Brillante Mendoza, a Filipino independent film maker, recently won as Best Director in the much acclaimed Cannes Festival. World famous directors like Quentin Tarantino, (I believe of Kill Bill fame), gave him a deafening standing ovation for his film “Kinatay” about the gory murder of some sex worker. Yet, when he arrived in the country’s national airport, no airport officials gave him any pompous welcome and the media who was suppose to interview him, almost missed their cue. He shrugs that he is used to the little attention he gets in his country. Afterall, the average Pinoy does not really appreciate art films. When asked if he would commercialize his award-winning piece, he states that he would rather have his film shown in university theaters to serve as inspiration for budding film makers. He hopes that time will come when the average Pinoy will wake up from the fantasy world offered by films now a days and instead patronize films reflecting the reality of life.
I am no big fan of indie films but I watch them whenever I have the opportunity. And back in UP, there are lots of opportunities to watch independent films, that is, if you can free your schedule for their screenings. None the less, I know why these films would never capture the interests of the average Juan dela Cruz. They reflect his daily life. Juan watches the movies so he could temporariy forget the reality of where he is at. So he could forget that he needs to sweat his brow doubly tomorrow because Jr. is sick and his eldest will be entering high school now. He watches movies so he could forget that he lives in a rickety shanty beside a smelly, trash infested creek. He watches movies so that he could forget that he is due to pay some debt he had incurred trying to gamble his luck in the local jueteng or sabong or whatever game of luck there is. Juan watches the movies so for once he could forget the reality of his life now.
(excerpts from the award-winning film, Kinatay)
And because of this, the movie industry is all to happy to oblige. It churns out, year after year, the same movie plots about comedic families beating all odds to happiness; fairy tale lands filled with magical creatures both good and bad; superheroes fighting super villians; love stories where lovers meet, encounter difficulties then end up happy ever after; and suspense thrillers filled with horrific sound and visual effects that minus the surprise factor are not really scary. Year in, year out, the type of movies released are all the same. The plot are all the same. Heck, even the titles are the same, identified only by words like sequel, part 2, pre-quel, or numbers like 1, 2, 3 and recently, by a play of words from the main title of the first film.
Occasionally, a change in the usual selection occurs in the form of films like Muro-Ami, Jose Rizal, and Ploning yet such films quickly find themselves into obscurity. It is the films with the likes of Enteng Kabisote, Tanging Ina, Shake, Rattle and Roll and A Very Special Love that finds itself with sequels. After all, it is these films that Juan can watch so he could temporarily forget his own reality.
(official trailer of Serbis, Mendoza’s entry to the Cannes festival last year)
And given this reality of the movie goers preference in movies, then we can be certain that art films would remain screened in theaters like CCP and UP Film Insti for a long, long time.