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(Gibbering) On the Importance of Establishing a Film Magazine April 7, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Essay, Noypi.
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Becoming a film critic in this country is an ordeal; it is a work that invites loathers, a work that provokes hate from people who can never get used to the idea of civility and meaningful discussion. Even the critic himself is not used to being called a critic because the term connotes harshness, someone who bargains fun for pompousness, an intellectual whose glibness remains his only trait, and for the sake of argument he argues, never letting his defenses down without giving his best shot.  Primarily the reason why we only have a few critics is that we have this culture against them, that they are almost unnecessary, that our small community of cinephiles is better off without them, an atmosphere far from welcoming.

In this country also, no one becomes a writer solely by profession; there are exceptions but most of these dreams of becoming a scribe are either left prematurely in exchange for more fruitful lines of work, being a call center agent for instance, or forgotten, because writing only becomes a trade of the lunatic. A competent writer is lucky if his first novel or short story collection is followed by another one. The chance of getting published is so slim it is almost hopeless. Norman Wilwayco even had to ask for pre-order payments to have his Palanca-winning novel be thrown in the printing press whereas in the span of less than a week after the movie came out, more than five times had I heard someone asking the cashier in FullyBooked when the new stock of Twilight would arrive. Noel Vera was only able to find a publisher for his book Critic After Dark in Singapore. What else is that supposed to mean? What is it that Filipino writers have to prove before getting the audience that they deserve?

Little that some people know, writers here are the easiest to please; almost on the verge of gullibility, the Filipino writer easily clams up when someone approaches him to tell that he has read his story or article – – oh how on earth have you read that? no one reads my work, he thinks of saying every word of humility possible – – but the giddiness that he felt after that simple anecdote is enough confirmation for him to continue his passion – – the god of small things at work always saves him from despair. Writing has to be the noblest profession in the city, and sometimes it is also the most rewarding because it encompasses every depth of dedication known to man.

The dearth of books that focus on Philippine cinema has pushed me to write. When I was still studying in the university, late in those years, I discovered how awful that in the library we only have less than five books authored by Filipino critics. Noel Vera’s book is literally peerless, and the Urian Anthology of the 70s and the 80s are waiting for another reprint, or for another decade of compilation. It was a major orgasm in my life reading these books that more than once I intended to steal them from the library. It is impossible to buy a copy of them here – – and if the library or Teddy Co loses them, they are just as lost as Gerardo de Leon’s Daigdig ng mga Api or the ark of the covenant.

So it is a relief when I see a film article in the Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, or Rogue, more so if it is well-written and inspiring, because that space – – how little it is – – is a dream to me. Every time I come across a lousy film review I cannot help but feel my dreams move a million miles away from myself, leaving a universe of indescribable regret. There are times when I wish that we had a coalition for the deserving: the irresponsible crucified and the meritorious esteemed, but determining that, of course, will only complicate things.

Only a trifle interesting writers are actively contributing for major newspapers today, considering that editors prefer scoops from Dolly Ann Carvajal to refreshing theater criticism of Gibbs Cadiz and Exie Abola. Sadly most of these writers are big bluffs. With all due respect to Nestor Torre, Butch Francisco and Mario Bautista, for what little that I have, I feel the need to implore them to step out humbly from their respective broadsheet spaces, or, if it is ever possible, given their way of lengthening their columns by accommodating cable programs and gossips and whatnots, ask them to be more responsible writers on film, again, if that is ever possible. There are no more tricks to learn from you, Mr. Torre, Mr. Francisco, and Mr. Bautista. What this public needs is insight into intelligent viewership, curious discussions and penetrating cultural discourse, piercing thoughts on our socio-political climate without devaluing cinema’s entertaining virtues. With your empty thoughts, Mr. Torre, Mr. Francisco, and Mr. Bautista, I am afraid, we can only request for the acceptance of truth.

Furthermore, what saddens me is that we don’t have any film magazine in print. The short-lived Pelikula had vanished after only several issues. Even I myself had not gotten hold any page of it. The risk of putting up a publication that caters on marginal readership is only aggravated by the fact that the number of local films produced continues to dwindle down year after year. So what is there to write if there isn’t much to write about? Old films in abysmal video print? Mainstream cinema’s mastery of cinematic sciolism? Our terrible fate? Luckily right now, the landscape is changing, both in terms of number and quality, and starting to be diverse. That’s why I tell you, it is important to write now, now than ever, because we need to document this stage in Philippine cinema that will never happen again. For what are writers but chroniclers, historians in their own selfish right. This movement of independent cinema is an earthquake that needs to be recorded in every possible point by the very few serious seismographs we have (most of them online), like news reports sensationalizing a national disaster.

The only thing we can never lose, especially in this age of remarkable movement, is passion. There is hope, there is discovery, and there are films to write about. If only Philippine cinema has sufficient readers to support the foundation of a film magazine – – moral is good but financial is absolutely better – – then we can create the rudiments of critical film discussions in print, which is still the best way to promote works to local audience. In theory, this magazine will aim to inform and provide rooms for meaningful discourse for both academic and non-academic audience; if it may be allowed to continue then further avenues for film appreciation will come along the way. The support cannot only come from writers but from you most especially, Filipino moviegoers. And, in such fervent hope, things will eventually fall into proper place.

