Mediocrity in Filipino films evident yet again in 2012 Manila fest

Default custodians of the already renownedly atrophied imagination of the Filipino; that’s Big Media. In the coming major film event of the year organised by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2012, these corporate behemoths have once again edged out the small players proving yet again that factories and other product mills always win over the small but potentially tasteful boutique outfits. To compete with the two edgy products of the small players, Scenema Concept’s historical El Presidente and Quantum Films’ suspense thriller The Strangers, three big outlets — ABS-CBN, GMA, and Regal — fielded no less than six big imagination-starved productions.

Most notable bottom-feeders in the heap are GMA Films’ entry Si Agimat, si Enteng Kabisote and Me and Regal Films’ Shake Rattle and Roll 14, both of which are mere regurgitations of tried and tested box office hit formulas of the past.

Si Agimat sees stars Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Vic Sotto reprising the same characters they played in the 2010 movie of (almost) the same title. The 2010 version, Si Agimat at si Enteng Kabisote (minus the “and Me” of the 2012 version) was a predictable critical disaster but, just as predictably, was a commercial succes opening at Number One in December of 2010 after raking in ticket sales of P31 million on its first day. The following year in 2011, Revilla and Sotto did encores in separate films — Revilla in the special effects extravaganza Panday 2 (a film widely criticised for being a blatant rip-off of the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster remake of Clash of the Titans) and Sotto in Enteng ng Ina Mo along with Ai Ai de las Alas which also features the same Enteng Kabisote character that traces its roots back to the 1980s television sitcom Okay ka Fairy ko. This year, perhaps to get more bang out of scrimped bucks, producers see Sotto and Revilla teaming up with Judy Ann Santos (presumably accounting for the “and Me” part of the current title) for that twin franchises’ latest incarnation.

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The Shake Rattle and Roll (SR&R) franchise is a virtual classic mainly for its sheer endurance as a well of box office easy money. It is Sequel Number 14 this year (following Number 13 last year which was also exhbited at the MMFF) and standing tall as a monument to Filipino lack of imagination. The series started back in 1984 with award-winning director Peque Gallaga directing most of the stories up until the fourth instalment which was released in 1992.

Not surprising considering the selection approach applied

The criteria in the selection of the eight entries in the main competition, according to official auditor Alba Romeo & Co.: 50 percent commercial viability, 40 percent artistic merit, 10 percent cultural and historical value.

In short, even if your work scores perfect in the “artistic merit” and “cultural and historical value” departments, it will still be a toss-up against sure-thing hits that score even a fat zero in those aspects. That’s fair enough, considering the goal of the MMFF is to make a bit of money itself. But for a festival that takes the name of and is hosted by what is supposed to be the cultural capital of the nation, a selection criteria framework rigged to allow films like SR&R and Si Agimat to get counted into the showcase can only be flawed.

Such is the state of Philippine cinema that last year, following the conclusion of the 2012 MMFF, my colleague was moved to write

How do these filmmakers sleep at night knowing that they are not really creating a work of art but just copies of some other people’s work? They are not even making people think; they are not even stirring emotions or provoking people into doing something with their lives; they are not even inspiring young people to aspire for greatness. What they are producing is just stuff you can discard after one use. In short, most Philippine films are a total waste of the people’s time and money.

Then again, perhaps there is not much in their audience that film makers can work with. Whereas many excellent films in other countries draw from the deep wells of their host societies’ multi-layered national psyches, it is quite likely that Filipinos’ collective faculty for insight simply lacks the depth to support a film industry that caters to substance.

Indeed, it has become quite common knowledge that truly insightful and artistic Filipinos are left no choice but to seek validation overseas. This has already seen evidence in the Philippines’ music industry where edgy artists are also edged out by entrenched — often politically-backed — mainstream artists. The latter are even lobbying hard to curtail the entry of foreign artists wanting to perform in the country in order to protect the local industry.

The same is happening in the film industry. The MMFF had, in fact, excluded what is reportedly a very promising local film this year, as Business Mirror‘s Ricky Gallardo observes

This early, the legion of disappointed Noranians are up in arms in criticizing the selection committee of the MMFF for leaving Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb out in the cold. The film, shot almost entirely in Tawi-Tawi, stars superstar Nora Aunor and Bembol Roco.

We reckon that what the Noranians feel is very valid. The film is reportedly being eyed by a major international film festival for inclusion in its main competition lineup. It will be a big slap on the face of the organizers of the Metro Manila filmfest if the movie gets to represent the country in Europe this August, and a bigger slap if Thy Womb wins international recognition and acclaim.

Gallardo further laments…

Come to think of it, there’s nothing new with how the MMDA selected its official entries for this year’s filmfest—always be nice and accommodating to whoever is mighty and powerful, whoever controls the theatrical distributions, whoever has all the resources to throw away and spend, let’s give it to them. Never mind those who desperately want to uplift the rotten state of filmmaking in the country by coming up with the most creative concepts, and those who sincerely want to feed fresh entertainment ideas to the movie going public.

Every year, it’s the same players, the same forces, the same strategies, the same monopolies. Indeed, people have long been sick and tired with these pathetic patterns.

And to think, as I’ve cited before, Media holds the key to the Filipino’s prospects for much-needed intellectual and cultural uplift. But like every opportunity that presents itself to this wretched society, politics, its politicians, and their patronage get in the way.

24 Replies to “Mediocrity in Filipino films evident yet again in 2012 Manila fest”

  1. Buti na lang we’re no longer limited to cinemas alone. Haha.

    In before restrictions and gov’t interventions.

