Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trapped into Cinematic Submission (Metro Manila Film Festival 2006)

Trapped into Cinematic Submission (MMFF 2006)
By Golangco, Jasper Greek Lao

(I am posting this out of some sense of personal history in connection to the on-going MMFF)

As of this writing, I am still eagerly awaiting Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum” to hit theaters on mainstream. A couple of weeks prior during the holiday break, when the wifey and I had a lot of time to kill, we scoured through the newspapers and “” for something interesting to catch on cinema. Yeah yeah… it’s the age of home entertainment, but hey, I couldn’t get fresh Tater’s popcorn at home…

I found myself staring at posters with the familiar faces of Vic Sotto, Lito Lapid, Judy Ann Santos, et. al. in even more familiar concepts. There was Lito Lapid in one of the worst Zorro rip-offs I had ever seen, Gretchen Barretto in yet another horror movie production, Vic Sotto playing himself with a different name, and of course, there was the nth installment of Mano Po and other sad creations. Don’t get me started on the one with John Prats dressed up like the X-men’s Nightcrawler.

For some reason, there was a matinee of Denzel Washington’s Déjà vu. Of course we missed it and were mulling whether or not to catch any other movie just for an excuse to gorge on barbeque flavored pop-corn and have some down time.

With my wife having a long-standing crush on “Bosing Vic” as the man is often referred to, the only thing on the multiplex that seemed to have any redeeming value was “Enteng Kabisote.” The redemption being my wife shuts up, while she stares at Mr. Sotto’s mug for an estimated 120 minutes and I can shut my brain off and pretend it was still the seventies but with better special effects. And yes, gorge on barbeque flavored pop-corn.

The special effects were more than serviceable. Heck, some effects were even half a notch better than the first “Star Wars” (episode 4, a.k.a. A New Hope for you Gen X’ers). Visually, Enteng Kabisote wasn’t an eye sore, and the fact that Kristine Hermosa is still one gorgeous babe didn’t hurt either. But at some point, I honestly felt that for a couple of hours, I was being spoken to like a 5 year old. Of course it’s a comedy, and people go to watch “Bosing Vic” not to get a good story, and I will stop now about Enteng Kabisote and move on.

I felt cornered as my wife and I were looking around the Cineplex and had to choose among some rather limited offerings courtesy of the Metro Manila Film Festival.

The films that managed to get a lot of advertising were “Mano Po 5” (can’t wait for Number 69…) and “Matakot ka sa Karma.” The rest were either hinging on variety show appearances or just throwing their lucks in the air. And while marketing movies are expensive, they are critical in helping a movie succeed. Of course that is, if there was anything good enough to market. Judy Ann Santos’ “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” did very well, but most likely only due to Judy Ann’s fanbase. The film “Ligalig” received good reviews, but fared very poorly. It could be said that the results were a reflection of the Filipino’s movie palate, but I think that that assumption is rather unjust. I would’ve given it a chance, but I knew absolutely nothing about it, and Heaven knows my wife knew quite a bit about “Bosing Vic.”

So isn’t it sad that the movie-going public has to be cornered to patronize their own movies? So we got tired of the whole “there’s a song and dance number in the middle” routine and the Indians haven’t. And we definitely got tired of the “ST” phase (ok, so I really haven’t… but hey…). Can’t we go back to good old fashioned film-making?

“Panday” was successful not only because it featured the “King of Philippine Cinema”, Fernando Poe, Jr., but because it was very original and by no measure derivative. A handful of daringly original films in the recent past have done well. They were produced because they were stories that had to be told, not because they had stars to build or contracts to fulfill.

My wife and I recently caught “Inang Yaya” starring Miss Maricel Soriano. The movie was well-attended, and while I felt that the story needed a legitimate climax and some genuine conflict, at least my intelligence wasn’t insulted. It wasn’t over-acted, the dialogue was not stilted, and the situations were very realistic. Okay, so the ending wasn’t satisfying, but at least it really looked like it tried. Unlike most local movies that spring out from time to time.

The local film industry has often complained about the lack of support from the public, but I think it’s mostly their fault. Just because they dish out one decent movie every now and then, they shouldn’t expect people to come in droves. People want choices. Good choices. And from that comes confidence. The movie-going Pinoy has lost confidence. And a “film festival” filled with recycled goods doesn’t do anything to help.

Some would say I’m a minority, but the average monthly box office doesn’t seem to think so. Of course there’s also the obvious culprit called the Philippine economy.

The price of an average movie ticket nowadays runs somewhere around P100-P130. The average wage earner clocks in something between P300-P350 for a day’s work. And that’s an average white collar job. So why should he or she shell out over P500 to take the family out for a piece of recycled celluloid crap?

I have been told by people tired of my whining that I am not the market. That’s a load of jack.

But let’s say we’re talking about the supposedly real audience of local cinema, which are the masses in Philippine society. Does it mean that the masses do not deserve to be entertained with something creative and original? Something that will be worth something even after they’ve walked out of the theater? Something that will not make them regret shelling out their hard-earned P500 (and no, that doesn’t even include pop-corn).

People love movies. They always will. But they will love good movies. So I implore the local film-makers to start making more of them, promote them right, and to paraphrase Kevin Costner: “if you shoot it, they will come.”

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