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Directors’ Wishes

Empowered film community, big hits in the global market, fair deal in distribution in celebration of the centennial of Philippine cinema

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By Rica Arevalo

The recent Metro Manila Film Festival has set a new record as the highest grossing MMFF ever—earning over P1.06 billion pesos! Who should celebrate? The producers? The local audience? The theater owners? Or just Vice Ganda?

One good move from the MMFF is the decision to sponsor the international film festival participation of 2018 Best Picture winner Rainbow’s Sunset “to promote quality Filipino films in the international scene and provide opportunities for Filipino filmmakers.” We would all raise hell if the number one box-office hit Fantastika: The Princess, The Prince, and the Perya be sent to an A-list international film festival that would “define” Philippine cinema to the world.

The Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI), the premier organization of film directors in the country, has a new board and we ask them what their wishes are for the New Year.

A mixture of old and new filmmakers

A mixture of old and new filmmakers

DGPI president Paolo Villaluna thinks that we need “a better economy so our audience can choose to enjoy their cinematic culture.” His film, Pauwi Na (Pedicab), won the Golden Goblet Award at the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival. He also dreams of an empowered and united film community free from the restraints of government censure. “More important, an enlightened theatrical system where equity and fairness are practiced,” he adds. “Local cinema continues to survive. In its 100th year, let’s guarantee it thrives!”

Joel Lamangan hopes there will be more films produced in 2019 to create more jobs for the film workers. “I hope there will be a more valid and consistent program on the protection of film workers’ right,” he says. The 2018 MMFF Best Director claims, “I hope for the DFA offices in all countries to organize a Filipino film festival in their sphere of influence. If the Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, French are regularly having festivals in our country, why don’t we do the same so our films will be known abroad.”

Sunday Beauty Queen director Baby Ruth Villarama muses, “I hope the cinema chains in the country will finally realize the demand of the Filipino audience for newer content. Filmmaking is a brutal industry and movie distribution is the barrier to entry. I wish they would be more open to helping good films from small producers in making sure there is balance in sustainability and discourse.”

Filmmaker Will Fredo is also the executive director of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). “The quality and standard of films have gone way up, but we’re still spending the same and even lower. Technology is changing the landscape and we need to catch up,” he says. “I hope producers will make better choices, spend more to bring up the quality of films competitive to the global market. My prayer: That one or two local films will hit it big in the international market.”

Ed Lejano, the festival director of the QCinema International Film Festival, acknowledges, “Despite the availability of various platforms and micro-cinemas, our film industry needs to give more access to independent films.” His wish is for non-mainstream titles to open on a Friday (instead of Wednesday) and that they be given at least a week for their theatrical distribution.  “Outside of film festivals, the industry gatekeepers, especially theater owners, should reach out to our indie filmmakers to allow them a fair deal to be able to compete with Hollywood blockbusters,” he adds.

Sari Dalena desires to have an expansion of genres and forms. “I hope art, horror, action films alongside rom-coms, children’s films, films based on Philippine literature and documentaries, animation, etc. that producers and studios will back up and finance,” she elaborates. There is also a need for “some forward thinking policy-making to encourage production partnerships and patronage,” says the Alimuom producer.

Carlos Siguion Reyna stresses, “Schedule the film festivals with more time in between any two of them, so audiences can save up for each one.” He also hopes for “better audience appreciation and attendance for better movies.” The New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts alumni encourages “filmmakers to let their movies speak for themselves and writers on film to dig deeper into the movies, serving their readers beyond tossing out easy opinions.”

The youngest DGPI board member Pepe Diokno, 31, has this to say, “Cheers to 100 years of Philippine Cinema!”

Yes, this 2019, a lot of film events are happening, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 622 Series of 2018, the Centennial Year of Philippine Cinema was declared in honor of Dalagang Bukid (1919) by Jose Nepomuceno, considered the first Filipino-produced and directed feature film.

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