e-mykel

EI: POVERTY PORN

In Opinion | Opinyon on September 7, 2011 at 10:42 pm
Email Interview by Quennie Aguirre <kittyquennie@yahoo.com.ph>. Ms. Aguirre’s questions are in itals and boldface. My answers are in plain format. Questions sent via email on August 31, 2011.
On Poverty Pornography
Mykel Andrada
1. Have you ever directed any film, or have you been involved in film productions, specifically independent film productions?
I have been involved in two film productions: “Red ang Luha ni Mykel”, a thesis/adaptation by Adjani Arumpac and an indie film short entry entitled “Wanted: Bedspacers” written and directed by Michael Villar. In both films, I acted lead roles.
2. When was the start of the popularity of Filipino independent films?
When I was a freshman student in 1999 in UP Diliman taking up BA Malikhaing Pagsulat, Raymond Red was like a household cultural name for producing independent films. I also remember films like Supermaid and other films by Filipino-Americans or Filipino filmmakers based in the US. But the popularity of independent films in the Philippines was a hype catapulted by the advent of cheaper digital technology during the 21st century. It started out as an alternative to the very commercial mainstream film production monopolized by highly capitalist film productions such as Star Cinema and GMA Films. In the long run, the acquisition of Filipinos of cheaper digital technology — what is called as “relative democratization” of film technology allowed not only those who have money to fund film productions but also progressive and alternative filmmakers and film movements that showcased in their productions socio-political issues of mass concern. These days, independent films are so commercialized and co-opted by the government and capitalist machine outfits that most indie films are slanted towards marketization in the global arena. Also, sexually-charged themes make their way into commercial “indie films” or what is now touted as “(h)indie films” basically to make profit.
3. Aside from the budget and producing, how did they differ from mainstream films?
Supposedly, aside from the budget and commercial film production, indie films should be “free” to tackle issues and concerns that mainstream film production cannot afford to take on.
4. What are the common themes and issues present in these films?  How do they reflect Philippine society? Are they most of the time accurate to reality?
As regards alternative independent films, I believe that Sine Patriotiko (SIPAT), Southern Tagalog (ST) Exposure, May Day Productions, and other progressive independent multimedia groups tackle themes and issues that are very relevant to the general masses of Filipinos in our society. These film productions handle themes like feudalism and the hacienda system, the plight of activists, corruption in government, the need for a genuine cultural change, economic issues like the soaring prices of commodity products such as oil and education, and other such social concerns revolving around the general situation of poverty in the country.
5. How did they gain the attention of the international audience? What are the factors why the said films appeal to them? What are the differences between independent Filipino films and the contemporary Western films?
The Western eye and audience see poverty in the Philippines as something “unique” yet “universal.” The matter by which Pinoy filmmakers package poverty in the country is double-edged. First, it exposes the social ills of society — or at least a semblance of these — that perpetuate poverty in the country. Second, on the other hand, it makes “capital” out of the theme of poverty in the country. By capital I mean a product being peddled to the market, to be sold and bought. Poverty in supposed indie films, sadly, has become a mere product being sold to the international market, in the guise of social awareness and responsibility. But of course, there are films that genuinely tackle poverty and the proposed solutions to such social decay. But these films are not in the kowtowing business of producing indie films for the global or international market. Rather these are documentaries, short films and alternative films by progressive groups that advocate political ideologies in the assemblage of films.
6. What are the benefits of these films to our country and to its reputation?
A rich source of income for international festivals, in the commercial indie scene. But in terms of socio-political alternative indie films, there is what you call “social exposition,” the tradition of agitation-propaganda in the art/cultural scene, the discussion of socio-political issues, and how to address these in a clearly progressive and nationalist framework.
September 1, 2011. 2:30am. Mykel Andrada

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