Pinoy Film History...

Recently I watched a documentary called "Machete Maidens Unleashed"...believe it or not, I am recommending watching something with this title (of course on Netflix). IMO I think anyone interested in the improvement of the Pinoy film industry must look first to its history, or part of it, and watch this.

The documentary is told from the view of everyone interviewed. No narrator, strictly from the mouth of those who were part of this or knew of this.  People like Joe Dante, John Landis,  Sid Haig, Eddie Romero, Eddie Garcia, Cirio Santiago, Patrick Wayne, John Ashley, Gerardo De Leon, Jonathan Demme, Allan Arkush, Pam Grier, Kate Kennedy, and Roger Corman.

You see, alot of what Quentin Tarentino calls Grindhouse was made in the Philippines in the 70's and 80's. It was the Marcos period so you could use the Philippine army for cheap, and the beginning of Imelda's Manila filmfest, and we were one of the only eastern country's that not only was friendly to the US (at the time) but we spoke English. Corman states that one of these movies cost him $100,000 and he made 4 million at the box office, pretty good.

Now why is this interesting to me? I've spent alot of time in Manila now and have gotten to know alot of professionals there and have always been puzzled why our Showbiz industry seems incapable of making powerful movies. Especially since the early 70's gave us serious social commentary directors like Lino Brocka. I also know from my college years in Fine Arts in Manila there were lots and lots of idealism and energy going around.

So how did we go from that to this? Let me make it clear for the trolls on the net I am not a basher, I am very hopeful for the future of film in Manila because of the new directors, but we still have a long way to go. And one way to make sure it is a rosey future, is to analyze what made it what it is today.

When I was in Manila and asked why? I always got the same answers. The masses only want simple movies...so why do 'complicated' foriegn movies make so much money?

Why do other comparable countries like India and Mexico not only make great movies but movies that make money internationally? Do we not have thoughtful observant directors and actors? In my college years in Manila, everyday,  I had the most philosophical conversations contemplating my navel than I've had here in the States.

So why don't we make serious films about the realities of life in the Philippines of a high standard? Why do we make up scenes and plots as we shoot? Why don't we hunt down and entice the best of writers and directors? Why do we have shooting schedules that last only a few weeks? Why does the Pinoy viewing public get the impression that almost all of our films are rehashed movies that went before or outright copies of foreign movies? Why?

This documentary doesn't tell the whole story but seems to illuminate alot of what we see today.

Roger Corman was starting "New World Pictures" and as is his history he made films that were cheap, quick and only gave in to our deepest guilty pleasures. So, he went to the Philippines. And for a decade made cheap B-movies for the US market.

Movies that had 10 days to two week shooting schedules where most of what was shot was made up on the spot as they shot. Plot sessions that appear to have happened in only one meeting, primarily based upon what do audiences want..."T and A" and violence...and how can we be more sensational and what gimmicks can we come up with.

Sound familiar......?

Now, my understanding from this documentary, is this kind of movie making and Corman's outfit spending something like $100,000 per film, in an economy where if i remember right, every dollar gets you 25 pesos. That's alot of money pumping into the Philippines for a full decade.

Oh, and this all culminated in the multi year production of "Apocalypse Now". The first and only major Hollywood film made in the Philippines...

Now, I wasn't there at the time and am only relying on this documentary and what known names in the docu said on film (especially interesting are what the Pinoy directors say), so I look at this post as my reactions to this information and a starting point for discussions on this topic and for the beginning of my own research into this topic.

That said, if this is all true, I wonder how many local producers made alot of money then and what lasting effects this had on our industry?

Because from my point of view, it seems to make alot of sense and it seems to explain alot of why things are the way they are today.

So please watch this documentary "Machete Maidens Unleashed" (oh btw don't let your kids watch this, it is littered with scenes from those movies with lots of violence and T and A) and I would be interested in your opinions and if anyone knows what it was like back then please reveal....Whilce....


Rabbleboy said...

Wow thanks for sharing this Whilce. This is a really interesting (if not educational) documentary. I think that the risk will have to come from the indie filmmakers, to challenge themselves and create trend breaking stories and projects. Budget is always an issue of course but when you mentioned that the industry belief that the masses do not want complicated ideas is a bit saddening. The film breakthrough that India, Korea, Japan, China have made in recent years tell me that it is possible. It just takes the right mix of talents. Cheers!

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