A Conversation with Ed Cabagnot

A Conversation with Ed Cabagnot
While doing my research on digital cinema in the Philippines, it was inevitable that I talk to Ed Cabagnot. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation where Ed shares his experience with the ECP and the early years of Gawad CCP.

I worked with Ed in the early 1990s, he’s at the CCP Film while I was with the CCP Visual Arts and then CCP Outreach. I learned a lot about films and photography from him. One afternoon, passing through Ed’s office I saw him watching a film, I stopped and joined him. I was enthralled, completely awed and fell in love. The film was Raise the Red Lantern by Zhang Yimou. Unfortunately, I had a meeting to go to and I was not able to finish the film. But the images stayed with me. I was fortunate to finally finish the film a few years back. I am still in love with it. Thank you, Ed.
EH: I’m very interested in your first-hand experience in the GAWAD CCP, Freefest and Cinemalaya. Please take us back in time.

ED: My first statement is that Cinemalaya is one of the most successful projects of the Cultural Center of the Philippines to date in the sense that audience-wise even if we did not have press release, people came and the screenings get filled up. So audience-wise, every year people flock to watch Cinemalaya films. Number two, revenue-wise it is also one of the most lucrative CCP projects. In the past year Cinemalaya earned 27.5 million pesos in ticket sales, compared to the first year which was barely 5 million — so you can see the trajectory. And I’m not saying “kasi ang galing- galing ng CCP,” I’m just saying that the time is right. We have a lot of people making new films. We have a lot of audiences who are looking for films and then we have a venue like CCP which is giving these people the space.

My statement there is that the success of Cinemalaya wasn’t overnight. The road to Cinemalaya was a long, long road and I think if you will allow me, I think it even goes beyond CCP. For me, from my experience, I think the first stirring of this movement was called Philippine Independent filmmaking which started as early, even before the 80’s. My first hand experience with the indies was working under the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. So I can bring you back — this was created by the Marcos administration in February 1982 to be the managing organization of Imelda’s Manila Film Center. So the ECP was created to create film-related events that can push Philippine cinema forward. So on one side of the ECP was Imelda’s MIFF – Manila International Film Festival – whose main goal was to make Manila the Cannes of Asia, the Cannes Film Festival of Asia. On the other side of CCP was Imee. Imee was tasked by Marcos to create the other incentives. And what were the other incentives? Other incentives included a film fund which means if you have a film in production but cannot finish it due to financial difficulties, you can show your rushes and then the ECP would give you the balance. And then there were film production which was responsible for four of the best films I know – Oro, Plata, Mata, Himala, Soltero, Misterio sa Tuwa. And then you have the archives headed ni Ernie De Pedro. It was a beautiful archives below. And then you have Film Education of Ward Loarca but that did not really take off.

And then where I was, was the Alternative Cinema. Alternative Cinema’s job was just to fill up all the theatres of the Manila Film Center and we had more than 13 theatres with regular screenings. The main theatre of the Manila Film Festival Center could seat approximately 1,800 people. The 2 smaller theaters were big; they were as big as the Little Theater – 450-seater and a 350-seater. And then you have the mini preview rooms which could sit 100 people to 300 people. So that was our job.

My boss before was Boy Noriega. So doon sa Alternative Cinema, I was handling the classic films – the Renoirs, Truffauts, Kurosawas, the Fellinis, etc. And then somebody else was handling the Filipino titles. And then somebody else was handling the independent films. For me, it all started with the ECP Independent Film and Video Competition. It started, if I’m not mistaken, in 1982. Bienvenido “Boy” Noriega Jr., the playwright, inspired it. He was also a bank vice president for PNB, but at the same time he was an officer of ECP, and he was an author. He loved short films, he loved classic movies, so he was the one with Imee, who thought of coming up with a competition. So the ECP Experimental Cinema and Independent Film & Video competition became the first ever regular competition sponsored by the government that gave young Filipino filmmakers awards for the best documentary, best short feature or narrative film, best experimental and best animation – so the 4 categories were there. The likes of Nick Deocampo, Raymond Red, Joey Agbayani, Rox Lee and a host of other people who many consider as the pillars of Philippine Independent Cinema became known here. And I remember we were all young then, they were programming the festival, we were all joining the festival, and it was fun.

