It’s the ‘in’ word these days, as far as Philippine politics and show business are concerned. DQ this, DQ that – the headlines read, day in and day out – and it definitely does not refer to one’s favorite confection.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says disqualification is the act of preventing someone from participating by finding them unqualified. Put another way, it means unfitness or the quality of being unsuitable. Some of its synonyms are exclusion, ban, rejection, elimination, ineligibility, disentitlement.
Used in a simple sentence – Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares faces disqualification from the 2016 presidential elections. Or, “Honor Thy Father” faced disqualification from the Best Picture category at the recent Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Profound points of view, those. Only because – stating the obvious, once again – politics and show business are the staple food for thought by Filipinos. And food for thought, in this instance, translates to entertainment. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. Politics and show business are Filipinos’ primary source of entertainment.
So there. The big to-do about the disqualification of a self-described non-basura film from the Best Picture award in a festival that announces itself as a showcase of Filipino cinematic excellence raised a deluge of social media rants that leave a certain awkward taste in the mouth.
Perhaps, “Honor Thy Father” is indeed an excellent movie. Perhaps, the MMFF ExCom erred in excluding the film from that single category to “penalize” the producers over a certain technicality, that it even warranted a forthcoming Congressional investigation. (Didn’t I say that politics and showbiz make not-so-strange bedfellows in these parts?) I wouldn’t have a way of knowing for sure as I’ve stopped watching ‘festival movies’ since ‘Insiang’ became a grandmother and gunmen, er, G.I. Joe’s, who mistook boys for wild pigs were asked to vacate the military bases.
In retrospect, the participants at the first MMFF in 1975 were a sterling mix of respected directors and multi-awarded actors. ‘Diligin mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa’ by Augusto Buenaventura won as Best Picture with Joseph Estrada, Charito Solis, Nida Blanca and Vic Silayan winning acting honors. Would anyone question the stature of those names at the time? The following year was a bumper crop of excellent movies megged by the likes of Lino Brocka, Eddie Romero and Lupita Concio. Their works – Insiang, Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, and Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo, respectively – are now considered Filipino film classics.
For what it is worth – and they are worth their weight in significant gold – the first ten years of MMFF spawned a long list of outstanding flicks directed by equally outstanding directors in the mold of Celso Ad. Castillo, Mike De Leon, Ishmael Bernal, Laurice Guillen, Mario O’Hara, Marilou Diaz Abaya, and the likes of Maryo J. De Los Reyes, Gil Portes, Danny Zialcita, Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Cirio Santiago, F. H. Constantino, etc., spawning such films as Burlesk Queen, Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising, Rubia Servios, Atsay, Ina ka ng Anak mo, Bona, Brutal, Taga sa Panahon, Langis at Tubig, Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, Ang Panday, Kisapmata, Haplos, Himala, Moral, Karnal, Bulaklak sa City Jail and the first incarnation of Shake, Rattle & Roll which did very well at the tills.
Back in the day, movie fans were invested in their idols, making sure that Nora and/or Vilma topped the box office and won the acting award. Fan wars actually started in that era and they did it face to face, real time, eyeball to eyeball as the Internet was then a mere scrap in its inventor’s imagination. Couldn’t get more grassroots than that, and their numbers are not to be scoffed at either. Mass hysteria was not invented by ‘AlDub’, in case anybody forgot.
Since then, somewhere along the way, excellence took a back seat to “commercial appeal” as ruled by the MMFF itself. Enteng Kabisote vs Praybeyt Benjamin is today’s version of Rubia Servios vs Atsay. A curious mix of fantasy, comedy and horror are the stuff that festival movies are now made of. The argument being that it is the season of cheer and moviegoers should not be made to go out of the theaters with a heavy load on their chest and a conundrum in their head. Which is just as well. Those with ‘thinking’ movies on their hands should exhibit them in more theme-appropriate festivals here and abroad where their high horses might be better appreciated.
But trashing other movies in the same competition and urging audiences to “demand for better films” is a tad hypocritical. Why can’t people just promote their own products through their own merits? Have they ever wondered why people stay away from their particular motion picture? Because they call the audience stupid for watching basura movies, while not referring to their own. Why should I part with my hard-earned money in favor of your film if you have already prejudged me?
Be that as it may, “Honor Thy Father” might have been worth the trip to the cinema if I hadn’t been turned off by the self-entitlement brought to bear upon the audience by the movie’s makers. The mixed reviews that I read doused whatever interest I initially had about it. It all boils down to freedom of choice, after all, and raising a ruckus over a self-serving issue such as winning an award only defeats the purpose. Show us your body of work and if it can stand toe-to-toe with the greats of Philippine cinema, then I’ll shut up.
As for the other famous DQ case, Senator Llamanzares should just stop saying that she is doing what she is doing for the sake of the Filipino people. We all have heard that line many times before from so many trapos, puede ba. It is obvious that unmitigated ambition is her sole motivation. She and the oligarchs financing her candidacy have no respect for laws (the Constitution, specifically), institutions (telling three senior justices of the Supreme Court to inhibit from deciding her case and basically saying that the Commission on Election’s decision to disqualify her was worth nothing) and the Filipino voter’s ability to discern.
Besides, if she is really intent on finding her true roots, all she has to do is ask her adoptive mother to speak up and end all speculations. But the latter’s silence on the Marcos-Rosemarie controversy is deafening. And the supposed “relatives” in Iloilo, Guimaras or wherever are getting to sound more and more mercenary. Just like a soap opera that has no ending.