Saturday, December 10, 2022

Local Films: A Way Home

by Emmarie May M. Bonganciso | January 27, 2022

Summers of my childhood rushed through my memory by the ringing of a bell. It was a sound that could summon neighboring children out from every corner of the barangay. Rushing to put on my slippers the right way, the adrenaline within my little body set loose my feet, striking the road causing those dusty clouds to float through the lowly air. I ran to the ice cream man, cadencing to the sound of its bells. I think of the afternoon games, the scraped knees and sweat-stained shirts, the hot pandesal and juice at 3 o’clock, and the long nap that followed after. 

I remember the middle of the year by the monsoons, the first day of school, freshly ironed uniforms, and warm breakfast over the morning news. It was the early morning class suspension announcements, the daily traffic and commute, and the smell of newly varnished wooden chairs in school. 

Day in and day out, it is these intricate little things that neatly tie in a common Filipino experience. Within these general experiences lies a multitude of stories told from unique perspectives. Some are more profound, others are told time and time again, while most are hidden in plain sight. It is Filipino storytelling that unearths these secret gems. 

But it seems as if those who seek these worlds have become just as invisible as the stories they find.   

The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) last December 2021 was reported to have a rather flat turnout as the number of viewers significantly decreased amid the pandemic.  Viewers have preferred to either stay at home amid high ticket prices and intensified restrictions, stream films online or pay to see the more highly anticipated “Spiderman: No Way Home” movie instead. 

Although we can attribute the lackluster response to several factors given the current crisis, the diminishing interest in local films has been an ongoing problem for years. Predictable storylines, recurring faces, saturated with gimmicks, and corny jokes — these are often seen as strategies to boost up ticket sales. But they are not the most effective way to sustain the value of a film to a dynamic generation of viewers over time. Sure, they bring in the money but will it bring the lasting support of Filipinos? Unless you give them something to root for, you can’t guarantee Filipinos to fix their eyes on the screens.

That is why producers such as Armi Rae Cacanindin appealed to the public to “give local films a chance” in response to the setback. As Philippine cinema continues to evolve and rise from the ashes, writers and directors have endeavored to break through the common impression of Filipino films being deemed “low-quality”. The industry has been taking notes from neighboring countries like Korea, Japan, and Thailand who are well known for their globally acclaimed films.  However, this goal might call for more than just a good plot. After a series of lockdowns and shifting alert levels, cinemas are among many businesses that come to the threat. 

“Let’s just expect that cinema operations will be like this for the next few months,” Armi added in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Maybe the government can extend help to cinema owners. This will, in turn, transcend to the producers and then to the lowly film workers. We will all benefit from a little financial help. After all, this industry is taxed the heaviest.” 

Our films and stories have the ability to reflect the social issues and dilemmas that plague our country. In a way, for us to truly love the stories we make and produce, it has to somehow start with the government wholly supporting the crafts of its own people. Thanks to streaming platforms, we have access to both local and international films. Stories written and made from all over the world are now at the touch of a button. 

Out of nineteen submitted entries, the MMFF organizers narrowed down the list to eight spanning across genres such as social drama, horror, action and suspense, romance, and comedy. The said films were chosen based on artistic excellence (40%), commercial appeal (40%), Filipino sensibility (10%), and global appeal (10%). Jun Robles Lana’s film “Big Night!” bagged the most awards during the event including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Following closely was Carlo Francisco Manatad’s “Kun Maupay It Panahon” (Whether the Weather is Fine) as Second Best Picture, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects. 

But so much of the dimensions of Filipino life is untapped. We need films that embody the familiar childhood summers, slow living in the rural areas, and the weathering of storms both literal and figurative. Some stories are more profound, others are told time and time again, while most are hidden in plain sight. It is Filipino storytelling that unearths these secret gems. It’s easy to get lost in the charms and wonders of an open world unexplored. But it’s important that we still stay rooted at home. And local films can be our way home. 

Reference: 

Cruz, M. (2022, January 3). ‘Give local films a chance:’ With ‘very heartbreaking’ box-office turnout, MMFF 2021 participants appeal to public. INQUIRER.Net. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://entertainment.inquirer.net/432272/give-local-films-a-chance-with-very-heartbreaking-box-office-turnout-mmff-2021-participants-appeal-to-public

CNN Philippines Staff. (2021, November 12). LIST: Official entries for MMFF 2021. Cnn. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.cnnphilippines.com/entertainment/2021/11/12/MMFF-2021-lineup.html

rappler.com. (2021, December 27). FULL LIST: Winners, MMFF 2021 Gabi ng Parangal. RAPPLER. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.rappler.com/entertainment/movies/list-winners-mmff-gabi-ng-parangal-awards-night-december-2021/

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