By Vince Ragay
The advent of movies put acting at the forefront of entertainment. Millions escape into Hollywoodian mindscapes where reality melts into a two-dimensional interplay of emotions and adventures. With the coming Oscar Awards this month and our own Film Academy Awards in May, the global film industry again takes centerstage as we see the best honored and toasted by the public at large.
Acting — the prime determinant of the quality of films — is a product of a complex web involving people and technology. Whereas stage plays depend mainly on the actor’s ability to project emotions in real-time, film acting can be broken down into as many takes as required by the director until the highest level of performance is attained. Add to that the emotional thrust added by make-up, lighting, camera angle, special effects, music and background set, and acting can be amplified almost infinitely. So much so that instead of a single emotion parleyed, we are ushered into a multi-faceted experience of a virtual life not easily imaginable in real life. For instance, animated films (voice acting illustrated) have a way of awakening our childlike nature while at the same time retaining our valued maturity. That is, we feel like kids laughing at play but we are still adults who have been given another chance at being children again. And we welcome that opportunity because it makes us feel good.
And that’s what movies do in general: they make us feel, not only the good but also the bad, depending on the final intent. Hence, we may feel old or young at heart, angered or pacified, indifferent or sensitive to the feelings of others. Without these vicarious states, watching films would become nothing more than reading the newspaper through straight-forward, heartless documentaries.
We honor our actors because we want to uplift our being human from that of being a simple expression of existence into an achievement of a living and perfected art. In a similar fashion, Mona Lisa may have been an actor as well but her simple pose has remained an immortal record of what we commonly accept as living art albeit static. Films, on the other hand, come close to capturing the essence of life and living itself. And with the aid of modern technology, we are now able to transcend drab realities to enhance our perception of the physical and the spiritual world, of things and ideas, of what is and what can be.
More than this, technology now allows us to study the technical and psychological aspects of acting and the cinema. A single DVD disc contains not just the movie itself but also information and additional scenes that help us understand the process of moviemaking. With features like slow-motion and fast-forward, our ability to dissect and scrutinize acting and movies has multiplied. In short, there is now no excuse for making low-quality films. Or is there?
Why then is the local film industry dying? At a time when nothing is practically impossible in terms of technology and human artistic achievement, how can this tragic condition come to pass? With more than fifty years of filmmaking under the belt, could it be that we have mindlessly used the same formulas and techniques over and over again? Watching those tear-jerking soap operas seems to tell us we cannot escape certain formats. It is laudable that primetime TV watching seems to be diversifying into newer and more dynamic formats. Still, we find no improvement in substance, no great effort at showcasing our rich and diverse cultural heritage. In fact, acting takes a lower rung compared to that of special effects and celebrity image-building. No, in truth, acting gets lost in the commercial hype that targets not the perfection of the craft of acting but the cornering of as many viewers as possible.
Yes, producers have to balance the artistic aspect of movies with economic realities. But then the industry suffered not because people no longer patronize movies for economic reasons but because the quality of movies has not improved. Do we think that if we were able to produce movies with the same quality as that of Hollywood films that people will still prefer the latter? Perhaps, if colonial mentality has become the ultimate cancer of our brains. But all things being equal, more people would flock to movies in Filipino than in English for obvious reasons. More people will watch movies where the actors talked and behaved like themselves. More people will watch movies that showcased events, things and places close to their hearts.
As schoolchildren, we all heard stories of our heroes and ancestors struggling to build a nation. At a time when we can hardly talk of our country with enough pride, shouldn’t it be a given that more and more films should portray the deeds of these nation-builders and pioneers? While Hollywood is making money portraying the lives of Alexander the Great, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Christ, Ray Charles and Howard Hughes within the past two years, the last time a producer dealt with a Filipino pioneering spirit was when Cesar Montano played Rizal. Well, there may have been others but how come I can’t remember any? Because Rizal was the last Filipino movie I watched. And that was more than five years ago. (A Hollywood producer wants to do a film about the 1986 People Power.) The thing is: drawing power emanates from those who have consistently worked at not only maintaining a high level of quality but also keeping in mind the task of recovering our diminishing store of national pride.
What would happen if Leonardo diCaprio wins the Oscar’s Best Actor Award? It would not only multiply the sales of his movie “The Aviator”, it will also put the character of eccentric Hughes in the consciousness of more and more people. It will bring back a dead man back to the world of the living. Every time we watch diCAprio, we would see not him but Hughes. Alright, girls may swoon now at the cute actor but eventually when they grow old, they will learn to truly appreciate his skills at acting. Isn’t this what we need for us to learn to appreciate our own ancestors (whether heroes or heels) and our own culture? We can’t avoid getting handsome teenage actors to play young Lapu-lapu, Bonifacio or Quezon, but with excellent acting, more of our people may absorb the passion of those people who helped establish our nation.
Acting, with all its potential for educating and inspiring our youth, deserves to be honored. Likewise, it deserves to be nurtured and developed. And it takes a whole nation to do it.
- – - – - – - – - -
Vince Ragay is a Civil Engineer who is engaged in building design and construction in environmental projects. He is also a creative writer and a prize-winning songwriter. Feedback to this article can be sent to < firstname.lastname@example.org >