Date: Thu, 07 Jul 2005 18:40:13 -0000
Subject: Who killed the Tagalog movie?
Who killed the Tagalog movie?
By Isah V. Red, MANILA STANDARD TODAY (undated)
Joel Lamangan and his colleagues at Directors Guild of the
Philippines were probably gnawing their tongues while watching movie
fans streaming into cinemas showing Batman Begins last week.
They could be doing the same now that War of the Worlds and
Fantastic 4 are in theaters. Meanwhile, the two Tagalog movies —
Nasaan Ka Man and Happily Ever After—showing in some cineplexes (not
all plexes want to show Filipino movies for obvious reasons—theater
operators don't make money on local movies) are pressed hard to draw
This kind of scenario peeves Lamangan et al. If you've been watching
the recent awards night in which this director had the opportunity
to take on the microphone for his "thank you speech" you would know
how he detests Hollywood, even blaming it for the demise of
Philippine cinema. Also, invoking freedom of speech, he would
lambaste the present administration, citing specifically President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the
woes besetting the local movie industry.
If I were a movie director, which fortunately, I am not, I'd
probably feel the same, especially if directing a movie were my
bread and butter.
Lamangan's anger basically stems from the fact that very few movie
producers are willing to take risks at the box office these days.
Star Cinema, the movie production affiliate of ABS-CBN, and Regal
Entertainment Group of Lily Y. Monteverde are the only outfits
producing movies, although their output has diminished as well.
Yet, the director likes to blame Hollywood for the demise of
Philippine cinema. Lamangan probably has forgotten that Hollywood
has always been in the consciousness of Filipinos since cinema
became the newest invention of the 20th century. Doesn't he remember
that even before he was born Tagalog movies (as they were referred
to at that time) were merely produced to cater to a specific class
in Philippine society? And the model of the films produced by
Sampaguita and LVN studios was film noir, then le genre du jour of
And even during the period considered by contemporary Filipino film
historians as the second golden age of Philippine cinema, which was
the period in the mid-'70s to the early '80s when young directors
Lino Brocka and Ysmael Bernal, Hollywood films were the dominant
Giving in to the protestations of this group of directors, President
Ferdinand E. Marcos, during his dictatorship, tried to limit the
entry of Hollywood movies in the country. As a result, fly-by-night
movie producers surfaced and came up with soft-porn stuff (and
sometimes hardcore. Thanks to the strict censorship laws at that
time, all the actual sex scenes were excised from the theatrical
versions shown in theaters. (However, some unscrupulous producers,
in collusion with theater operators and bookers successfully
reinstated the scenes when shown in rundown theaters in Manila and
Serious directors like Brocka and Bernal struggled to win audiences
to their movies. But it seemed that most of them had already been
seduced by the sex kittens willing to be ravished by their male
partners in the slew of trash produced by individuals who were not
concerned about movies as art but whose motivation was mainly to
make a fast buck from movies shot in less than 10 days and whose
actors did no more than bare their bodies and engage in some crudely
choreographed sex acts.
The deluge of soft porn flicks also threatened Hollywood movies in
the Philippines for a while. Joel Lamangan may not have been aware
of this because as he claims he was in detention for being a
Now, who killed the Tagalog movie? Not Hollywood, for sure. The
Filipino producers who kept on turning out mediocre movies should be
held liable for the death of the industry.
Interesting article, and Mr. Red has a point: Hollywood has been around, and we are producing poor product.
But that isn't the complete picture. During the '50s and '70s a vibrant world cinema existed, one that doesn't exist today, or isn't as vibrant.
During the '80s and '90s Hollywood discovered that the foreign market is at least as important if not more important that the domestic market. Big-budget flops like The Last Action Hero and Waterworld could actually make their money back if they sold their movie in large territories like Japan and Europe. In fact, the world-wide premiere was invented during this time, partly to discourage piracy, partly to take advantage of the popularity of brand names like Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and the like.
This development had several consequences. First, big Hollywood movies could not flop--they made their money back overseas, meaning Hollywood had incentive to produce more of them. Second, this meant more aggressive marketing and distribution aimed at overseas markets, something they had not paid as much attention to before.
This trend helped kill Hong Kong cinema, which at present is a shadow of what it once was in the '80s and early '90s. The trend has also further depressed filmmaking in most of Europe (except most notably France), and the non-anime feature production in Japan.
Two of the strongest non-Hollywood film industries today, France and India, are characterized by protectionist policies that either limit Hollywood films, or support local film production.
Definitely, as Mr. Red says, on the question of who killed Filipino film, there is blood on our producers' hand, who have made much mediocre work. But there is also blood on Hollywood's, and the sooner we recognize this fact, the better.