Aug 26
THE DYING EMBER by Butch Macaro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Aug 26, 2005

In love’s smoldering heart may still remain.

A line in the chorus of a beautiful love song of long ago. Pardon me, I cannot remember the singer nor the composer but I like the melody and the touching lyrics of the song.

Why did this line strike me with great impact? For me, it somehow describes the present situation of the movie industry, the world that I live and work in. Some people in and out of the industry are saying that the industry is dying or worst, it is dead! I vehemently refuse to accept it.The industry, maybe, is in a lull, resting but not dead or dying. Though it pains me to accept the fact that annual film productions have been reduced to an alarmingly record low in the country’s cinema history.

The film industry may be compared to the flickering coals in a barbecue pit. But it is nonetheless still flickering… and still alive. Another handful of charcoal pieces and one can fan it to catch fire and begin smoldering again.

In the early 1970s, some 200 hundred or more films were produced each year and shown in big theaters for consecutive days. Before a batch of box-office hits closed their run, other new exciting films were already in the can. People in the industry were more enthusiastically inspired doing picture after picture. The movieworkers, from directors to the utilility boys, never had it so good.

The advent of martial law started the slow decline of film productions because of censorship. Producers and directors found it close to impossible thinking what kind of picture the MTRCB will approve. They were always on their toes, not knowing what particular scene will be cut and what will remain of the director’s obra maestra. The operating word was restraint. The movie makers were understandably restrained. They were not given the freedom to make pictures of their choice. There was even a time when movie workers had to bring their protest to the streets. I was with other movie workers and film industry bigwigs when we marched with the late Lino Brocka. The film makers were able to make their point—that they will make movies they feel will better express the true sentiment of a real artist enjoying his or her untrammeled freedom of expression.

Fast forward to today and we are confronted by the proliferation of television dramas and fantasy programs which have knowingly or unknowingly affected the movies as far as movie aficionados are concerned. An exodus of actors and actresses formed lined on roads which all lead to the television networks. The ambition and the dream have changed. Whereas then all TV actors, actresses and even directors aspired to work for the movies, now it is the other way around.

So why take the trouble of going to the cinemaplexes when you can watch your favorite matinee and teenage idols right in your own living rooms, an arm’s length away from your lunch or dinner, and your ice-cold bottle of beer or steaming cup of coffee.

And if your preference are foreign films, there are those ubiquitous VCDs and DVDs, just a short distance away from your VCD or DVD player.

Public officials in congress and the senate are supposed to make laws that will benefit the Pilipino people. Then why not make laws in favor of the local movie industry that might impose a little control to regulate the influx of imported films from Hollywood and our neighboring Asian countries.

At present, we have three senators who were products of the movie industry, who became known and popular in the whole country through the movies they made, whose names were by-words in every household and therefore held an edge over the other candidates as far as name recall was concerned. Isn’t it just right for them to look back to the industry they came from after winning in the last elections?

But the real problem, sad to say, begins with us filmmakers and movieworkers.The kind of movies, the strength of the storylines and good acting plus superb direction will surely spell incredible returns at the box office. We must know this by heart by this time. But can our scriptwriters guaranttee an engrossing, touching storyline if they do it in haste? And haphazardly too?

It was a welcome respite lately when many producers started balking at making bomba or ST or R-rated sexy films when they realized that the male crowd had gotten tired watching naked women wrestling with their lovers in bed. This was further aggravated when the SM ciruit of theaters refused to exhibit R-rated films.

There are good stories to write about us Pilipinos. Our culture is most unique, interesting and colorful than other countries in the world. But the sad reality was and still is that we do not have the liberty to choose what local movies to watch. The kind of movies offered to us greatly depended on the decisions and choices of producers who had invested on themselves the spoonfeeding of the local cinema audience. If we do not enjoy watching locally produced movies, why must we force ourselves to watch them only to go out of the theater murmuring invectives because of disgust.

The subject matters of some of our local films are complicated and cannot identify with the Pilipino culture or are way up over the simplyefolks’ heads. If we make movies about the more simple and common things and subjects in life, maybe more people will watch them and appreciate them in good measure.

If we will not wake up to realize what the industry really needs, maybe sooner or later it will surely die for there are lots of people in the industry who are working together to kill it. The problem can be summed up in a single word: greed! Even before a new movie is shown in local theatrer VCD or even DVD copies have already been produced, maybe by the producer himself or his cohorts. This really kills the leisure of theater-going.For instead watching new Tagalog films in movie houses, they will wait for the VCDs and instead save their movie money to watch foreign films.

Now let us talk about our new breed of young stars.The television networks have been discovering left and right new talents through their search for myriad stars contests. What comes next is pushing the new discovered stars even if they are not properly trained in acting. The result, mediocrity. Worse, loveteams will be created to tittilate the interest of moviegoers. These partnered talents are soon caught halfway between reel and real as they make-believe being lovers. They have to be seen by people anywhere, everywhere. Day in day out, the loveteam must be seen together even in the darkest part of the studio or alone by themselves in temptation island or elsewhere. For as long as they are together and the fans have the ‘kilig’ factor for their idols, everything will be just right. Both sides of the loveteam have no choice but to play their part even if in reality, they not like each other. Or they hate each other. To them, that is the brand of acting they know. But in the presence of fans, they have to be sweet and romantic. They have to pretend they are in love with each other. After being together for sometime, the girl in the love team will become pregnant and that is the end of her movie career.

Now let us put all these reasons together– the eradication of piracy in our midst; the need for self respect and self-improvement on their craft on the part of our young actors and actresses; the renewal of our commitment and responsibility as filmmakers to come up with more viable and meaningful films; and a renewed dedication on the part of moviegoers to promote and patronize local movies. Then let’s hope that these factors will perhaps help improve the quality of our films. And bring the fire back into the dying embers of our local film industry.