Quo vadis, Philippine cinema?

20150227_154035Today, I heard one of the most revealing truths about Philippine cinema. It’s not dead or dying. It is just, well, polarized.

As I endured the cold Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium at the De La Salle University, Filipino director and professorial lecturer Jose Javier Reyes warmed up the place with his no-holds-barred talk about Philippine cinema and movies. There is apparently a distinction between a film and a movie; the latter is a product that is meant to be sold. Speaking before students, faculty and guests at the 1st DLSU Communications Conference, Reyes began his exposition with questions about the top grossing films in the Philippines. Then, he went on to reveal how much money did the Metro Manila Film Festival make–it was about PhP 1.1 billion. And the top grossing films? Let’s just say, they are mostly romcoms, produced primarily by a dominant studio, which also happens to be producing the most popular stars in movies and on television.

Reyes’ talk focused on how BIG studios today dictate how movies are made, and how economics play a big part in the distribution and production of these movies in cinemas. Contrast that to indie films which, by the way, is not a genre but a business model that simply means films not produced by BIG outfits. The success of English Only, Please and the recent That Thing Called Tadhana–films which Reyes dubbed as “maindies,” have succeeded despite it being produced by smaller outfits.

Indie films are often misconstrued as art or experimental films that only the intellectual moviegoers appreciate. Unfortunately, many Philippine indie films don’t have the marketing muscle and distribution that BIG studio-produced films have, thus are often not making enough money, or worse, forgotten and pulled down from cinemas after less than a week of public showing. Think of Bwakaw.

Reyes argued that Philippine cinema is polarized between movies that are produced as products that sell versus movies that are made by independent outfits that are often only seen in Cinemalaya or, rarely, in short-runs in local cinemas. The top-grossing films in Philippine cinema of all time are produced by BIG studios that feature popular celebrities (who mostly got popular on television), and a well-known director who has mastered the kiliti of the masses. Every year, this has been the case, until some films like English Only, Please break out of the mold. English Only, Please is a romcom that is independently produced. It has also won awards, and has made its producers money, according to Reyes.

The truth is, Philippine cinema does not need to be mind-numbing and crass to be able to make money. There are good films out there–many are even winning awards abroad, but since BIG outfits control the distribution and cinemas, the audience only get to see films that are formulaic.

Reyes stressed that films can and should entertain. But, as it entertains, it should also INNOVATE, REDISCOVER, and REDEFINE Philippine cinema. Innovate perhaps in terms of distribution and production (there’s always digital media waiting to be tapped). Rediscover means the industry being able to figure out ways to showcase local indie filmmakers in cinemas or via digital distribution. Redefine: This is an area where Reyes gets fired up: Philippine movies shouldn’t be classified as indie or mainstream. There should only be one: Philippine cinema, just like Bollywood.






HER: A Review

145061817By the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2018 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita. — Cisco Study

I envy filmmakers who tell a story about a future. Like science fiction writers, they combine science with imagination and create utopian worlds where robots are companions or rebels, are threats to society–are lovers.

“Her” is a love story between a man and a self-learning operating system (is that you HAL?) The man–played by Joaquin Phoenix–works with machines all day. He uses them to compose eloquent love letters for people who seem to have forgotten the art of letter writing.

His world is a lot like ours, with the Internet clearly invisible and yet almost ubiquitous. I love that word: ubiquitous. The operating system follows him around. It talks to him. Comforts him. Bathes him in kind words of encouragement. It is the perfect companion without the human frailties.

She–yes, the operating system is a woman–at least, the voice is a soothing, caring woman in her late 20s, maybe. She sees what he sees. He takes her to the train station. They take strolls. They eat together. Sleep next to each other. And, they play together.

Such a perfect relationship, thanks to technology. However, it was too perfect that it became scary. The operating system starts to learn his language. It starts to think. Feel. Empathize. As it is programmed to respond to his “companion,” the operating system starts to learn about intimacy–and mimics the connection that goes between a man and a woman falling in love.

The man does fall in love with Her–the operating system. He introduces Her to his friends. They make love! It was too perfect to end until he meets his ex-wife who reminded him of his humanity.

He later discovers that there’s so much randomness in human relationships. And that love, when not nurtured, turns to hate. He decides to reveal his love for his operating system. His ex-wife freaks out. And he loses her forever. Conflicted, he begins to reconnect with HER. She, however, has learned something new. There are other operating systems out there that provides her with a sense of purpose, which his Man didn’t. Next scenes show a falling out, a revelation that SHE or HER’S was a bigger universe. She was THE operating system that evolved into every man’s perfect companion.

End of story.

Learning from Indonesia

I have long been covering the tech beat prior to joining Yahoo! And I know there are a lot of Filipino tech start-ups trying to make it in this tough industry.

Reading this recent article from TechCrunch, it makes you wonder where have all the local start-ups gone?

Here’s a quote from the article:

Having matured from its early 2000s Internet obsession with Friendster, it seems Indonesia has become something of a Web force, embracing everything from Facebook to Foursquare catching people off guard with some uncommon swarms.

I know they are out there. But why are they not getting the needed attention?

Should we start learning from Indonesia now that they’re now in the radar of the likes of TechCrunch?

What are your thoughts?

Another newspaper writes 30

This piece of news was a surprise. I was just reading through the blogs at INQUIRER.net when I read this entry 572 issues from Current. It read:

Today we printed the last issue of Inquirer Compact, the company’s first venture in compact-format journalism. We had a great ride, but, well, all good things must come to an end. Ours came after almost a year and a half of publication, with issue no. 572.

The transition occupied most of my time the last two weeks; one of the last things we did was to upload our front pages to Flickr, as a fittingly digital reminder of the work we poured into the title. Over the next several days, I expect, I will be updating the tags, the descriptions (in other words, the text part) of our Flickr site.

But if you’d like to take a look now, the door’s already open.

this blog enters the 2007 Blog Awards finals

Wow. They really, really, really, really, really love me. 😉

Just kidding. It is an honor to be among the top bloggers in the news and media category.

Here they are:

You can also see the rest of the finalists here.