In gay lingo, “Award!” is a negative thing, it means you got a beating (figuratively or literally), you were snubbed or ignored, scolded or reprimanded. “O na-award ka na naman?” “Hay nako, award!”
With movie award season being kicked off with the Star Awards, one can’t help but wonder if awards mean much still. Maybe the growing number of award-giving bodies has lessened their importance? Maybe the lack of clear standards for awarding films is finally getting to us?
Maybe it’s becoming clear that there is a laziness here, where we do not have complex discussions about cinema anymore.
Because the status quo is good. Trophies on shelves are always good.
Who gives out these awards?
Watching the Star Awards on a late Sunday night, and hearing the names of the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) members who were presenting awards, I realized none of them rang a bell.
Then again, do we know any of these groups who hand out awards really?
In the last column, I thought the FAMAS had evolved into the Luna Awards as our very own version of the Oscars. I was wrong. The Luna Awards is the only one with a claim on the “Oscars of the Philippines” tag, given out by the Film Academy of the Philippines since 1983 (for the film haul of 1982). The confusion lies in the fact that the FAMAS predated the Luna, by a good three decades.
FAMAS stands for Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards – yes, very Oscars. But unlike the latter where members of the film industry vote for the best of their peers, the FAMAS – at least when it was established – was made up of movie writers and columnists. At this point it is unclear who exactly is behind the FAMAS, and what their standards are for giving out film awards.
Probably the more familiar names come from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino of the Gawad Urian, but that might have everything to do with my years in the academe. Of course it’s these names that have probably made the Urian our more (most?) credible award-giving body, what with respected writers and members of the academe as part of its roster (give or take Butch Francisco).
Then again, the Urian reminds us that it ain’t just about who.
I tend to think that the cultural landscape in general has become so complex in this country that most of us are just in over our heads – maybe even barely keeping our heads above water.
Yes, there is that division between mainstream film and independent cinema. The easy way to deal with this is to agree with that division and assess only commercial films or only the indie. Since the year 2000, the Gawad Urian’s Best Picture Award has gone to an independent film, with only Dekada ’70 (Star Cinema directed by Chito Roño) getting into the list for 2002 – and even then it was tied with Mga Munting Tinig (Gil Portes). Too, for the years 2006 to 2009 it was Brillante Mendoza festival at the Gawad Urian, with the director winning for Kubrador (2007), Tirador (2008) and Serbis (2009), respectively. The Gawad Urian’s last three winners for Best Picture also speak of a seeming decision in favor of the obscure film, where the choices are those films that few have seen, if not those that only the artsy set would appreciate.
The Gawad Urian as such, while probably the most credible in terms of who decides the best in cinema for any given year, is also the most distanced from the movie-going public. And I don’t just mean those who would spend good cash on that new romantic-comedy; I mean even those who would go out and watch Cinemalaya or Cinema One Originals, Sineng Pambansa or Cine Filipino. It’s almost like the search for the most indie—because most difficult to access—movie of all.
The more complex discussion is about a struggle, of how the mainstream and the independent have merged in various ways. Veteran commercial film directors have been given the opportunity to do the films they want without the trappings of commercial cinema. Cinemalaya and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) have allowed for filmmakers like Chito Roño, Jun Lana, Jose Javier Reyes, Peque Gallaga to make films that the mainstream film producers would not touch with a 10-foot pole.
There is also this: the mainstream has leveled-up too, but because we are set on believing that it can do nothing good, we miss out on these films as well.
2013’s movie haul
It seems like such a waste. It’s a waste of good films when we are unable to actually take stock and honor the ones that deserve awards based on very clear criteria. When we are unable to go beyond that independent versus commercial dichotomy, and we fail to go beyond our own biases against certain kinds of films.
It’s also particularly a waste given 2013, when there were just too many good films, and I mean new and different, unlike many we’ve seen before. And I mean across commercial and independent films, and the merging of these. Off the top of my head, Badil (Chito Roño) and Ano Ang Kulay Ng Mga Nakalimutang Pangarap? (Jose Javier Reyes) off Sineng Pambansa. There were Ekstra (Jeffrey Jeturian), Transit (Hannah Espia) and Sana Dati (Jerrold Tarog) off Cinemalaya. But, too, there were Star Cinema films Tuhog (Veronica Velasco) and yes, On The Job (Eric Matti).
Two comedies were wonderfully done last year: the independent Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin written by Ronald Allan Habon and directed by Randolph Longjas for CineFilipino, and Star Cinema’s Four Sisters and A Wedding written by Vanessa Valdez and directed by Cathy Garcia- Molina. Both were intelligently done comedies, and both were sadly underrated; neither made it big in theaters.
Awards season is a time of reckoning with our film productions, when we might honor those films that were underappreciated and tell the public the films worth seeing. With our current crop of award-giving bodies though, the underrated just remains so. ‘Yun ang award!