EDSA People Power happened in 1986 and one of the first things that the new administration did was shut down most of the Marcos’s machineries. Unfortunately, I felt it was very relentless. They should have kept the ones that worked and I felt that the ECP was one of the best efforts of the government, but unfortunately they shut it down. Manila Film Center was closed. CCP changed its thrust. You know that Eloi, you were from here – decentralization, etc. They opened CCP to include the non-performing arts so the VLMA (Visual Literary Media Arts) was formed and Hammy Sotto became the head for Film. They wanted the CCP not just a venue but also a Coordinating Center.

So when Hammy came in, he asked me to join him. To be honest, I did not want to work with government anymore but Hammy is a nice guy and said. “Don’t worry Ed, we’ll have as much fun as you did in ECP.” When I joined CCP, most of the projects/programs that we did at the ECP were adopted by the CCP. But of course, CCP’s budget is much smaller than ECP’s – you know all of a sudden arts and culture fell into nothingness. You were here, you know how our budgets were, but we did very good projects. One of the projects that had a reincarnation was the ECP Independent Film and Video Competition that was renamed GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video.

Hammy was so wise. He didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so the Coordinating Center for Film in 1987 was patterned after the ECP but on a very, very small scale. I managed World Cinema. Lyn Pareja managed Filipino Greats. And then you had Jon Red who was managing the Indie film. So Jon Red was in-charged of GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video. And what was nice even though there was one or two years gap between the end of ECP and the start of Coordinating Center for Film, when we started the GAWAD there was a smooth transition. A lot of people joined like Mark Leily, they all joined. To be honest with you, even the exact rules and regulations of the GAWAD was based on the ECP.

EH: So this was about ‘88?

ED: ‘87. The good then thing is we felt that the ECP pattern was good, so why re-invent it? That’s the problem with Filipino, when there’s a change in management, everything changes. That’s why I like Hammy because he is not like that, for him it was “let’s just do this because it was good in the first place.” So the categories survived up to now.

The GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video is one of the longest running GAWAD of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. But Eloi, please help me with this research, it’s my claim that “it is the longest running Independent Film Festival in Asia.” There’s no other independent competition, especially for shorts, that I know existed in countries including Japan or even India. So if you could help me with that claim. But at least for Southeast Asia I know we were first and we’re still there.

So yung Independent Cinema scene I think, if you just look at all the winners of the GAWAD, you would see the trending, you would see the themes and technologies that were the trend for certain periods.

EH: Were you able to keep the films?

Ed: No. We only started archiving the films between 20 years, during the 10th or 11th year. But the nice thing is most of the entries of the GAWAD CCP came from Mowelfund, UP, Ateneo, La Salle and most of these schools would have their archives. Unfortunately, I just found out from Ricky Orellana that even Mowelfund is having a hard time archiving their shorts. They still have but they need the funding and the people to maintain it, digitize it – so that’s the problem.

EH: What about your catalogs?

ED: The catalogs are almost complete in the CCP library. And for the 20th anniversary (of CCP), Ricky and I had been talking about having some of the Mowelfund shorts digitized using CCP equipment. Because we feel that we own it partly because they’re GAWAD winners. And as I’ve said, young people nowadays especially they’re going into independent filmmaking, it’s nice for them to realize that they are not alone – a lot of people started before them.

EH: That they’re not “putok sa buho?”

ED: Exactly. For me, that’s one of the ways we can help them. There are a lot of independent filmmakers who are big-headed; they think they are always the first to do things, which I don’t mind, it’s nice to have a big ego but if you feel like you’re a part of a tradition, then that’s better.

Part 2 to follow.

Cultural Center of the Philippines May 14, 2009

First posted here

Digital Cinema in the Philippines 1999-2009

Digital Cinema in the Philippines 1999-2009

About the Author

Eloisa May P. Hernandez is an Associate Professor at the Department of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines in Diliman where she teaches art history, photography, popular art and culture, and Philippine cinema. She lectures at the Ateneo de Manila University Fine Arts Program. She finished her B.A. Art Studies, M.A. in Art History, and Ph.D. in Philippine Studies with a dissertation on The Political Economy of Digital Cinema in the Philippines, 1999-2009 in U.P. Diliman.

She is the author of Homebound: Women Visual Artists in 19th century Philippines. She has also co-authored several books such as Philippine Art and Culture (2012) published by Anvil and YCC Film Desk’s Sining ng Sineng Filipino (2009) published by U.P. Sentro ng Wikang Filipino.

She served as panel convenor and delivered papers in several international conferences such as European Association for South East Asian Studies (EUROSEAS) Conferences, Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC), and Asian Film Archive Forum on Asian Cinema. Her works are published in several refereed journals and anthologies.

