'Pulitika, pera': Why Philippines has not won in Oscars, says Ricky Lee

Kathleen A. Llemit - Philstar.com
'Pulitika, pera': Why Philippines has not won in Oscars, says Ricky Lee
Chinese Director/Producer Chloe Zhao, winner of the award for Picture and Director for "Nomadland," poses in the press room at the Oscars on April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles.
AFP / Chris Pizzello

MANILA, Philippines — Since the Best Foreign Language (later changed to Best International Feature Film in 2019) category was introduced at the annual Academy Awards or Oscars decades ago, the Philippines, so far, has not reached anything further than a shortlist.

But with South Korea making history twice in a row with "Parasite" in 2020 and "Minari" yielding a Best Supporting Actress win for Youn Yuh-jung at last Monday's 93rd edition, the Philippines remains hopeful.

Ricardo "Ricky" Lee shared his thoughts on why the Philippines has yet to be nominated at the prestigious award-giving body.

"I think mas makakapasok pa tayo," the seasoned playwright and Palanca-winning author said to select media during a recent virtual presscon.

His own co-written screenplay of "Anak" starring Vilma Santos was submitted to the 73rd Academy Awards in 2000. It did not earn the nomination for the category.

"Maybe wala pa sa level ng South Korean directors, ng ‘Parasite,’ maybe wala pa sa level na ganu’n. Pero ang importante, magaganda ang ginagawa nating pelikula," he said.

He cited past works, especially those of the Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal. The two directors are known to be part of the second golden age of Philippine cinema. Lee cited his work on Brocka's "Jaguar," which competed at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. The latter is another prestigious film festival held annually.

Lee also noted how foreign film viewers have come to appreciate Filipino films, notably the ones made by Lav Diaz, who is fond of long narratives and slow cinema.

"Kasi ang daming pwedeng ibang factors eh. Pwedeng pulitika, pwedeng pera, pwedeng exposure, pwedeng nakatutok sila sa isang bansa na may political turmoil, mas receptive sila sa mga pelikulang galing doon. Ang daming reasons ng pagtanggap nila ng mga pelikula na galing doon. Hindi lang nagdedepende sa merits ng pelikula," Lee explained.

He also said that the lack of government support is another reason.

"Totoo yan. All these years, every single administration, ‘di sumusuporta sa atin sa agham at kultura, lalo na sa pelikula. But it’s just one reason," he noted.

Government support has been said to contribute to the thriving or success of arts and culture.

The case of South Korea's Hallyu (Korean Wave) has often been cited as a carefully planned success story, with the ample support of its government.

In the Entrepreneur.com article "Why South Korea is the God of Culture Marketing" by Abhik Choudhury published March 26, 2021, it looked into the financial support extended by the South Korean government through its Ministry of Culture.

"Their government is aware, supportive and goes the extra mile much more than any other country in the world to promote originality actively. Just look at South Korea’s 2020 budget, which was their biggest-ever allocation to the culture ministry. They allocated an exclusive budget (1.1 trillion won/$983.5 million) for supporting and nurturing the virtual reality content market, for creating a VR content exhibition space in central Seoul (40 billion won/$35.7 million), assistance funds for traditional content creators (113 billion won/$101 million) and funding to support local filmmakers, cartoonists and fashion designers to expand into overseas markets (32.3 billion won/$28.9 million)," Choudhury wrote.

He added that the ministry's biggest motivation for foreign tourists has often been due to Hallyu. The government is in the process of creating "K-Culture Valley" in Goyang for the $1.2-billion, Hallyu-inspired theme park that will house film studios, restaurants, live music concerts, movie galleries to malls selling Korean celebrity merchandise. It is targeted to be operational by 2024.

Lee shared that the Philippines may have seen lack of support and other factors that affect its chances to be even nominated at foreign film festivals but there are ways that it still can achieve that.

"I think ang magandang dahilan ay gumawa tayo ng mga magagandang pelikula para sa mga kababayan natin muna and then pangalawa na 'yung na sana maapreciate din sila sa ibang bansa. Sana makapunta rin sa Oscars, sa Cannes. Pero bago ‘yun, sana maibigan muna sila ng mga kakabayan natin. Sana ang gawin natin para sa mga Pilipino, makauunlad sa mga Pilipino, tungkol sa mga Pilipino. At sana purihin din globally." — With reports from Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo




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