There are plans to initiate an award-giving body comprised of bloggers, something that may sound unnecessary considering the uselessness of the undignified award institutions recently, but with our little exposure to the glitz I hope we can give full importance to the why than the what, the films than the glamour that they carry with them, and the national cinema than the cinema of the press. These awards would be a joint effort of people who come from different fields but who share a similar passion, people who agree and disagree with each other which only accounts for personal tastes. Unlike other award-giving bodies that exist solely out of self-importance or passing a forgotten legacy, we write, we write with dedication and sense, words have always been our only weapon, not glamour and not friends in the industry (though they do help). Our relationship with cinema is worthy of love without reciprocation. We are only here as lovers of good films, not their spokesperson on behalf.

The critic dies not when he ceases to write but when he thinks there is no more reason for writing. Now, there is practically almost every reason to write. I hope the very few of us who are continuously updating their online journals will be given at least a piece of encouragement, a tap on the shoulder, a harsh comment, or why not a visit in our dreams, to make this work. And to filmmakers, I dare you, if you are still worthy to be called as such, give us reasons to believe that Philippine cinema is indeed in another golden age, and that, as time will tell, it will linger fruitfully as ever as when our heroes did during their time.

Comments»

1. lightning catcher - April 8, 2009

Film criticism is almost a thankless job.

There is a notion that understanding extinguishes enjoyment, and that criticism is about finding faults only, that praise has no place in the world of the reviewer.

If done right, a magazine and an award-giving body can do a lot for the Pinoy movie industry.

There is something to be said, though, for reviewing old Pinoy movies. Criticism should be aware of film history and celebrate it, and build its theories and appreciation on it. “Old” can be a wonderful discovery.

2. Oggs Cruz - April 8, 2009

Very well said, Chard… and I apologize for my inability to find time for the Best-Of awards. I guess my pitiful output in my blog is evidence enough that I am being pulled away from this passion. I intend to write more, if time, energy, and gusto permits.

3. the bakla review - April 8, 2009

i consider my blog not as job but advocacy. there’s continuously been a dearth of literature on philippine cinema. if years from now people are going to say this period produced a lot of gay movies, what evidence would there be?

i think the best writing on philippine cinema now happens in blogs, which is more substantial than in broadsheets and more accessible than the occassional book or academic paper. the online critics meeting-of-minds you propose makes tremendous sense.

4. theWalruz - April 9, 2009

We dont need film critics what do we need are film analyst–Filipino film analyst to be precise. I really dont believe in criticizing a film done in a subjective (critics have this tendency to force their own rationale to the readers) viewpoint of a critic.

5. dodo dayao - April 10, 2009

All criticism is subjective.

6. lightning catcher - April 11, 2009

Exactly.

By imposing your words on paper (real or virtual), by choosing a certain structure, your style and point of view would show.

If you feel like breaking under the pressure of a critic’s opinions, it is not his fault that his thoughts exhibit weight or force.

7. dodo dayao - April 11, 2009

Chard, let me echo Oggs’ apologies about the Best Of thingie we failed to pull off. Maybe next year? My own blog is even more “pitiful” than Oggs’ in terms of sheer output. The distractions have been relentless and profuse. As much as I don’t want to disappoint the three people who regularly read my blog – – – you, Oggs, Noel, hehehe – – – more often these days I find myself wondering why the hell am I still writing for? It’s a bad funk for a writer of anything – – -criticism or whatnot – – -to be in,passion dwindling out of
. . .frustration?. Writers, they say, will always find the will to write. For my sake, I’m hoping that’s not something that only looks good on paper. :)

Good ,ripe stuff, Chard.

8. ADRIAN - April 13, 2009

A BEACON of LIGHT! This essay is a Beacon of Light!

This has a similar theme to your reply from my email i sent you months ago.

FILM MAGAZINE? [or FILM CRITICISM MAGAZINE] Count me in! I would be willing to pursue a structuralist study (a homage to the Proppian discourse) on Peque Gallaga’s filmography, that if this film magazine is bound to exist and survive and Gallaga’s films are at my grasp.

Film Criticism is immensely important to the development of film studies.

9. Phil - April 15, 2009

Forget traditional print. Film criticism belongs to the internet now. The challenge is to build some sort of support structure for all this opinion, or at least, a singular repository for all of it, one site that any one person can visit to see a wide range of thoughts about local films.

10. dododayao - April 18, 2009

Someone once said this : “Of the trio of early American movie critics, James Agee was a musician, Otis Ferguson was a poet, and Manny Farber was a painter.” These are, I think, qualities critics should aspire for. I’m not a believer in criticism-as-dissertation, criticism-as-autopsy or criticism-as-slumbook-entry ,which are the more popular strains, but I am a staunch believer in criticism as prose, which is the least popular. The best praise any critic has received, to my mind, is the one Noel vera gave to Pauline Kael when he described her prose (prose, not reviews, not criticism, but prose) as “sexy”. I’d like to write sexy someday. :)

11. gibbs cadiz - April 18, 2009

thank you for the mention. VERY interesting and well-argued points. :)

12. iwa - September 19, 2012

wasak ka chard. inom tayo soon! oi. ba’t nawala na rito yugn rebyu mo ng mondomanila book?


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