At first it all looked too cute. And expensive. And well thought-out and made.
The CGI dragon was hanep, the production design was impressive ... and the shots were obviously laid out on a storyboard to show precision in the so many minutes that the promo ad was supposed to run.
The material was quietly saying, "It is time to try out something new" and not to be caught in the suffocating, stifling world of the same-same. The promo video was a donation, I was repeatedly told. It was not a commissioned work and the organizers of the festival had nothing to do with its inception and production. It was a donation given every year --- and was well appreciated.
Yes, but then. Somehow lines were crossed this year. When it was first uploaded in YouTube on the opening night of the weeklong event, the initial reaction was one of deserving awe for its technical expertise. (Not to mention the question of magkano kaya ang ginastos dito in order to achieve such production quality.) But after a while, the awe went to ... owww. Some people were not too happy not because of what the ad had to say but how it was said.
For one thing, the "mediocritization" of the fantasy genre seemed to point to specifics rather than to general terms.
For those prone to nitpick, even the choice of costumes seemed to pinpoint to a very particular mainstream movie fantasy hero belonging to a long-running franchise. But then again ... everything is subject to interpretation and one can always claim that "you will see what you want to see." Malice, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.
Yet the discomfort stems from something more than the uncannily familiar made to look amusing.
When the exasperated villain complains, " ...naging senior citizen ka na ... at pabata nang pabata ang mga leading ladies mo..." what was he really trying to say? Apparently he is not referring to the fictional character being portrayed in the movie but the actor who is playing the role. Fictional characters age but then that is still a part of the universe where disbelief is suspended. But references to senior citizens seem to point an insistent finger on the actor --- and that, on all accounts, is anything but tactful or even tasteful.
Better yet, what was this promo ad actually saying ... or who were they channeling with such statements?
Is it a simple as being blunt in saying that old actors are ridiculous especially when you pair them with young leading ladies? This could easily point to any superstar action macho and comedian whose added years have given him mint and, yes, the license to choose younger leading ladies. Eh, weno ngayon?
Worse yet, is this not ageism to discriminate against old performers who have now been categorized as ridiculous in portraying heroic roles?
Is this a sort of millennial mindset that has no patience/tolerance/respect for people past the age of 60 to be in the front line of media? Is this not prejudice so carelessly tossed under the guise of wit attempting at a punch line? Has this remark crossed that very thin line between being cool and sarcastic to downright demeaning and insulting?
Call it oversensitivity from a senior citizen writer (like me) but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting older. As a matter of fact ( and especially nowadays in highly stressful fields like show business and advertising) living beyond the age of 60 and keeping one's health and good looks (as well as popularity and marketability) is a rare privilege.
Sorry, but many do not think that mocking particular movie personalities (or established franchise characters) comes close to funny.
Insiders in the business ... and the more observant members of the audience reacted with shock ... then eventually disappointment. This was not the sort of thing you want to see on YouTube to promote an important film festival ... much less, see over and over again at the start of every screening at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Some producers were infuriated. As a result, relationships within the festival may now be strained and put to a test just because somebody thought it was cute to put down a fantasy hero and belittling a very difficult/expensive genre by saying it belonged to the shallow joys of the intellectually-challenged. Hala!
Moreover, references to familiar fantaserye creatures like the sirena or the avocado-looking alien or even the reptile woman ( referred to as the villain na hindi masyadong bumenta) or even a birdman (which took no effort at hiding from what tv show that came from) seemed to point to ... uh-oh, the wrong medium.
Fantaseryes have become a signature genre of the television, not movies.
These genres when brought to the big screen are much too expensive to produce ... and can only stand a chance to make money or even break during the much anticipated MetroManila Film Festival. And having said that ... well, let us not even go there because it might makes the apparent even all the more obvious.
Yes, people were hurt by the ad not because it spoke falsely of the need for change but because of the manner by which it relayed its message.
Yes, again --- there is a need for greater variety in movies ... but there should not be and should never be a war between mainstream and independent movies. And certain movie personalities should not and cannot be used as pawns just to promote an idea --- or create a gulpe de gulat statement. There is still such a thing as propriety, remember? Or has delicadeza gone completely extinct in the field of effective hard selling?
And remember mutual respect? You do your thing, I do mine ... we may not agree but we respect what the other is doing without making claims about ... uh, being superior?
To promote independent films while at the same time poo-poohing commercial cinema is to aggravate a problem where snobbishness is mistaken for intelligence or even vogue posing like an intellectual.
If millions are spent in producing mainstream AND even indie movies, then profitability or even the simple return of investments should be of primary consideration. There are no producer philanthropists. Rarely if not never can there be a financier out there who is willing to burn his money for the sake of highfalutin art or to be immortalized in the annals of our cultural history. Even the most rabid producer who is an advocate of cinema as art would still want his money back.
For cinema to keep on thriving there is a need for commercial films to keep those movie houses filled with paying viewers. It is with the hope that these same ticket buyers may eventually learn to appreciate independent films without them believing that it is reserved for the pretentious --- or for those who look down on popular entertainment.
Encouraging such sila/tayo does not help the indie scene ... and will certainly not affect the box office harvest of the big studios. Whether mainstream/commercial or indie/art house, Filipino films and movies ... are still part of our national cinema.
As someone immediately commented after watching this promo ad, "Teka, bakit fantaserye ang tinira? Bakit hindi romcom? Ang fantasy movies once a year mo lang napapanood while romcoms you see all year round, di ba?"
Well, maybe because walang dragon sa romcom. Or maybe these people actually quote hugot lines to spice up their love lives. Malay mo.
Or maybe mocking romcoms would be trudging on more dangerous grounds with the executives, movie stars and audiences the runaway train can hit, right?