What’s wrong with Filipino movies?

- Dero Pedero -

It’s that time of year again, and I am not just referring to the carols, tinsel, shopping and excruciating traffic. It is Filipino movie season again as the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2007 reels off in local movie theaters today extending until the first few weeks of the new year.

Once again, Filipino films take the limelight and a varied mix of opinions, reactions and criticisms is  bound to fly around sparking intrigue, provoking tempers and even eliciting laughter and derision.

I got an amusing text which seems to say quite a mouthful about Filipino movies. It went like this (it sounds better in Tagalog so I just included the translation for non-Pilipino-speaking readers):

Sampung katangian na makikita lamang sa pelikulang Pilipino (10 characteristics that can be seen only in Filipino movies):

1. Naka-leather jacket ang kontrabida kahit mainit (The villain wears a leather jacket even if it’s hot).

2. Maraming habilin habang naghihingalo (The dying character has many last-minute messages while catching last breath).

3. May amnesia ang bida (the protagonist/lead actor has amnesia).

4. Sinasabi ng bida ang title ng pelikula (the protagonist says the title of the film).

5. Huling dumating ang pulis (the police are always last to arrive).

6. Naduduwal pag buntis (if the character is pregnant, she is nauseated and vomits).

7. Kakausapin muna bago dalhin sa ospital (they would talk to the sick person or victim first before bringing him/her to the hospital).

8. Nag-uusap muna ang bida at kontrabida bago magbarilan (the protagonist/hero and the antagonist/villain talk first before they exchange gunfire).

9. Kinakausap ng artista ang sarili (the character talks to himself/herself).

10. Pansit ang pasalubong sa pamilya (the take home food to the family is fried Oriental noodles).

Whoever wrote the list must have watched many Filipino films because the elements listed are characteristics of the typical pelikulang Pilipino. The puzzling thing is that the writers, producers and directors must be aware of how trite these scenes are, yet they still resort to the same formulas.

More Pinoy movie-isms

Here are more interesting characteristics perceptible in Filipino movies.

1. The dialogues are usually not in synch with the picture because most movies are dubbed. This can be very disconcerting to the viewer. Furthermore, there is a perceptible lack of consideration for sound space or depth; example of this is when you see a long shot (far) of a couple on the beach yet their voices sound like they are too close to the mic. Their voices should sound far, too, for better sound realism.

2. Movie titles are usually titles of songs (which of course is the theme song) or play of words on the “in” expression of the moment.

3. If there’s a hit Hollywood movie, there’s bound to be a Pinoy version.

4. You know that the monster is about to appear because scary background music pounds in.

5. When the scene gets emotional, sentimental music creeps in.

6. Kicks and punches seldom really hit the actors. They let the sound effects suggest the reality of the impact.

7. Group shots always look like they are posing for a photo or facing a firing squad.

8. The scenes lack foley. These are the ambient sounds that are within hearing distance during the scene like the sound of traffic, hissing of the wind, voices of other people near the scene, etc.

9. Gays are always portrayed as exaggeratedly effeminate, loud and screaming, and usually get hit (nababatukan), providing comic relief.

10. The viewer can foretell the ending even without finishing the film.

What’s really wrong?

If you have a gentle heart and consider the fact that the Philippine movie industry is in its infancy compared to American and other national film industries (not taking into account the third-world budgetary constraints imposed on most productions), you would just close your eyes to the “small, forgivable faux pas and scapegoat formulas filmmakers resort to.

The real culprit I surmise is the “Pwede na ‘yan (that will do)!” attitude and mentality ingrained in the Filipino consciousness. We as a people make do with mediocrity and just shrug, “Pwede na ‘yan. Di na ‘yan mapapansin (that will do; it won’t get noticed)!” Unless we delete this pwede na ‘yan mentality, we will never progress.

The bad news for filmmakers is that viewers are more intelligent these days and they know when they are being treated as fools or shortchanged. The good news though is that producers, directors and people in the film industry are slowly realizing that quality, in the end, will thrill the viewers, make or break the movie and determine its box-office appeal.

See for yourself the gladdening improvement in Filipino movies at this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. But bear in mind that the MMFF is a commercial festival organized to raise funds for its many beneficiaries, not a highfalutin, arty-farty film festival.

* * *

The author is a member of the screening committee and one of the jurors for the Metro Manila Film Festival 2007. For your comments on the article, e-mail [email protected] or text 0905-3130990.

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