Sunday, January 3, 2010
By Noel Vera
"Hollywood movies? Did someone say Hollywood movies?"
"We should show only one Hollywood movie a month."
It's a hot topic of discussion among online Filipinos. For the record, I'm not a big fan of Revilla Jr.'s movies on the whole but I do sympathize with his sentiments.
Hollywood has always had a powerful influence on world cinema but its latest serious attempt to conquer foreign markets is actually quite recent--around the '90s or so, or about the time when Governor Schwarzenegger's movie career was at its height (Coincidence? I think not; Sylvester Stallone's films also did well internationally around this time). Hollywood's global push helped destroy the once-robust Hong Kong film, and brought both South Korea and Mexico to their knees (South Korea has since recovered, partly by imposing quotas).
France has long survived by subsidizing its film production and, during trade conferences, championing cultural diversity over open-market distribution of films (In other words, it kept speaking out against Hollywood imperialism). Of the commercially successful cinemas of the world, only India does not impose quotas--and that mainly because its cinema is so successful (it produces eight hundred films a year to Hollywood's 200 plus films) it doesn't need to protect itself.
Mainland China is an interesting case all its own. Not as commercially successful as India, it is nevertheless such an economic powerhouse, with a market larger than any American studio executive's wet-dream fantasy (and I'm sure they can fantasize) it can lay down strict quota rules and pretty much get away with doing so, just because no one can force it to do otherwise. China is in every way in an enviable position, but it's a position few other countries can emulate.
But India (and China in its own fashion) seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule. Trend seems to be, if you want a successful local cinema you needed to restrict the number of Hollywood films screening in your local cinemas. That, or you provide your production outfits with assistance of some kind, the way France does--anything to level the playing field.
I've actually suggested this very action on an online forum, in pinoydvd.com. Some five years later that discussion seem more relevant than ever, and recent arguments to and fro on the issue sound suspiciously familiar. One online forum poster at one point asked "if we ban Hollywood films, what are we to do next? How do we get our next Harry Potter, or Iron Man 2?"
That was too tempting to let pass. "Then," I responded, "we're left with the works of relatively new filmmakers like Lav Diaz, Raya Martin, John Torres, Brillante Mendoza, Sherad Anthony Sanchez, Rico Ilarde, Dennis Marasigan, Auraeus Solito, Richard Somes, Veronica Velasco. We're left with the works of established directors such as Raymond Red, Laurice Guillen, Chito Rono, Maryo J. delos Reyes, Joey Reyes, Gil Portes, Joyce Bernal, Marilou Diaza-Abaya, and (hopefully, someday) new work from masters like Mike de Leon, Celso Ad. Castillo, Mario O'Hara.
"What a terrible situation!"