Women in cinema on the future of Philippine cinema
Irish Christianne Dizon (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – At no other time is Philippine cinema most alive than during the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. There’s a temporary moratorium on foreign films, so we’re compelled to support our own. School’s out, bonuses in, a tidal wave of humanity at the malls, ready to plunk down cash for Pinoy movies: “Here we are now, entertain us!”

But controversies surrounding the festival raised a lot of questions — questions about the organization of the event, the politics behind it, and questions about Philippine film in general. We’ve come to realize that even for those of us who aren’t part of #BuhayPelikula and would probably never know what it’s like to give birth to a movie, it’s our moral imperative to give a damn about our national cinema and where it’s headed.

So we asked two brilliant filmmakers about their frustrations, hopes, and vision for their craft.

The first, Antoinette Jadaone, is a director that The Philippine STAR Supreme has called “the future of mainstream cinema.” That was our fearless forecast in 2015 and it has come true. With critical-and-commercial hits under her belt (English Only, Please, That Thing Called Tadhana, You’re My Boss), plus a TV show that has even the snobbiest heads nodding (On The Wings of Love), Tonet has solidified her status as one of the most important female filmmakers of our time.

The second, Bianca Balbuena, is one of the most prolific film producers working today. At just 29 years old, her credits include Walang Forever (which won Best Picture at the recently concluded MMFF), That Thing Called Tadhana (last year’s first indie-turned-mainstream hit film), and internationally acclaimed films such as Above The Clouds, Swap, and Lav Diaz’s soon-to-be-released Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis.

Here’s what they have to say.

Bianca Balbuena, producer

What is your pipe dream for the local film industry?

I dream of unity between the independent and mainstream film worlds. I wish we didn’t have to classify films as mainstream or indie. Why can’t it be just one Philippine cinema? Why does it have to be taga indie ako — indie kikita. Or taga mainstream ako, pang bobo films ko. Kisapmata, Maynila Sa Kuko Ng Liwanag, Manila By Night, Insiang — were they indie or mainstream? If we all unite, no studio giant is big enough and no theater distribution mafia is strong enough.

Last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival was controversial, to say the least. If you had it your way, what changes would you implement?

I want to see better entries to the annual Metro Manila Film Festival — less garbage! (And by garbage, I mean a film whose main concern is making money by way of product placements and mentions rather than telling a compelling story.) What should we do? Can we replace the people managing MMFF with film practitioners and filmmakers themselves? If not, I wish filmmakers would continue to make good movies, try to join the MMFF, and make the audience realize there are better films, like what Honor Thy Father and Heneral Luna did. If we keep feeding the audience garbage, they will only know garbage. But on their own, I wish Filipinos learn to demand for better flicks. They deserve it.

There is this weird dichotomy: Our films are recognized abroad and we win awards, but when they’re shown here, they bomb spectacularly (i.e. Thy Womb). Why is this the case?

Other countries are insecure because we have so many good films. They keep competing with us, but we always get the festivals and the audience. By we, I mean Philippine cinema. Parang in all film festivals, Filipino films get in. You don’t see a lot of Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean films. Its always Filipino films. Why do we get recognition abroad but here, ayaw natin? I also ask that question. And I haven’t figured out the answers. Ang masasabi ko lang: Ang hirap gumawa ng pelikula.

Antoinette Jadaone, director

If you could talk to the Pinoy audience, what would you tell them?

I wish for the day when we think a film is beautiful not because it is indie but because it is just that: a beautiful Filipino film. (In the same way, I wish for the day when we think a film is senseless not because it is mainstream, but because it is just that: senseless film.) Hindi porke mainstream, basura; at hindi porke indie, maganda. Basta magandang pelikula, magandang pelikula. I wish for the day when we don’t have to rally behind every small, beautiful film because it’s losing theaters or because nobody’s watching. I wish we didn’t have to beg, to coerce, to ask for pity, as in, “Please, parang awa n’yo na, panoorin n’yo ito. ‘Wag n’yong tanggalin muna sa mga sinehan.” May we finally recognize a good film when we see one.

With the controversy that happened in the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival, what do you want to tell your fellow filmmakers?

I wish we learn to appreciate the Pinoy films we love — without putting down others. Lalo na kung hindi pa naman natin napapanood. We are just one industry, and a very small one. Tayo-tayo pa ba ang magtatapakan? I wish our love for Pinoy cinema translates to every film we make, so we have ones that come from the heart, from a sincere place.

What can theater owners and managers do for Philippine movies?

Don’t give all of their cinemas to the Spidermans or the Supermans or the Hunger Games. I wish for equal treatment for local producers, whether big or small. Sana bumaba na ang presyo ng tiket sa sine.

Is Philippine cinema dying?

I believe in Pinoy cinema — I refuse to believe that it is dying. I’ve been a fan for so long, ngayon pa ba ako magdududa? Hindi ito namatay dati, hindi ito mamamatay ngayon. Hindi ito mamamatay.

* * *

Tweet the author @IrishDDizon.

ACIRC ANTOINETTE JADAONE BIANCA BALBUENA CINEMA FILM FILMS MAINSTREAM METRO MANILA FILM FESTIVAL PINOY STRONG WISH
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