By William Mayo
President, Kapisanan ng mga Direktor ng Pelikulang Pilipino
Three Filipino films directors—Carlos Siguion-Reyna, Emmanuel Borlaza and this writer—attended the 5 th Uni-Mei Asia-Pacific Freelance Film Production Technicians and Creators Conference held in Mumbai ,India from October 10 to 14, 2005. The conference was organized by the Media Entertainment Arts Sector of the Union Network International of Brussels , Belgium , and the Indian Film Directors’ Association (IFDA).
In one of the sessions, the Philippine delegation provided the conference participants, mostly directors and other film craftsmen, an overview of Philippine cinema. The vast panorama started on the first golden era of Philippine cinema during the 1950s when Filipino movies and talents harvested awards and recognitions from the Asian and the San Sebastian film festivals.
The delegation report underscored the fact that in the 1970s, Filipino movies were performing stronger in the box office than imported movies from Hollywood . This reversed a trend that found local films being trounced handily by foreign movies. The catalyst for this change included better stories and screenplays, more dynamic direction and a host of movie stars who were suddenly catapulted to stardom. That time, Filipino movies were simultaneously exhibited in 70 or 80 theaters while foreign movies were shown in 10 or more theaters. The Philippines was then the third largest film industry in the world and was invited to send entries to presitigious film festivals in Cannes , Berlin , Toronto , Brussels , San Francisco and other cities.
But the delegation painted a subdued picture on the state of Philippine cinema today. They admitted that the local film industry has indeed declined to its lowest ebb in decades. The downtrend is attributed to a combination of these modern-day problems—unabated film piracy, onerous taxes, more aggressive television programming, wide-spread cable facilities, higher production cost, relatively high admission prices and erratic censorship regulations.
The delegation also pointed out that changes in the industry must be considered in its demographic context. Close to 65 percent of the Filipino population is under the age of 30 and has been “exposed to a lot of visual stimuli from video games, the elliptical language of SMs or text messaging, the internet and its hyperlinks and the visual experience emanating from the convergence of cellular phone technology and television.”
In short, the delegation report stated, the audience is highly visually literate. Audience demographics have indeed changed in the last two decades. Prior to the 1980s, the majority of cinema goers was comprised of people with lower income. These low-income bracket moviegoers today watch films once or twice a year because they have to save up for in as much as admission prices have gone up. The moviegoing audiences today are predominantly from the higher income bracket. They are better educated and thus, more demanding and discriminating of their film fare.
In the 1980, the report further explained, around five to 10 million Filipinos watch films each day, which was more than the number of people who went to church. In short, the film was the new religion for most Filipinos. Today, television has taken the place of film as the new religion. But although TV has replaced film as the new religion for most Filipinos, the stuff of film—which is drama—serves as TV’s major attraction.
So, in a sense, film has only transferred its power to television. Put more simply, television has simply appropriated the power of film. Today, the two biggest TV stations in the Philippines each devote four or more hours of prime time everyday to drama, the delegation report emphasized.
The three Filipino directors also dwelt on the aspect of intellectual property regarding filmmakers and craftsmen. The Philippines has a policy to protect the intellectual property rights of creators of literary and artistic works, whish is also enjoyed supposedly by the creators, artists and workers of the film industry. But the sad fact, the report cited, is that the film industry today does not enjoy the benefits as enacted in the intellectual property law. Filmmaker and workers receive nothing outside their talent fees and salaries received in the process of filming a movie project.
The three directors actually represented three organizations. This writer represented the KDPP, Director Siguion-Reyna, the Directors Guild of the Philippine Inc. and Director Borlaza, the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Pelikulang Pilipino (NMPP). Thus, the welfare and labor problems confronting the Filipino film workers were also presented to the conference.
The delegates toured the Film City in Mumbai , India which comprised 200 hctares of film studios housing sound stages and the ADLAB, a modern post-production facility equipped with Dolby digital sound and film processing equipment.
The conference was well attended. Among the participants were: Alex Law, director-producer of Hongkong; Opender Chanana, secretary general of the IFDA, Lynn Gailey from Australia ; Krishnamohan Reddy, secretary general of the Andhra Pradesh Dirctors’ Association;
Enison Sinaro, chairman of the KFT-Indonesian Cineast Association; Mohammad Hassan Syed, president of the Malasiayn Film Workers Association; Director Anna Cahill of New Zealand; Graeme Tetley of the New Zealand Writers Guild; Muhammad Nawaz Nizzo, president of the Pakistan Directors’ Guild;
Arthur Latiff Nayyar, secretary general of the Film Singers Association of Karachi; Dany Leong of the Screenwriters’ Association of Singapore; You-Ning Lee, president of the Directors’ Guild of Taiwan; Kitiphit Tamrongweennijchai of the Thai Film Directors Association; Susanne Baekgaard Nielsen, secretary general of the Danish Filmworkers Union;
Jim Wilson of Uni-Mei Brussels, Belgium and Bettina Martens of Uni-Mei Switzerland; Ashok, vice-president of the Karnataka Film Workers, Artists, Technicians Federation;
S. Vijayan, president of the Film Employees Federation of South India; V. Chandrashekar, president of the Film Cinematographers Union of Bangalore, India;
Sukar Djasman, secretary general of the Indonesian Cineast Association; Abdullah Fathonie, vice-secretary general of the Indonesian Cineast Association; and Aparna Ghatak of the Federation of Cine Technicians and Workers of Eastern India.