A recipient of the Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program grant, she researched on digital cinema in Southeast Asia the results of which are published as a chapter entitled “The Beginnings of Digital Cinema in Southeast Asia” in the book Glimpses of Freedom: Independent Cinema in Contemporary Southeast Asia by Cornell University.

In 1999, she was awarded the Gawad Chanselor para sa Pinakamahusay na Guro. Dr. Hernandez has been elected as an Executive Committee Member of the National Committee on Cultural Education of the NCCA for 2004-2007. She also served as an elected executive committee member of the NCCA National Committee on Visual Arts, 1998-2001. She is a member of the Young Critics Circle Film Desk and served as its President in 2012.

Widely known to her former students as “MamE,” she serves as the faculty adviser of the UP Pep Squad, together with her partner, Dr. Grace Gregorio. They have six baby dogs.

 

Photograph by Miguel V. Mondragon

THE BEGINNINGS OF DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA*

Part 2 of DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Digital cinema in Southeast Asia emerged in the late 1990s and blossomed in 2000-2006. Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand now have a thriving community of filmmakers gaining recognition in their countries and in the international arena.

Several reasons can be cited for the emergence of digital cinema in Southeast Asia. One is the establishment and strengthening of the information and communications technology (ICT) in the region such as through the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia, and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CITC) of the Philippines. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared in her State of the Nation Address the establishment of the CyberServices Corridor. The Cyberservices Corridor, which was also part of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s ten-point agenda, is an ICT channel that runs through the archipelago from the north in Baguio City to the south in Zamboanga. The drive towards ICT development in the Philippines stimulated growth in several industries such as the call center, internet gaming, and the recovery of the once robust animation industry in the Philippines. It has also given the young digital filmmakers a venue to circulate and distribute their works on the internet. In the case of Malaysia, part of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s push for information and communication technology is the development of a Multimedia Super Corridor, a geographically designated area in Malaysia specifically from Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and also includes Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the Klang Valley. Part of the Multimedia Super Corridor is the Multimedia University where a lot of young Malaysian digital filmmakers were educated. The thrust into ICT also spurred the growth of the Malaysian animation industry which according to Hassan Muthalib, “from 1995 to 2005, an unprecedented 30 local animation TV series, 3 feature animation and 4 telemovies were produced for local consumption, surpassing any other ASEAN country. It also resulted in the rise of mostly young digital video filmmakers beginning in 1999 (Muthalib, 2006).” Gaik Cheng Khoo reiterates this, “Indie filmmaking has burgeoned due to the availability of cheap digital video technology, pirated foreign VCDs, DVDs and software, not to mention the government’s push for IT in its establishment of the Multimedia University and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) (Khoo, 2004).”

The apparent dissatisfaction of young independent filmmakers with the current state of the film industries in their respective countries is driving them to find alternative ways to make films. In Malaysia, Hassan Muthalib elucidates, “Malaysian mainstream cinema is notable for its emphasis on pure entertainment and nothing but…Dishing out clichéd, stereotypical and uninnovative narratives and characters, many of these films somehow, attain to box-office success… (Muthalib, 2007)” While Villaluna gives voice to this dissatisfaction, “the expensive 35mm format lends itself into a vicious cycle: to be able to make one, producers need to recoup their investments, resorting to producing crass slapstick comedies, soft-porn moneymakers, formulaic horror films, big-star romances and intrepid melodramas therefore resulting in a creative bankruptcy if not the decline of box-office grosses. (Villaluna, 2007)” The decline is not only in terms of quality, but also in terms quantity of films produced in the local film industries. The Philippine film industry is a prime example of a declining film industry having been repeatedly hailed as dead or dying since the 1990s. From a robust industry that consistently produced around 120 films a year for wide theater release, Philippine cinema has experienced a steady decline in film production since 2001. Records from U.P. Film Institute show that the Philippine film industry only produced 103 films in 2001, 94 in 2002, 80 in 2003, 55 in 2004, 50 in 2005, and 49 in 2006. Several factors are blamed for the decline in film production such as rising cost of raw film stock, exorbitant taxes, and the constant influx of Hollywood movies. It is not surprising then that young Filipino filmmakers choose to make films outside of the mainstream film industry.

