Fading Out

Imagine a romance film that ends in a garden. There are flowers everywhere. The girl is walk down the aisle. The guy smiles. A montage ensues and finally the newlyweds kiss. Then slowly the screen fades to black and the audience is either quiet in disappointment or squirming in “kilig”.

John Lloyd – Bea.  John Lloyd – Sarah. Kim- Gerald. Kim – Xian. They meet. They fall in love. They separate. They get back together. They live happily ever after.  Everything about the Filipino film industry screams redundant. The pairings are all too familiar to the point that you already know who’s going to end up with who before the movie even begins.

ONE DAY IN FILM CLASS

“Bakit di ka Crush ng Crush mo? BS lang yan.”  It was strange, almost uncomfortable, to hear Ramon Bautista, the man behind the inspiration of the movie say such words. He was kidding, of course. But he always emphasized the difference between world class films and mainstream films. World class films garner awards in festivals such as Cannes while mainstream films….well, they make money.

THE PRECONCEIVED DIFFERENCE

Now it’s time to differentiate the “world-class” films from the mainstream films.1 First we have our mainstream films. The normal characteristics of these films include having THE most popular couples. Normally, before some of these films are made, the actors will be involved in some generic issue and they’ll be accused of being in relationships with each other (if they aren’t already). They’re interviewed in showbiz gossip channels such as one we’ll hide with the name “The B” and another we could call “Star T”. The couple’s lives are continuously hyped up as the release of the films approach. These films are normally produced by big companies that we can hide with the names “Star C” and “Gma P”. These are the types of films that normally employ the three act structure where boy meets girl and they fall in love (Introduction), they break up (Conflict) then they make up and get back together (Denouement). This type of story is all too familiar, all too common yet for most Filipino fans it brings entertainment. It gives them hope that maybe one day – someday – they’ll find that ridiculously good looking guy in a very strange place and end up with him.  “World-class films,” on the other hand, usually use a different formula. They may tackle themes not normally presented by other movies. Instead of the “feel good” feeling that mainstream movies trot out, these so called “world-class” films leave the audience with a feeling of uncertainty and uneasiness. One director describes this feeling as “nakakapagpabagabag” (try saying that three times fast!) and he claims that normally these films try to awaken some sense of responsibility in individuals.

SOCIETY’S DILEMMA

More often than not Mainstream films are considered “jeje” while indie films are considered classy (but still quite jeje to some because some people regard all things Filipino jeje; now that’s a different issue). But what’s wrong with that? Well nothing really except for the fact that these jeje people that we regard, these people that are normally regarded as trying hard or people with low IQs2, are the ones who support the industry. We, on the other hand (the classy, cool, educated ones) support films from foreign lands.

It’s sad that some films are underappreciated by Filipinos yet highly regarded by foreign film critics. There are a lot of films that Filipinos don’t even bother to watch probably because their favorite actors aren’t there or they think they won’t enjoy the film. In a way it makes sense. Why would you spend 150 pesos or more to watch a film with cheap effects when instead for almost the same amount you could watch a blockbuster film with exploding cars and flying animals? Sir Ramon even mentioned that a single scene of the Avengers probably showcases more special effects and explosions than an entire FPJ film. If this is the case, why should we still watch Filipino films? Is it for awareness sake? Is it to support our economy? For entertainment? The answers will always depend upon ourselves.

PUSHING FORWARD

We all have ample knowledge on the laws of supply and demand, and thus we all know that when demand decreases eventually, supply decreases. Sir Ramon recalled an experience when he produced an indie film in the past. He required his students to watch the film in UPFI yet the institute was barely even crowded. He compared this to Bakit di ka Crush ng Crush mo? which crowded cinemas nationwide. He said that KimXi fans reserved various cinemas for block screening. He recalled how the fans would scream over Xian despite the lack of action in the film. He didn’t describe the movie as tasteless although he often joked about how we shouldn’t be watching those kinds of films. He admitted that it made him more money that his indie film did, but he continued to push us to support other films in the industry.

There are two main issues here: One being the battle between foreign and local films, and the other is the battle between mainstream and more serious, deep films. Generally our film industry still lacks support, but aside from this we also need to learn to support the right films. We need to learn to appreciate films such as Himala or Ang Tatay Kong Nanay because these represent our culture better than silly films like No Other Woman. (Editors note: Ah, but our patronage of such films obviously represents something significant about our culture!) As much as rom-coms portray the happy-go-lucky lifestyle of Filipinos, there are a lot of other films that talk about issues we face such as the struggle of genders in the country and the high regard for religiosity, or even the importance of family. A lot of films could better represent our country and our situation and so we must increase the demand for these films by supporting them. Why do we have to wait for foreign bodies to appreciate the pinnacle of Filipino film art when we, ourselves, could be the ones critically analyzing and appreciating the films? Even if they don’t have the same budget that Hollywood filmmakers have, Filipino filmmakers have the pursuit for art and the same need to create something that reveals a different kind of reality. All that our filmmakers really need is affirmation and support. That’s where we come in.

FADING OUT

Then the screen slowly fades to black. The silence continues because no one wants to talk about the industry. No one wants to talk about our film industry. Then there remains the uncertainty of whether the silence represents people’s amusement or disappointment. Maybe it was indifference. Maybe there isn’t a problem with the industry after all. Maybe the problem is with the people and with the choices that they make.

____________________

1 I don’t really know if I’m grouping the films right but I’m not saying that mainstream films can’t win awards and award winning films can’t be mainstream. Also, indie films can make money too, sometimes.

2 According to the Urban Dictionary

 

 Lerizze Angela Lee Tan, 2012-12587

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One thought on “Fading Out

  1. It’s kind of sad that it seems innate in Filipino culture to want foreign approval before supporting local industries — kind of counterintuitive, I must say. Taking what you said about the film industry, that mentality applies to things like local research, tourism, and more. When a magazine or award-giving body recognizes something special, support tends to spike, but lack of recognition does the opposite. I wouldn’t really know how to bring about cultural change, but I think you brought up an important point about how, at least when it comes to innovation, among others, Filipino human capital has such high value that we ought to realize soon.

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