Has the intellectual standards of Modern Filipino Film Industry Degraded? From the words of the greatest direction of the 21st Century as they speak, Mr. Mick Castro
Before we answer the question above, let us first define what makes film an “art”, in a sense; What elements of film are essential to add or aggregate to the artistic, aesthetic, emotional and intellectual value of a film? What gives film life? The “art” in Film can be determined in many ways, but first, let me give my personal definition of art to start this discussion: Art is the expression of one’s inner soul; it is the language with which the souls of an artist speaks its will, and the medium with which he expresses what he wills; whatever melody he wishes to express within himself, whether in any vehicle of expression (e.g, Film, Painting, Music, Theatre Acting, etc. etc.). The Art in Film is like a symphony in an orchestra, and the “band” expressing each musical notes with each of their own specialized instruments make the symphony “harmonized” in such a way that it becomes music as a whole. The Writer of the Screenplay wrote the “musical” piece, the Director plays the part of the “conductor”, the Actors and Actresses alongside, plays the part of the band itself, and their roles are the every musical notes they play as they express the screenwriter’s melody. During the 70’s era, intellectual value played a major role in the Film industry of the Philippines. Minds such as Director Lino Brocka (famous for his film, “Insiang”, which was nominated in 1978 Cannes Film Festival and is the first Filipino Film to enter Cannes), Writer Mario ‘O Hara (writer of “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang”), Ishmael Bernal (director of the famous Filipino Film, “Himala”), and many others determined the quality and the value of films that were produced in the Philippines during that era. Such prowess in the industry blossomed as it also goes hand-in-hand with the harsh situation of the country during that time, being Martial Law. So, to express the situation of the Filipino people in that particular time, the sparks of their psyche burned aflame, and such was the effect of that crisis in the intellectual minds of these people, that era being marked “the renaissance era of the Visual and Musical Culture of the Philippines”. This intellectual revolution in the Philippines lasted for 9 years, until finally; the tyrannical period of Martial Law was put to an end. Television broadcasting networks such as ABS-CBN, RPN 9 and GMA Network blossomed with the stint of competition and produced Films and Televisions segments that would appeal to the Filipino Masses. Thus, being the goal of marketing their visual innovations to the masses… They would have to lower the standards. “What is click to the Filipino Masses?” Such was the time, until the present time, when these broadcasting companies took hold of the Philippine Industry. It was such the time where films that were imbued with intellectual, emotional and aesthetic artistry, often with themes relating to or at least has something to with: LGBT, Religious
Scepticism, Family Issues and the Socio-Political Situation of Philippines are often ignored, downgraded, censored and took minimal support from the production companies of the said booming industries; while Films relating to things that would raise the “kilig” factor of the “masang” Filipino for the sake of getting it to the “box office”. They would pay high stakes just to get their “poging” and “magandang” matinee idols on the sets, put a little “romance” or “landian” factor on the cauldron, and voila! There we have it, the “dish” is served and the starving “Filipina fangirls” thirsty for their matinee idol are one the loose; Well, of course, if one’s favourite dish is only to be found on a five-star restaurant, who would resist but to be tempted to eat and pay off for the course? If one cannot find it on the “carinderia”, a canteen filled with exotic and street foods… Well, perhaps, they would rather go to that five star restaurant instead, allegorically speaking. So, what is wrong with the film industry of today? Let us make an analysis of the topic further: 1. Emphasis on the artist’s “face value” and popularity over the artist’s talents and abilities. 2. Low budget and mediocre training given to artists. 3. Strict censorship in particular genres of film, thus, is restricting the filmmaker’s freedom of expression. 4. Low amount of support given to Independent Film Artists, Directors and Writers. 5. The goal of having a “highly-marketed film” rather than aiming the purpose of integrating the quality of the Visual culture of the country. 6. Having no sense of originality and creativity, thus, stealing and grabbing ideas from international visual cultures (such as Korea and Taiwan).
Now, with this kind of film industry fronting, should the products of the Filipino Film Industry be still considered as “film art”?
If one is wise, you can understand what I am saying. You know, I am not against the "pa-cute” and “ukay-ukay” type of the Philippine Film Industry that we have today, to make it clear; nothing is wrong to bring entertainment and visual gratification to our fellow men. But, the problem arises, especially in our time, where the Mainstream Filipino Film Industry has started losing its sense of originality, creativity and intellectuality; and its artistic value, once glittering like a star in the cosmos, loss its luminosity… and only flickered away in the far reaches of the galaxy. Well, at least to say, I am thankful for institutions such as Cinemalaya and sometimes MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival) committee for supporting the Independent Artists and Thinkers, at least to say, they are not on the verge of being labeled as “endangered species” per se. For without the innovation of such thinkers, the quality of our industry would degrade into mediocrity. What I would like suggest to those who are in the mainstream/commercial film industry; filmmakers, production companies and writers alike, is that they must collaborate with the independent artists to innovate and think outside of the confined standards that the Philippine Industry is conditioned upon;
Create masterpieces beyond commerciality, profiteering and competition. Do not fear that the masses will consider your work as something “weird” or “out-of-taste”. Value talents and prowess more than the vain stint of “face value”, “sex appeal” and “sensation”. And… most importantly, we must never always go for what is “hip”, “hype” or “click” to the international media and think outside of the box; it is always important for an artist to have a sense of originality. From this divergent thinking, I suppose, would the Philippine Film Industry be recognized internationally, and be truly called as originally ours. For we can never truly create a masterpiece if we cannot tap into our own potentiality as an artist; and that potentiality comes naturally within ourselves, and not as a results of a refurbishing of another product that came from a foreign mind.