Independent filmmaking in the time of Duterte: Liza Diño, FDCP, PPP (second of two parts)

by Arnel Mutia Mardoquio*

▶︎ In the past two years the FDCP chair has consolidated a base of support in the regions. She launched secondary projects left and right, from cinematheques to training programs and lectures, and provided funds for regional film festivals and workshops. She is now a muse, a goddess of the regions, the defender of regional filmmaking.

In truth, she took advantage of the fact that the regions have yet to get a handle on the film industry, and are not at the point of even knowing to market our films. It is in the regions that Diño’s disrespect for the spirit of indie cinema is revealed. She uses FDCP’s secondary programs as shield, her popularity is her weapon against critics: she supports independent cinema yet she is being criticized for it — kawawa naman siya.

And yet we see her happily traveling all over the world, wearing gowns and walking red carpets, attending cocktail parties, eating at restaurants using taxpayers’ money. She applauds and weeps for the every success of our indie filmmakers. She says our films have the power to heal the wounds of our differences.

Diño’s tears and smiles allow us to forget that in truth, she herself has cemented the power and control of big monopoly capitalists over the film industry. She has been instrumental in stopping our continued struggle to destroy the monopoly over the film market.

There is nothing more we can expect from an FDCP chairperson who lacks imagination, who knows not to do anything but play roles in cheap films, who squanders public funds on parties at international festivals, while in the Philippines there is a film industry that she should be fighting for.

Cultural crisis: the PPP and the film industry

The film industry faces worsening problems. It will not be resolved by marketing and distribution experts. The solution to the problems of the industry is a political one.

This is why secondary programs will never work: these do not address the real problems of the film industry. This, even as FDCP has almost P200 million pesos in its annual budget. PPP as Diño’s Exhibit A is nothing but a project for greedy capitalists. The fora she organizes purportedly to help us market and distribute our films is nothing more but a way to pretend that government is spending on us. In fact there are no concrete steps to address the roots of our problems with the market.

Why can’t FDCP provide real support to independent cinema? Why does Liza Diño need the support of greedy capitalists? Why can’t she provide a fair playing field for our film festivals? We already have a credible festival with a tradition and wide public support. Why can’t FDCP use its funds to acquire and occupy cinemas across the country for these films?

Why isn’t FDCP pushing for a law that will protect our local films from the market? Why can’t FDCP lobby for a law that guarantees that local films have an advantage over Hollywood blockbuster films?

Why does Diño need her own festival? Actually, it is not hers. PPP is a festival controlled by greedy capitalists. This is a clique. A group of people who are responsible for the downtrodden state of the industry, because they are also the ones who bring in these Hollywood films. Hollywood films that are taxed less than our local films. Foreign films that can freely enter the market, unlike our independent films. This is the heart of our problem.

In the case of films such as “Tu Pug Imatuy,” “Paki,” and “Balangiga,” the answer is simple: these are not the films that greedy capitalists will earn from, which is why these are but secondary films in this year’s PPP. Capitalists are not interested in these films, but to make these filmmakers feel better, PPP put these films in nine theatres. That’s six movies vying for 12 hours a day. That’s two screening times for each film.

What happened to the promise that more people can watch these films through the PPP? What happened to the promised 25 cinemas? What do we gain from PPP now? Nothing. Who gains in terms of profits and credibility? The people behind PPP. Where is the spirit of independent cinema? In the garbage.

Let’s stop with these delusions. PPP is not about giving independent cinema access to wider distribution. There is a manipulation of theatre locations, of screening times, of ticket selling. There’s discrimination in the evaluation of the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) of the films that were truly a product of the blood and sweat of indie filmmakers. This is the real character of PPP.

Prostituting the indie

In the hands of PPP 2018, independent cinema is prostituted. The spirit of indie cinema is forced to work as a prostitute in the playing field of PPP, where our customers are big business and capitalists, film studios and distributors. And Liza Diño manages this prostitution den.

But independent cinema persists. It continues to work towards achieving the democratization of the film industry. This is not only because we seek to contribute to the national economy, but also because we believe our films are important documents that embraces the heart and spirit of nation. It is for this reason that we must nurture it, and care for it. Real independent cinema is a valuable resource of nation, and we must treat it as part of our sovereignty.

This current regime makes us believe that everything is fine, and that it is doing what it needs towards national prosperity. For this regime, critics of government and FDCP are people who have nothing better to do, and who want to grab power. For every criticism of FDCP, one actress cries. It cloaks that smile of hers that glistens with the profits made against independent cinema.

Liza Diño-Seguerra is the muse of a murderous regime. Behind the promise of compassion for nation and our workers, she and her President together dance to the music that violates national patrimony. The crying muse is busy murdering independent cinema, while the President she serves is busy killing the poor and selling our lands to foreign allies.

We should support the films included in these FDCP-sponsored festivals – these are made by the blood and sweat of our independent filmmakers. But the moment we step out of the cinema, let us remember how these films are made to fail in the face of a system that is unjust, how the FDCP, under the leadership of Liza Diño-Seguerra, is colluding with capitalists to ensure that things are always in favor of big film studios and theatre owners, and how the current state of affairs is not – will never be – in favor of the independent filmmaker. No spin or press releases or press events will change that. ***

Arnel M. Mardoquio is a filmmaker and cultural worker from the regions. Originally written in Filipino and posted on Facebook on August 17 2018, this piece has been translated and divided into two parts by with his permission.