Marrying commerce with quality
LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2016 - 12:00am

“The trouble with censors is that they worry if a girl has cleavage. They ought to worry if she hasn’t any.” —Marilyn Monroe

Filipinos reared in the fiesta tradition welcomed a new millennium with all the fun and flourish they could dream up. However, there was little sign that the downward trend in cinema attendance would change.

Still, a creditable development at the start of the new millennium was the release of a book titled Film in Southeast Asia, Views from the Region, sponsored by the Southeast Asia Audio Visual Archive Association. This was an attempt to make it possible for people in the region to make some sense of their respective and collective histories in the film medium. There were also ongoing activities in archival education, a field where the country is found most wanting.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) continues its efforts to sell the country as a filming location for international outfits, and at the same time, market our films to the world. Archival efforts through the SOFIA society of archivists partnering with the advertising industry hope to restore and archive 40 films, four having been launched through a Sineginto project.

These four are Tunay na Ina, a 1939-restored film starring Rosario Moreno and child star Tita Duran; Geron Busabos, Ang Batang Quiapo, a 1964 film by Chat Gallardo, starring ex-Pres. Joseph Estrada which garnered him the FAMAS award for Best Actor; Noli Me Tangere, a 1961 Gerry de Leon film restored in Germany by the Goethe Institute, starring Eddie del Mar and Edita Vidal; and Maalaala Mo Kaya, a 1954 film by Mar Torres starring Rogelio dela Rosa, Carmen Rosales, Dolphy and Patria Plata.

But there was something wrong somewhere. Audiences for Filipino movies have been dropping yearly. Screenwriters, directors and actors, who started at the time of the studios, found themselves missing the discipline, the consistency and the protective cover of family. It was tiring to move from producer to producer, from one transient relationship to another.

Enter the large competing TV networks ­— Kapamilya of ABS-CBN, Kapuso (GMA 7) and the new challenger Kapatid (TV5) ­— that have all gone into movie production. They are the closest one could get to the studio system of old. They all operated on the same methodology — contracts, some guaranteed income if not from movies at least from TV, and disciplining of errant stars contracted with the network. In the field of film, it has been ABS-CBN through Star Cinema that had invested time and effort at developing its own film directors like Olive Lamasan, Rory Quintos and Cathy Molina.

GMA’s strategy seems to be more discriminating; less film projects, chosen for excellence and impact like the two big-budget films of Marilou Diaz-Abaya: Muro-Ami and Rizal. TV5 started with co-productions but threatens to produce more than the two older outfits combined. Will this competition augur well for the industry? Only history will show us for certain.

At the start of the second decade of the new millennium, the movie networks are the remnants of the once bastions of mainstream domestic movies. Mother Lily Monteverde’s Regal Films has obstinately remained in production; Viva, OctoArts and MZET once in a rare while produce movies, usually for the film festival. Without them, Philippine cinema would truly have long been dead.

(For comments, call 571-1569, e-mail at bibsyfotos@yahoo.com or text 0917-8991835.)

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