In November 2019, the Philippine Film Industry continue to progress dissymmetrically, in favour of large production companies based in Metro Manila, oriented towards their expansion in the global market, with more international collaborations being inked and discussed this month.

Local Market at a Glance

A total of eighteen new films were released this month, eight under Cinema One Originals Film Festival, one of the key grant-giving film festivals. Another set of ten films were released in different local theatres competing with Hollywood films (PEP).

Policy Determining International Cooperation

Transnational collaborations in film and media production and distribution have also been noted. There were two important agreements signed this month: the media cooperation with ASEAN-China with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) leading Philippines’ representation, and the ASEAN-Republic of Korea (ASEAN-ROK) film cooperation, led by Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) (MB,  FDCP).

In the first agreement between ASEAN and China, the cooperation involves the following agreements:

  • cooperation on communication on medial policies
  • cooperation on news coverage & production of materials and information dissemination that strengthens the synergy between China and countries involved
  • media content cooperation through co-production of films, TV series, documentaries, and news media content. (Xinhuanet)

In the other agreement between ASEAN countries and Republic of Korea, a film cooperation is being pushed to achieve the following:

  • develop film policies and educational programs
  • expand co-production and distribution partnerships
  • exchange new film technologies and skills
  • activate film location promotions
  • strengthen film archiving. (FDCP)

These set of international agreements are essentially one-sided, with the former, the ASEAN-CHINA media cooperation, written in favour of China to expand its imperialist propaganda, while the latter, the ASEAN-ROK film cooperation, as a soft-approach to expand Korean film capitalists’ stronghold in the region. If the partnership is done in the interest of the local industry, the ASEAN-ROK has a promise to change the current film policies, with the hope that FDCP learns South Korean’s approach to limit the local distribution market of foreign films. With PCOO taking the lead on the ASEAN-CHINA media cooperation, one expects another foreign market competing with existing ones (the Hollywood) and the local industry.

Festival Market and Video Streaming

Local and foreign films festivals are still the mode of distribution for small-budget Filipino productions, including cause-oriented films, short films, experimental films, and independently produced feature films, with Cinema One Originals taking the lead in establishing a committed viewership for its locally produced films and for its curated international line-up (SQUEEZE, ASTIG.PH). Film festivals in regional centres like Davao City’s Ngilngig Asian Fantastic Film Festival (October 25-29, 2019) are flourishing due to film literacy efforts of both the public and private sectors as well as non-governmental organizations (FDCP). There were also efforts to penetrate the video streaming market like Netflix (RAPPLER).

Film Censorship

Issues on censorship have also been noted this month with one foreign film Elcano and Magellan (2019) receiving public clamour to ban it from local distribution for its incorrect depiction of colonialism in the Philippines (YAHOO.NEWS). Another film Metamorphosis (2019) received an X rating from the country’s censorship board, the Movie and Television Review and Classificatory Board (MTRCB), for its subject matter but was eventually revoked with no compromise after second viewing (CNN). There were also efforts from the Senate to urge MTRCB to exercise their regulatory power of censorship in streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime (PEP).

Labour Issues

In a study by the Philippine Statistics Authority, it was recorded that almost 40% of the informal sector have no social security coverage (BUSINESSMIRROR). The informal job sector includes members of film crew and cast who are hired without a proper contract. Aside from these, the private sector is also pushing a bill to extend the 6-month probationary period for workers to two-years (PHILSTAR). There was also one case of an account of unpaid labour (FB of Earl Joseph Usi).

The month is still behest with governmental efforts to reaffirm the domination of global imperialists, with lesser and lesser protection on the local film market. The Philippine Film Industry may have an international and local presence but still struggling to compete with its main competitor: the Hollywood. Labour issues on precarity still continue to haunt its walls. Without social and job security, film workers are endangered into falling into a debt trap for lack of manageable loan opportunities.