The increasing cost of making movies and its concomitant taxes is also one reason for independent filmmakers to find alternative and cheaper ways to make films. The cost of producing a full-length 35mm film could reach up to thousands of dollars making it unaffordable for a lot of filmmakers working outside of a film studio. The film industry is also saddled with taxes. For example, in the Philippines, the local film industry remains one of the most heavily taxed industries with 30% amusement tax, 5% withholding tax on the producers’ film share, 32% corporate income tax, 10% VAT on producers’ film share. As independent filmmakers use the digital technology, the cost of production is drastically lowered and they are not subject to most of these taxes.

The year 1999 was a landmark year when pioneering Filipino filmmaker Jon Red shot the first digital full-length film Still Lives (Jon Red, 1999) which was commercially released in the Philippines. The year 2000 was a historic year in Malaysian cinema with the public screening of Amir Muhammad’s Lips to Lips (2000), Malaysia’s first full-length digital film. According to s.i.am contemp issue, a publication of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC), Ministry of Culture in Thailand, Punlop Horharin’s Everything will Flow (2000), shown at the Bangkok Film Festival 2000, is the first digital film in Thailand. (s.i.am contemp, 2006). In Singapore, a group of undergraduate students from the National University of Singapore made a digital film entitled called Stamford (1999) and the first full-length digital film was Stories about Love (2000) directed by three emerging filmmakers Cheek, James Toh and Abdul Nizam and produced by internationally acclaimed Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo (Millet, 2006).

Part 3 MAKING DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA will follow.

*Research for this article was funded by the SEASREP Foundation. Research conducted in 2005 to 2007.

WORKS CITED
Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Just-do-it-yourself: Malaysian independent filmmaking.” Aliran Monthly Vol 24 (2004): Issue 9. Aliran Monthly. Accessed July 18, 2007. http://www.aliran.com/oldsite/monthly/2004b/9k.html
Millet, Raphael. Singapore Cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.
Muthalib, Hassan Abd. “Malaysian Cinema 2003 through 2005: Beginning of the Crossover.” E-mail to the author. May 23, 2006.
Thailand. Ministry of Culture. Office of Contemporary Art and Culture. S.i.am Contemp. Bangkok: OCAC, 2006.
Villaluna, Paolo. “Bagong Agos: New Currents. New Visions. Emerging Cinema.” Bagong Agos: The Current Wave of Philippine Digital Cinema. Manila: Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, 2007.

DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: An Introduction*

Part 1 of DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Digital cinema has grown leaps and bounds in Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, since the start of the new millennium. Due to the unprecedented growth of digital cinema in these Southeast Asian countries, it has created emerging modes of production and circulation, distinct from the mainstream film industry’s Hollywood patterned modes of production and circulation.

This essay explores the political economy of digital cinema in Southeast Asia, and as Douglas M. Keller and Meenakshi Gigi Durham in Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies succinctly explains, “A political economy approach to media and culture centers more on the production and distribution of culture than on interpreting texts or studying audiences. The references to the terms “political” and “economy” call attention to the fact that the production and distribution of culture takes place within a specific economic and political system, constituted by relations between the state, the economy, social institutions and practices, culture, and organizations like media (Kellner and Durham, 2006) .” Thus, the essay aims to address several questions such as: How are digital films produced and distributed in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand? What institutions support the production and circulation of digital cinema in the Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand? What are the venues for the dissemination and circulation of digital cinema in the Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand?

Hollywood has remained the dominant force in the production and distribution of cinema worldwide. Local film industries such as those in Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand follow Hollywood modes of production and distribution, practically fashioning themselves as “local hollywoods.” Digital cinema, part of the so-called “digital revolution,” has been hailed as the way to liberate filmmakers from the hegemonic grip of Hollywood and similar film industries. According to Jeffrey Shaw in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, “the hegemony of Hollywood’s movie-making modalities is increasingly being challenged by the radical new potentialities of the digital media technologies (Shaw, 2003).”

The term “independent” remains a highly debatable and fluid nomenclature in Southeast Asian films. As Malaysian scholar Gaik Cheng Khoo writes, “Outside of Amir Muhammad’s definition of ‘indie’ as ‘a film that is not accepted by the Malaysian Film Festival’, there is much debate still around the term (Khoo, 2004).” Customarily, the term refers to films produced and distributed outside of the major film studios. The implication is that the creative decisions rest on the filmmaker who is free from the pressures of the studios and its commercial interests to realize his/her artistic vision. Though the focus of the term is tilted towards production and distribution, it is not limited to it. There is the aspect of representation – is the film trying to say something different? Nowadays, there is also an expectation for independent films to have alternative representations, novel narratives, innovative storytelling, thereby veering away from Hollywood formulaic narratives and conventions. Thaiindie, a group of Thai independent filmmakers, articulates this on its website, “We’re getting tired with the word ‘indie’, people want to make indie movies because they think they can escape from the rules, but when we all do that, we’re following another set of rules anyway. For us, we want to make movies that we really feel strongly about, and in the style that we think is unique – not better or worse, but unique (www.thaiindie.com).”

