(Note to the Reader: It’s a bit too late to edit and at 2.10am I think I’ll just let the grammar and the missed points slide…there are more things to say, obviously but I’m all woozy and sleepy. Artists being revolutionary isn’t a requirement but truth in craft is, I guess. But I’m too lazy to expound now. Just get off your ass, watch Babae sa Septic Tank and tell me I’m wrong. God this film. My mother hasn’t laughed this hard (or enjoyed a Pinoy flick) in ages.)
My one prime regret this year is that I missed most (if not all) of the Cinemalaya films. I spent three hours planning my viewing schedule the weekend before the festival. I made such a detailed set of plans and even went as far as doing an ocular to know the fastest routes from Katipunan to CCP and Greenbelt. Then, Monday rolled by and all that hard work came to naught because of the new-found job and accompanying schedule. It was tragic to say the least. I always defend films made my our people but I haven’t seen all of what we can offer. There are only so few screenings and because most of the good films rarely hit the DVD stands, I’m beginning to feel disheartened…then there’s the question of content.
Two years ago (or was it last year?) when Brillante Mendoza’s film Serbis made the festival rounds, Alliance decided to have a mini-screening which I invited my parents to. We were a cozy group of varying ages and since the movie had been the talk of the town there was frenzy of excitement that filled the room. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t seem to last. People started leaving in trickles until there were only round twenty of us left. I’m generally uncomfortable viewing all this nudity and sex in front of my parents but in this case, I think the three of us agreed that there wasn’t much of a story being told anyway. It felt like I had searched for porn that I wasn’t even into while my parents sat beside me, shifting uncomfortably. But even prudes like me recognize the value of nudity in movies that use the scenes to enhance value…the real problem I was facing was a quasi-nationalistic one. How could I love Philippine cinema when it felt so distant from the country I know and love? Could I have been blind to these realities (and blinded by them as well)? I think not. I certainly don’t look at poverty and go, “oh well, that’s the Philipppines for you.” How can you love something that betrays you in a very fundamentally destructive way? Here was one Pinoy film that, by virtue of recognition from abroad, made it okay to perpetuate this notion that Filipinos, especially the poor among us, were all desperate and morally destitute?
It’s a difficult position to be put in and it was made extra stressful by the fact that indie film-making seemed to have ridden on this promise of showing a different side of Filipino films. One that promised to widen the lens in order to tell more stories and realistically depict complicated characters whom we all know, hate and love at the same time. Indie films became fueled with a revolutionary spirit and it emboldened the young to find their voice and have the necessary space to have it heard. It was all wonderful at first but later the dynamics seemed to have changed. They became formulaic in substance and comparable to mainstream films with the only difference being found in their grit and ability to be controversial.
Fortunately, the makers and producers of Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank) were keen on this observation as well. Their film is properly light and almost comedic if not for the fact that most people in the theater refuse to laugh. It’s a Filipino thing, I think. Sometime’s the humor’s lost on people but this time, it’s understandable why we only laugh at the obviously funny. The reviewer over at Pelikula Tumblr (pelikula.tumblr.com) noted that this film was difficult to laugh at and caused people to shift in their seats.
How could you not? Here’s one movie that tackles poverty by looking first at the ways in which we use the situation in order to propagate the system. Here’s living, breathing proof that most of us need classes to gain wider gaps in order to capitalize on the downtrodden. Here’s an explanation (or a possible one at that) being offered to account for our behavior…someone’s finally admitting one reason for the oversight vis-a-vis poverty and the poor in the Philippines. We need to make movies that win awards. We need to be risque…heck, need I say it? WE NEED TO CAPITALIZE BY USING POOR PEOPLE.
You know you’re in deep shit when you live in a country whose art, that which is supposed to reflect culture and the soul of any nation, is rendered cheap because artists are no longer revolutionary in their ideas. How can you form national consciousness when you can’t be honest about your people? And well, beyond nationalism and all its agendas, there’s a question of right and wrong that’s begging to be asked. How much more of our people must remain poor because we need them in order to maintain and sustain our own lifestyles?
Babae sa Septic Tank is about the shit we all have to deal with. There’s no telling how to get rid of it but we ought to at least face it, honestly and courageously.