By Rica Arevalo
After celebrating Easter, has Philippine cinema also risen? An important event is taking place this Thursday (April 25) at the Cinematheque Center Manila spearheaded by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), where a public consultation on the theatrical release of films will happen together with the stakeholders.
Why is this significant? Local films have been suffering from poor ticket sales due to the dwindling number of moviegoers and, if a film does not succeed in the box office, there is a big chance that it would immediately have its last day in the cinema.
Realistically speaking, award-winning films do not equate to box-office hits (Baby Ruth Villarama’s Sunday Beauty Queen, Joel Lamangan’s Rainbow’s Sunset). When a Marvel franchise movie or any Star Wars movie is showing, no doubt all local theaters carry only one Hollywood film, especially in cineplexes. We cannot blame them because it draws big bucks from the crowd. They even have 24-hour screenings of Avengers: Endgame!
There was a suggestion from the local producers to open the movies on a Friday just like in the US. Only Filipinos go in the middle of a week (Wednesday) to catch a film’s first day in the movie theaters. Hence, the term, “first day, last day.” If a film is poor at the box office on its first day, then it is doomed for “death.” You will never see it on its regular run because it would be pulled out and a new, high grossing title will takes its place.
How can we protect these local films? Hence, there is a need for policies and strong will power from the government that would benefit all parties—movie theater owners, producers, and the local audience.
Local independent productions are on the rise despite having a tight budget or small support.
FDCP has created the First Cut Lab: A Project Development and Editing Lab and brought in foreign experts like international film editors Maya Maffioli and Benjamin Mirguet to mentor feature and documentary storymakers. Among the participants are Rae Red’s Babae at Baril (The Girl and the Gun), Xeph Suarez’ Dancing the Tide, Antoinette Jadaone’s Fan Girl, Carlo Catu’s Purple Sun, E. Del Mundo’s Thanatos, Phyllis Grande’s Everybody Leaves, John Paul Su’s Karaoke News, and Jordan dela Cruz’ The Perilous Odyssey to Mount Gulsuk.
Some good news from the Tribeca Film Festival opening on April 24, two Filipino projects were invited to the Tribeca Film Institute for market meetings. The goal is to connect with industry executives and producers who can potentially finance their projects.
How can we protect Filipino films from ‘first day, last day?’
We have been supporting the Tribeca Film Festival since we watched Pinoy-themed documentaries when we visited New York City some years back like Give Up Tomorrow (2011) and Documented (2013).
The two TFI Network projects are Jordan dela Cruz’ The Perilous Odyssey to Mount Gulsuk and Baby Ruth Villarama’s Touch the Color.
The Perilous Odyssey to Mount Gulsuk is about Joseph, a reluctant teenage father-to-be who embarks on a quest to save the life of his pregnant girlfriend and unborn child. His surreal journey begins in the Philippines, takes him through the soul-devouring labor camps of Arabia, and ends at the peak of the mythical, eldritch Mount Gulsuk. This is Jordan’s first feature film.
Touch the Color is about two Filipina sisters in Manila who are serving life in prison for kidnapping a young boy. Now, as they enter their 19th year in prison, they are offered parole on one condition—the boy’s mother must forgive them. Baby Ruth is one of the prolific documentary filmmakers in the country.
The 2019 QCinema International Film Festival is giving away three P500,000 pesos post production grant for their DocQC Documentary 2019 category and P200,000 pesos for six short films for the QCShorts Competition 2019.
You see, there are opportunities available for everyone to make films. We just need an audience to fill up the cinemas supporting quality local content. Maybe push for the campaign that there is “more fun in Pinoy movies.”