Movies for growth
SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Filipino movie fans are mourning the passing of award-winning actor Eddie Garcia.

The actor called “Manoy” did not attain the star wattage of Dolphy, the late action king Fernando Poe Jr. or even Asiong Salonga-turned-politician Joseph Estrada. But Garcia received well-deserved recognition for his acting, with the latest only two days before his death, as Gawad Urian Best Actor for his role as a retired constabulary Metrocom colonel in the movie “ML.”

I can’t remember a movie starring Eddie Garcia where I didn’t like his acting. He never emoted or overacted even in comedy. And I appreciate that he didn’t shift to politics – probably because his star never faded and he felt no need for a career change.

Eddie Garcia did use his star power to successfully campaign for the party-list group Ako Bicol. The party-list has become a farce that is a waste of precious public funds and should be abolished. But I guess “Manoy” couldn’t say no to the group that purports to represent his home region.

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We already know how show business can be a springboard for an enduring political career and dynasty building in our country. Consider the fortunes of the Revilla and Estrada clans.

Joseph Estrada’s rise to the presidency inspired many other actors to try their luck in politics. His fall due to corruption scandals must have contributed to the election defeat of many of the entertainers who tried to enter politics.

Yet Erap managed a political comeback after his criminal conviction, even pulling along with him to election victory members of his extended family.

This year proved to be the clan’s annus horribilis, but then Erap was trounced by a younger opponent who also has a show biz background: Francisco Moreno Domagoso, better known as Isko Moreno.

In the Senate race, people wonder why Lito Lapid, with his graft cases and track record as consistent chairman of the committee on silence, was allowed to return to the chamber. One likely reason for his election is his regular appearance on the hit TV series “Ang Probinsyano.”

Grace Poe has shown competence and independence as a senator. But belonging to Pinoy show biz royalty propelled her to politics, and “Ang Probinsyano” – an action drama series revolving around her late father Fernando Poe Jr. and starring her mother Susan Roces – surely helped land her in second place in this year’s Senate race.

Show biz presence of course is no guarantee of election victory. Another “Ang Probinsiyano” star, Edu Manzano, lost his carpetbagger’s bid for San Juan congressman against the PDP-Laban’s Ronaldo Zamora. Rommel Padilla of the acting clan proved no match for the PDP-Laban’s Ging Suansing in the Nueva Ecija congressional race. And we’ve seen the decimation of the extended Estrada family.

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Successful entertainers should try investing their mega earnings in film production and related enterprises instead of inflicting themselves on the people through mediocre government service once their star power begins waning.

I don’t think film producers can still depend on cinema receipts to turn a profit. With competition from Netflix, HBO and pirated video (P20 per film), I’m not sure if even cinema owners are making money these days.

But there are new revenue streams for film producers. Netflix now includes Filipino movies in its collection of foreign films.

During my recent trip to Fiji, several locals in the main business and shopping area could tell immediately that two fellow journalists and I were Filipinos.

How could they tell? From our accents, the Fijians told us – which they said they learned from watching a lot of Filipino movies and soap operas.

True enough, the main display window on the legit DVD outlet along the main shopping strip featured mostly movies made in the Philippines.

Even the local woman collecting fees at the public toilet gushed to me, “I love Philippine movies!”

One store clerk explained to us that Fijians liked the dramatic story plots in our movies, which reminded them of personal and family conflicts in their society. They also like the ghost stories.

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Over a decade ago during one of my fellowships in the United States, colleagues from Uganda and Kenya also told me that Philippine soap operas were a big hit in their countries.

The Ugandan told me that at prime time, 7 p.m., rush-hour traffic would ease in their capital because people went home to watch the latest installment in a Filipino romantic soap opera. They adored Christian Bautista, she told me, long before I even heard of the actor in Manila.

The soap operas were broadcast at around the same time in Kenya, the journalist from that country told me.

There’s a global market out there for movies and TV serials made in the Philippines. 

Apart from making movies, we can position our country as a center for global movie production.

I have written about this in the past: we have a lot of homegrown talent for animation, special effects and the technical aspects of producing movies.

Filipinos were among those who helped create the fantastic props used in the New Zealand production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies, and in numerous Hollywood films including the Marvel comics franchise.

But Filipinos interested in this sector will need an organizer and possibly access to funding as well as technical support to jumpstart enterprises related to filmmaking.

The creative industries can be a significant generator of meaningful jobs. A working class area in New Zealand, for example, has been transformed by the jobs created by the Tolkien franchise. 

We also have several areas that can be developed to serve as foreign movie settings.

Filipinos love movies so much we might as well develop the film industry into a major engine of economic growth.

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