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A Day in the Life of Gloria Arrovo (Southern Tagalog Exposure, 2007) May 11, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Essay, Indie Sine, Noypi.
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arrovo final

Directed by RJ Mabilin

Tell me frankly, on what condition should we tolerate and continue to tolerate the bigotry of an obtuse, overly conceited, and politically motivated institution that dictates the movies we watch?

It ticks me off that some people are inclined to believe that these are just movies – – not even films I tell you – – movies that merely serve to entertain us for two hours or so, movies that only exist while we are watching them. Yes, we do remember them when time requires us to tell about them, like when friends ask us what movies we saw over the weekend, the usual questions, the usual how-was-its, the usual comments we tell like, Yeah it was fine, it was not exceptional but it was fine, I think I should read the book first before I comment. But do we really care about them? Do we really value the movies that have touched us deeply, moved us like they were narrating our life in front of us?

Over my really short years of watching movies, I feel an intense hatred to people who disparage the power of movies to inspire and challenge common beliefs, something that not even our kangaroo statesmen can do for us. Movies of whatever kind, romantic-comedies, thrillers, Hollywood, Bollywood, B-movies, Z-movies, arthouse, documentaries, animation, experimental, propaganda, straight-to-DVD movies, Youtube movies, everything – – whatever movies that move you to reflect – – I speak for them. (If I may be more personal, I actually fear that in my relatively short stint as a writer, my readers will be led to believe that arthouse movies are all that I care about. A good writer shows his partiality well; that is, if he tends to favor arthouse movies, he should, for the life of him, watch not only arthouse movies, because the constraint of his judgment would be very dangerous for all the movies he writes about. Somehow, in my short life, that’s what I have always wanted to achieve.)

The rudiments of a free society hold strongly on expressing beliefs without fear of getting shot in the head right after. We owe our freedom to democracy, but what does democracy owe to us? What have we done to let it endure? This obtuse, overly conceited, and politically motivated institution still standing is just one of the reasons why we are weak, why our foundations continue to weaken, and why our future reeks of weakness. Any action to mutilate the vision of filmmakers, regardless of what grand or atrocious vision they have or if they even have any vision at all, is a crime to freedom, to freedom that they, the so-called members of the classification board, also enjoy. If they are our watchmen, then who watches them? They don’t even have costumes to hide their inanities, for Christ’s sake. I can almost buy the defense of constitutional duty, that social safekeeping bullshit, but if something is not worth the trouble, or worse, if this something is causing the trouble, then there’s no reason for it to exist. Its betrayal of its name already gives it away: it doesn’t classify, it censors. Who are they to impose their morality on us? Who are they?

The Arroyo government aims to multiply itself in every way possible, to see itself applied from the biggest to the smallest unit of political power, from the tip of our hair to the heels of our toes, inside out, making sure that every one knows her policies by heart.  To say that this obtuse, overly conceited, and politically motivated institution is reflective of the government sounds so easy a statement to make, but if it’s true then I see no reason not to say it. They are remodeling us to suit their fascistic rules. We cannot express our dissent against them; it is, as what news reporters during the Magdalo coup grinningly say, inciting to rebellion.

The fact is they are not belittling the power of cinema; they are scared of it, the diverse lengths it can go through. They are scared of what it can stir up in us, the massive ball of protests that can overthrow this decaying administration. If making films that directly oppose the government destroys its credibility, then certainly it is not even strong in the first place. It doesn’t deserve our trust, our heed, and our support. If they are dictating the films that we could only see, then we get both the ends of bad luck: we are poor, and we are not free. I wish I do not sound preposterous but a few years from now, after cauterizing our eyes and ears, I’m sure they’ll be cauterizing our souls as well, if they still haven’t.

From life to death, from the rising cases of extrajudicial killings to the number of desaparecidos increasing every year, from the campaigns to amend the constitution to the shameless pocketing of public funds, from the altered National Press Club mural by the Neo-Angono Artists’ Collective to the recent move to tax imported books, from the narrow idea of promoting arts to the oppressive situations that our artists face just to have their work exhibited, I am beguiled by the strange predicament we, Filipinos, are in. What could we have done to deserve this government? These islands are not united by culture; we are united by rusty barbed wires that detain us like a dog leashed in the front yard until the day it dies. The great Doris Lessing remarks, “Our time has the honour of narrowing what were broad and generous and complex definitions; ‘political writing’ meant, for decades, communist writing. We have still to recover from that habit of mind: Political Correctness is its heir.” But when would that happen, in this hopeless place and time?

Till then I believe I’ll just continue to vomit.

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