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China finally trounces Hollywood

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“JUANA C. the Movie” seeks to light a satirical fire under traditionally apathetic Filipinos.

It took years to do it, but the good news coming from China is that its homegrown movie productions have finally become more popular, and made more money at the box office than blockbusters from Hollywood, which have traditionally ruled the roost for a really long time.

This is great news because it happens so rarely. Most of the time, big American films beat the local competition like heck, since “colonial mentality” is alive and kicking not just in these parts, but practically everywhere else.

So how did the Chinese film industry finally pull it off? Instructively, by not trying to beat Hollywood at its own “blockbuster” game, but by focusing on its own stories, which affected and appealed to Chinese filmmakers in a personal way, thus adding a unique element that “generic” Hollywood hits couldn’t match.

Well, hooray for those gifted and savvy Chinese filmmakers for proving that Hollywood’s generic gambit isn’t the only game in town!

Key advantage

“ANG PAGDADALAGA ni Maximo Oliveros” tells story in “our own way.”

So, how can filmmakers in other countries make Uncle Sam cry “Uncle!?” By similarly discovering their own key advantage and connecting with local viewers heart-to-heart, unlike the big, brash imports, which have great but impersonally generic production value going for them.

How does that translate and parse in the Philippines? Granted, we’re more cluelessly “colonial” than some, but we shouldn’t try to compete with the competition from overseas on point of budget and sheer production values. Rather, we should tell our own stories our way, by keeping it personal and felt.

This is no easy shift for some Filipino filmmakers and viewers, who have been conditioned for many years to prefer “imported” entertainment above the homegrown variety. And yet, like the Chinese, we have to make it, if we are to regain the ground we lost (from a high of 200 features a year, the local movie industry now makes only 40 or so mainstream movies).

Another way out of the still lingering mainstream production slump is to make it easier for more of our “indie” productions to break into the major theater circuits, where the big audiences are.

After “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank,” the latest film that’s trying to do that is “Juana C. the Movie,” starring Mae Paner, the sassy spark plug behind the Juana Change Movement, which seeks to light a (satirical) fire under traditionally apathetic Filipinos to make them want to more actively fight corruption and other negative impulses.

Uphill battle

It promises to be an uphill battle since many Filipinos go to the movies to escape rather than confront their problems. But, we hope that the leavening use of pointed wit and humor will make the film succeed, so other producers can similarly summon up the mojo to follow suit with their own edgy and grinningly confrontational productions.

Any and all gambits are welcome, as long as, like the Chinese, our films can end up getting their rightful share of the local film market.

Yes, we have our occasional “gay-fantasy” blockbusters, but Filipino films will never truly come into their own if we continue to appeal to the least common   denominator of our viewers’ most facile, puerile and escapist illusions!

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  • reddfrog

    Most Filipino films are made with the assumption that the audiences are imbeciles. And this extends to almost all facets of PH entertainment. Gross and classless.

    • tekateka

      Dumb Filipinos only appreciate dumb films.. well, 80% of Pinoys are dumb… art films has no chance in this market…

      • reddfrog

        I am still bitter about the fact that my dad brought me to see a Chiquito film instead of Star Wars back in 1977.

  • Tambukikoy

    Filipino films, pang chimamays at chimomoys , baklengs at silahis while eating adodo chiken at kare kareng kaumagahan.

  • PiNewyorker

    Chinese films made a big hit in china because they don’t allow it to compete with hollywood movies. Hahaha. They control what has to be shown in the theatres . What’s to be proud about that? They control everything in their country. I don’t know why Nestor Torre is happy about it?

    • HoyGago

      He’s happy that a local industry is beating a foreign industry. May it be through government regulation or the local industry finding its worthy connection with its audience, isn’t that success something worth emulating?

      • PiNewyorker

        I completely disagree. Competition should force local filmmakers to work harder and make their craft better. Eliminating your competitor does not make you better, it makes you feel better by fooling yourself. Like let’s feed people with crap for a long time and they will get used to it.

      • HoyGago

        That’s the capitalist model you’re talking about, and that assumes an equal playing field to begin with. But with foreign films at a financial advantage, and a local industry struggling to find funding, then under the capitalist model, local industry shouldn’t even try.

        By giving local industry preferential access to the market, the playing field is leveled. Box office receipts could then go to fund better local films.

      • PiNewyorker

        You mean you prefer the principle of entitlement. There is always an excuse for lack of talent. There is no such thing as equal playing field – most of the succesful people in the US started with only their knowledge and talent. We always blame somebody else for our shortcomings – We blame the spaniards, the weather, the americans, the politicians, religion etc.

      • HoyGago

        Certainly you don’t suggest that our directors and artists lack talent. And to discount the role of market forces and local realities in the success of Americans is, well, ignorant.

        A system of entitlement? Not really. You’re merely providing your industry with a market, not investing directly into production companies. No blame game here, just logical solutions to a problem that our industry is experiencing.

      • PiNewyorker

        Yes because based on china’s experience, being a closed society is very healthy to one’s economy. As I said , we are only good at excuses.

  • siJuanDalandan

    The Chinese government manipulates the showing of foreign films so that Chinese films do not face any serious competition. For example, the release of Iron Man 3 in China was deliberately delayed. This creates the impression that Chinese films are doing “better” than foreign films.

    • PiNewyorker

      That’s why i am wondering why Nestor Torre is proud of it? Odd right? The only way to see and find the creme de la creme is through free enterprising! The survival of the fittest!

    • HoyGago

      Similar to how we block off cinemas for local movies during MMFF. Clearly, government regulation and encouragement can go a long way in priming our local cinema industry.

      • siJuanDalandan

        You’re right in that we also block off cinemas for local movies during MMFF, but I’ve never heard Nestor U. Torre say that “Philippines finally trounces Hollywood.” My point is that it is inaccurate to say that China has beaten Hollywood in its own game when, clearly, the Chinese government manipulates/regulates the release of foreign films so ensure that local movies do not face any serious competition.

      • HoyGago

        The MMFF experience show how regulation alone cannot force consumer habits to change. Filipinos still prefer Hollywood, much like how until this year Chinese moviegoers spent more money watching Hollywood films than local ones.

        Reconciling your point with Torre’s, we can now see that with regulation by government, and conscious storytelling by Chinese filmmakers, Chinese audiences have flocked more to local films than American ones – this despite China actually loosening embargoes on foreign films this year compared to the last. Hence, China finally trounced Hollywood.

      • siJuanDalandan

        I respectfully disagree. Comparing the regulation imposed by the Chinese government on foreign films with the regulation imposed in the Philippine during the MMFF is like comparing apples with oranges. The regulation imposed by the Chinese government is not limited to just two weeks. Also, the subsidy provided by the Chinese government to its film producers are more substantial than what Filipino film producers get.

        The only way to accurately conclude that local moviegoers (Chinese or Filipino) prefer local movies over foreign films is to do an evaluation in a climate without any government interference or regulation. Absent this, there would be an issue of measurement validity and, therefore, Torre’s conclusion would be flawed.

      • HoyGago

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on perspectives, then.

  • ChinaObserver

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the last time I checked, China was never colonized by America. “Colonial mentality” is an erroneous attribution to the Chinese.

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