Filipino Cinema is dying. The killer? Us.
I should begin in telling that this is a theory that have been triumphantly dominating my brain. The few functioning braincells in it have amiably ceased battling, because 1.) they’re outsized, and 2.) they have low IQ levels. Remember that this is coming from a seventeen year-old moviegoer, who doesn’t know everything about cinema – but he does know this.
This article isn’t about me. I wouldn’t attack my keyboard just to reveal an obvious fact, my inexperience and dimwitness. This article is about Philippine Cinema and its slow, painful death. This is an obvious fact, too; but this, unlike my frequent idiocies, deserves explanation.
This is my theory: Every Filipino, the filmmaker and the audience, the tax-payers and the tax-payees, the rich and the poor, the movie buffs and the casual viewer, are responsible for our Cinema’s dying status. In small and grand scales, we are being accomplices to the murder of our own industry. Put short, we are the killers.
Back in the 90’s, the Government required 30-percent of tax on gross revenues of film productions. A 12-percent “value-added tax” is added, which sums up into a whopping 42-percent tax deductible in a film’s earnings. Tell me: what kind of money are filmmakers going to earn with this kind of tax?
True, movies like “Enteng Kabisote,” “Petrang Kabayo,” and other mindless if not subpar producerals have quite large audiences and would likely to take home a big chunk of money. But this isn’t the case for other movies like “Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay” and “Madaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi.” Both are high-end independently produced movies that unfortunately had only a few dozens of people as audience in their entire theatrical run. Tell me: What kind of money is Antoinette Jadaone and Dante Nico Garcia going to earn?
I should remind everyone: filmmaking, above all, is still a business.
The tax bled Cinema to death. Creativity is taken away when tax became an issue, producers becoming afraid of taking risks with stories that doesn’t have enough market. Mercifully, sometime in 2009, the 30-percent tax imposed on films had reduced to a bearable 10.
However, taxation, isn’t the end of Cinema’s undertakings.
Because the audience, too, are killers. Recent news broke out about the 38th Metro Manila Film Festival. It concerns the issue of Brillante Ma Mendoza’s “Thy Womb,” an internationally acclaimed viewing, not making Best Picture. Instead, escapist infidelity-drama “One More Try” made the cut.
Understandably upset about the result, Mendoza had expressed his thoughts in major talks in newspapers and TV. I also chatted around and found that some directors weren’t exactly happy, as well. Yam Laranas, a director of some renown, his films shown internationally (“The Road,” “The Echo,” “Sigaw”). “In my honest opinion,” he told me via Twitter, “let MMFF be MMFF and let us stop complaining. Let us do our art somewhere else.”
We, as audience, rant on our poor production standards, but we do not realize that we authored those standards. “Thy Womb” was the first film I watched in the Festival, and to my surprise, merely fifty people pooled in the theater, devouring a quality picture. The rest of the audiences settled for nonsensical entertainment like “Sisterakas,” eventually branded as the highest-grossing Filipino movie of Cinema.
Think about it: how would our producers set out to make better films for you, if you, have always settled for a pitifully low standard for film?
Also to blame is our affinity with Hollywood pictures. A movie ticket costs around 200-pesos (about $5.00), which is a bit pricey, given the pressing economic status of the country. While it’s understandable that audiences like better entertainment, the ideal resort is foreign movies; local movies are getting smaller market because of this.
In a week-long theatrical run, foreign movies have the majority of ticket sales. This undercuts what earnings local movies could earn.
Government—killer. Respected movie bodies—killer. Filmmakers—killer. Audience—killer. In all our own ways, direct or indirect, we have killed our cinema. And it’s going to be dead, until we 1.) stop the hypocrisy, and 2.) do the exact opposite of what we were doing.
And for a moment there, I thought I was the one with fewer brain cells. Ha!