Sunday, December 27, 2015

Where's the honor, father?

When a major Filipino film festival that is supposed to protect its films doesn't hesitate to gobble one or two of its own entries, we know that the Philippine film industry is fucked up.



Here's a bit of history. Last June, MMDA announced its Magic 8 and it didn't originally include 'Honor Thy Father'. So the producers took it somewhere and held their World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last October. It then had its Philippine Premiere when it opened the CinemaOne Originals Film Festival last November. 'Honor Thy Father' replaced 'Hermano Puli' when the latter couldn't finish it in time for the MMFF because their original producers backed out of the project.  'Nilalang', on the other hand, also suffered a setback when its original main actor, Robin Padilla, had to beg off from the project and was replaced by Cesar Montano. 'Nilalang' is distributed by Viva Films and Reality Entertainment for 'Honor Thy Father'. 

A day after the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) premiered all its films on December 25, several theatres started pulling out the under-performers at the box-office: John Lloyd Cruz-starrer 'Honor Thy Father' and 'Nilalang' with Cesar Montano and Maria Ozawa. The MMDA has to release their official figures yet but I just based it from this unconfirmed report.



'Nilalang' grossed P299,000 on the first day while 'Honor Thy Father' raked in P386,000. For MMFF, these figures are not at par with their box-office standards. It's not even close. 'My Bebe Love' laughed its way to the bank with reportedly more than P29M on its first day.



During non-MMFF screenings, it is common practice for theatres to pull out a Filipino film from their roster after a dismal first-day box-office performance except for instances when the distributor inks a deal with a theatre chain to screen it exclusively, that's when they are guaranteed a week's screening (or not?). 

This is why producers campaign hard for audiences to watch their films on their first day of screening because this is where the cinemas base their decision if the film gets axed or not. Most of them cannot wait for the weekend - where the audience turnout is usually high - for the film to bounce back. This affects mostly the independent films (non-studio produced films) where the majority of the viewing population don't shed their hard-earned money to watch them in the theatres. 



It is a huge challenge for non-studio produced films to get a distribution deal. It is even harder to secure a playdate. So whether a film will survive a first-day-last-day fate remains to be seen because there isn't much opportunity to find a venue to be screened. Filipino films are indeed not created equal. Can you fault non-studio producers to find venues for their films to be screened? These venues - schools, FDCP cinematheques, international film festivals - are not even enough to recoup their investments. Those local films that are lucky enough to be shown in theatres face an even bigger challenge: convincing audiences to go out of their way to spend money to watch their films in the theatres. Who pays P250 for an indie film when he can watch a pirated version of it in the comfort of his home?



This is where local film festivals play heroes. They are supposed to provide venue for films that are not given the chance to be seen. Well, that only happens in an ideal world. We are in a cutthroat industry and business is business. When 'Honor Thy Father' and 'Nilalang' were pulled out from the theatres and replaced by higher-grossing entries, the more vocal people behind 'Honor Thy Father' didn't take it lightly. They took it on their social media to air their concerns.






Even Direk Joey Reyes, the director of 'My Bebe Love' and Tonet Jadaone, the director of "All you need is pag-ibig" showed their support.




What's alarming about this is that a film's participation in the MMFF does not guarantee that you are protected. I feel for the filmmakers who lose sleep over their fear that anytime, their films are deprived of the chance to be seen by an audience. A chance to be appreciated or criticised. MMDA has the authority to give the MMFF an equal opportunity to be shown for at least a week but they chose to torment the non-performing films instead. If this can happen during MMFF, trust me, it's much worse on regular days. 



So what happens now with 'Honor thy Father' and 'Nilalang'? What about the films that don't get distributed outside of MMFF?

I am glad that the producers of 'Honor thy father' are brave enough to speak up. Someone has to initiate in making a stand and I commend them for doing so. What a sad state for the film distribution business in the Philippines. It is a system that is hard to go against. If theatre owners and distributors continue to eat us all up, the small players, non-studio filmmakers, the audience, the Philippine film industry, everybody are all at the losing end. This is a long battle and this is just the beginning.


  
About Bebs Gohetia

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