Filipino film industry ask the same question.
An actor, for instance, would ask: “Why me?” If you tell him to attend an acting workshop. “What? You are telling me to study acting, me, the superstar? I became a millionaire from acting!” Yet ask him what a SWIMMING POOL TECHNIQUE is, and he wouldn’t know the answer.
A director may ask: “Why Me?” Because he refuses to learn his craft better. He thinks
that he knows everything. But try asking him the difference between Montage and Mise-en-scene and he'll look at you as if you're an alien f.o.f.s. (fresh off flying saucer) and that you must be eradicated immediately.
When screenwriters gather, it's natural for everyone to talk about his or her latest project. And when you bring up the idea of conducting a seminar- workshop for screen writing, a screenwriter will ask (and you guessed it right) "Why me?" "I've been doing this job for 100 years, what do I need a seminar for?" But try asking him the difference between a Purpose accomplishment story and Purpose abandonment story and he wouldn't have the slightest idea.
Filipino Movies are constricted.
No doubt, this is the pits. The late Film Director Gerry De Leon once said of the Philippine Censors: "Pusakal" (Ruthless). And I totally agree. They have been like this since the 1940s. There was a time when the Philippine Board of Censors for Motion Pictures required every writer to get an approval first of his story before he or she could negotiate with any film producers. Of course it required an approval fee. If they reject your material, the fee is forfeited! Where in the world can you find such censorship? You’re right, only in the Philippines.
And now, the censors are dipping their fingers everywhere. They even have the power to SUSPEND a performer from appearing on TV if that talent had said something that the Censors think was not supposed to be said. Sonafabitch! I would hate to be working on Philippine TV these days.
The Filipino Movies should stop being trendy and being a copycat.
Let's be more creative. Let s stop imitating Hollywood. It's not bad to pick up good things from Hollywood (such as learning how to use the latest facilities to improve the "look" of our films). MOON CHILD (Itanong Mo Sa Buwan) by Chito Roño proved that we can also make Filipino Movies with superior technical quality. For instance, let's quit being fascinated by Michael Douglas' FATAL ATTRACTION that we made Aga Mulach had the same fatal attraction with Vilma Santos in SINUNGALING MONG PUSO.
The Filipino Movies must accept the fact that learning is a continuing process.
A person, including a filmmaker, will always learn something new if he updates himself on new things. The trouble with many people in the our film industry is they tend to shrug their shoulders on new things.
The Filipino Movies must be liberated.
Enough is enough. The Board of Censors must just be there to CLASSIFY films and not to be the nation's holier-than-thou guardians of every Filipino's morality. Let the filmmakers explore the subject of their films with all the freedom they need.
And finally, we confront the question: Are the Filipino Movies ingenious or ignominious?
In my own opinion, most Filipino Movies nowadays are bad. But, we can do something to improve them. However, I'm afraid it will remain an industry of irony, just like the country itself: too much rain, too much sun; Too much enlightening, too much superstitions; Too many palatial houses, too many people living in the dump; Too much patriotism, too much braindrain; Too much hate, too much love. And this is summed up by a Tagalog expression that goes: Sala sa init, sala sa lamig. (Ill-suited to the heat, ill-adapted to the cold). •