Can Pinoy films ever win a top Oscar? (2)

February 20, 2020

The secret to the spectacular success of “Parasite” that made history for winning Best Picture at the Oscars recently was unraveled in the acceptance speech of Miky Lee, the movie’s executive producer.

"I really, really, really want to thank our Korean film audience, our moviegoers, who have been really supporting our movies and never hesitated to give us straightforward opinion on what they like in the movies," she said. "That made us really never to be complacent and to keep pushing – the directors, the creators – to keep pushing the envelope."

In short, it was full support of moviegoers and their “straightforward opinion” that drove filmmakers to excel.

And it was such pursuit of excellence which really paid off for South Korea’s acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite when it won the most coveted Academy award for Best Picture, the first ever given to a non-English language film since the US-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded almost a century ago.

Many believe the satirical thriller which also got three other Oscars – for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film – has paved the way for other foreign movies, especially Asian films, to also be recognized by the Academy which has been perceived to be “obsessed with English-language films made by white people.”

With the rise of Asian films on the global stage that has been dominated by Hollywood productions, Filipino movies ought to shine, too.

In her Oscars speech, Lee pointed out that the driving force behind successful Korean films consist of support and “straightforward opinion” of Korean filmgoers which Filipinos are also capable of.

In most episodes of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), local moviegoers show full support for Filipino films featuring traditional box-office drawers like comedians Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto. Sadly, the same support is nowhere to be seen for quality Indie films, except for a very few. A film critic asks: Are paying moviegoers here really content to just “mindlessly laugh, cry or shiver in fear” while watching local films?

As to giving “straightforward opinion” or constructive criticism, it has happened before. The most memorable straightforward opinion given was in 1986 at the 12th MMFF when no awards were handed out for the first and second Best Picture, and also for Best Story and Best Screenplay.

During awards night, one of the jurors, Tingting Cojuangco, read a statement which said members of MMFF Board of Jurors expressed “concern over the current state of the Philippine movie industry as reflected in the entries” which were “perpetuating commercially-oriented movies.”

“It is in this light that we, therefore, appeal to the Filipino filmmakers to explore other directions of this powerful medium to entertain, enlighten, educate and become a potent force in social change,” the jurors said.

Another instance of constructive criticism happened in 2014 when multi-awarded writer, blogger, historian, and broadcaster Lourd de Veyra, wrote an insightful open letter for Vic Sotto, expressing dismay over My Little Bossings – described by writer Bobby Yalong as “a trashy slapstick comedy movie shot from a loosely written script loaded with up-front hard-sell product endorsements.”

“Bossing, heto lang talaga ang gusto kong sabihin: ngayong ikaw ay nasa mainpluwensiya at makapangyarihang posisyon, kaya mong gumawa ng mga pelikulang makabuluhan, isang pelikulang maipagmamalaki ng lahat sa punto de bista ng kultura at estetiko,” de Veyra said in his open letter that went viral.

“Puwede namang magpatawa pa rin habang nagtataas ng antas ng kalidad ng paggawa ng pelikula… puwedeng gumawa ng pelikulang nakakaaliw at pipilahan ng buong pamilya na hindi sinasakripisyo ang kalidad ng kuwento,” de Veyra stressed.

Amid such straightforward opinion given in 1986 and 2014, local movies with artistic excellence and high-impact storytelling have still been few. To hit it big at the Oscars, full support of both Filipino filmmakers and local audience is needed to come up with a high-quality local film with the same impact as Parasite which was aptly described as “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains.”