  2. It always boils down to wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Let’s embargo all competition (during the time of film fest) so there will be more money and attention to go around for formula dreck like Shake Rattle and Roll and By The Riber . Movies that won’t get noticed with some real competition present. Go to any high achiever in any endeavor and they will tell you their competition is what drove them to be as good as they are. We do produce some movies worthy to be film festivals abroad. I got news for you, the market here does not appreciate them. The movie going crowd vote at the box office. They speak loud and clear. They either are not able to think or don’t want to think when they pay money to sit in front of the big screen.

    Movies that are produced are really statement of how movie producers see us. Hence the explanation of why Wapakman was made. Enough said.

  3. It all started in the 80’s when every movies just sucked. When there are certain moments that they had to dance and sing under the rain, under the kubo or wherever they wanted it to be. Well I have fond memories of watching some of those films but I as realised now they are nothing but trash. Even some films of Da King and other action films sucked and still suck. I think the 60’s was the golden age of Philippines cinema. Well I appreciate some works of Lino Brocka.

    1. Picture this: you are watching The Matrix in the living room with a lot of people. Ever notice that the room becomes quiet during action scenes and gets noisy during dialogues?

      1. Yeah. I fucking hate it when that happens. Don’t they realize that the dialogues tell the whole story while the action sequences are just there mostly for visual impact?!
        They’d tell you that talking is boring. When the movie ends they tell you that they didn’t understand the film so they say it sucks. Excuse me, but they were texting the whole time!
        Some people are just to stupid to understand the art in storytelling and creative concepts.
        They just want to see actors deliver cheesy lines and laugh at jokes from horse people that aren’t even close to funny.

        1. Well when you have the attention span of a 5 year old from the general population. Can’t expect much here.

    1. It’s because Filipino viewers would rather watch tried and tested formulae rather than innovate.

      And Filipinos who do have creativity are, ironically, appreciated elsewhere.

  4. I think Sisteraka and Si Agimat at si Enteng Kabisote and me are recommended films to watch in the 2012 MMFF. Both for family, comedy and Filipino made.

    1. Hehe, they don’t make us think. 😛

      Better to watch The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and Skyfall. I recommend those because they’re better than those 2 Filipino crappy films.

  5. I recently got Max Payne 3 and its setting inadvertently inspired me to get into Brazilian cinema – particularly crime cinema.

    The first movie I got into was Bus 174, a documentary about a street kid who took hostages aboard a bus and turned it into a national spectacle. And after watching it through, I found out about a “dramatization” of the events called Ultima Parada 174 (Last Stop 174).

    I’m starting to wonder why Pinoy cinematographers haven’t even stopped to take advantage of the obvious anti-Chinese feeling to make their own Ultima Parada.

    1. There was this movie that starred both Assunta and her sister that had Edsa 2 as a back drop. A little bit like how Grand Theft San Andreas had the Rodney King riots as a backdrop (Rodney King RIP)

  6. It’s sad that Philippines don’t utilized the success of the FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) like Escrima/Kali which for some times has been the hype of action movies like the Bourne series and Hanna, we so been left behind by our neighbors like Thailand and Indonesia, Ongbak series and The Raid: Redemption are pretty good and received raves in the international arena..
    Watch the The Raid: Redemption – Official Trailer HD (2012), The Raid – Uncensored Trailer

  7. This is not as much a problem with our directors as it is a problem with us moviegoers. The mediocrity of contemporary mainstream Filipino cinema is but a symptom of how mind-numbingly utilitarian Philippine society is. This country does not encourage its citizens to thrive, but merely to survive; what is the value of a Brocka or a Bernal on the scheme of things, except to remind us of our failings and our misfortunes? Will it fatten our wallets or put food on the table? No.

    Don’t take this to mean that I support such a mentality — I don’t, but then there is little in our present societal make-up that affords us the luxury of cinematic masterpieces. Make this country great again — then we can think about improving our cultural state.

  8. The top media outlets only target the masses. The more mindless hoards they have, the more money they will produce. Introducing anything new to their current “repertoire” is an instant threat and so they try to minimize the damage. One thing that could help this country though is by having a more “legit” critic group that will blast films such as “Moron 5”, that film was beyond disgusting. I’m starting to feel pain when seeing local movie trailers.

    It’s sad to see our indie films being ignored because most of the people involved in it are not well-known or the plot is too thick for the masa to digest.

  9. 50 percent commercial viability & 10 percent cultural and historical value?

    Wow, would you look at that? If you’re movie is a blockbuster hit you’ll win a best picture award… if it holds Filipino values and cultural importance you’ll just receive a round of applause…

    I’ll rather watch those old Filipino Comedy movies, they’re much better to watch…twing

  10. It appears that Thy Womb will be pulled out from the theaters nationwide to make way for the abysmal mmff disasters like sisterikas only because they make more greens than the former.
    And it is not even included as one of the top 3 Best Pictures (sisterikas and one more try won WTF?!!) despite winning the Best Director award. Another proof that the mmff is nothing but a scam.

  11. There are 2 movies that is worth watching in the MMFF, though many of us thought Aguinaldo should isn’t a hero(and I agree) I would still like to invite you to watch El Presidente even with its biased view of Aguinaldo’s “heroics” is still a a superior film against One More Try, the Enteng film, Sisterakas etc, though I haven’t watched it I get a LOT of credible reviews and recommendations from Thy Womb (plus the fact that it got a standing ovation in some foreign film award winning body).

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