Nowadays, the term “independent” is often equated with digital cinema since the digital technology has been embraced by independent filmmakers in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as their new weapon of choice. Independent filmmakers turn to the most affordable filmmaking technology of our day – the digital video. Though some major film studios have also used the digital technology in the hope of lowering their production costs, the independent filmmakers are the more active and adventurous champions of the digital technology.

Paolo Villaluna of the Philippine Independent Filmmakers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative (for short, Independent Filmmakers Cooperative or IFC for short), a group of Filipino independent digital filmmakers, elucidates, “The new technology undoubtedly took away the monopoly of filmmaking from only those who can afford them. Filmmakers saw this as an affordable opportunity to make films the way they want to (italics and bold by original writer), minus producers breathing down their backs, minus the cliché of casting big stars and minus the pressure of recouping a large return of investment (Villaluna, 2007).”

Independent filmmakers have used and still use various film formats such as the Super 8 and the 16 mm but the introduction of the digital technology gives independent filmmakers a cheaper alternative. As Brian McKernan boasts, “today’s digital technology has democratized this most powerful form of storytelling, making it affordable enough for practically anyone to use (McKernan, 2005).” Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus writes “Within a few years if their introduction in the 1990s, mini-DV revolutionized independent and multimedia production… (Ascher and Pincus, 1999).” Villaluna connects the digital technology to its predecessors, “More importantly, this technology mirrors the independence that the previous generation saw in classic tools like the Super 8 and 16 mm (Villaluna, 2007).” Fully cognizant of the importance of other filmmaking medium such as Super 8 and 16 mm to independent filmmakers, it is the contemporary nature of the digital technology that merits the focus of this essay.

Part 2 THE BEGINNINGS OF DIGITAL CINEMA IN SOUTHEAST ASIA will follow.

*Research for this article was funded by the SEASREP Foundation. Research conducted in 2005 to 2007.
**There are also nascent digital filmmaking communities in Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries, but financial and time constraints limit this study to Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

WORKS CITED
Ascher, Steven and Edward Pincus. The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age. New York: Plume, 1999.
Keller, Douglas M. and Meenakshi Gigi Durham. Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Just-do-it-yourself: Malaysian independent filmmaking.” Aliran Monthly Vol 24 (2004): Issue 9. Aliran Monthly. Accessed July 18, 2007. http://www.aliran.com/oldsite/monthly/2004b/9k.html
McKernan, Brian. Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Postproduction, and Distribution. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Millet, Raphael. Singapore Cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.
Shaw, Jeffrey and Peter Weibel. Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.
Thaiindie website
Villaluna, Paolo. “Bagong Agos: New Currents. New Visions. Emerging Cinema.” Bagong Agos: The Current Wave of Philippine Digital Cinema. Manila: Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, 2007.

FUTURE PROSPECTS: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema

Part VI: FUTURE PROSPECTS

The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Though the effect of the information and communications technology on Philippine cinema in general is essential and evident, there are still prospects to be explored. For instance, like the Singapore Film Commission website which contains vital information such as a list of all the films released in the country-state for the past several years, it also includes information on the gross earnings of each film, cinema attendance per year, number of cinema screens and seating capacity. The website does not simply function as a website of the state institution; it also functions as a database for Singapore film releases. The Film Development Council of the Philippines website still needs to work on its database on Philippine cinema. The Internet Movie Database website is a central site (it claims to be the world’s biggest movie database) but sadly contains only a few entries about Filipino filmmakers such as Cris Pablo, Khavn De la Cruz, John Torres, Lav Diaz, Aureus Solito, Raya Martin, Brillante Mendoza, and Jeffrey Jeturian. A similar website will be useful to the digital film community. There are attempts to create a database for Philippine cinema with efforts from the U.P. Film Institute but it seems that the site has not been updated recently.

Filipino film classics can be transferred to the digital format and the database on Philippine cinema can contain excerpts of the digitized film classics such as Octavio Silos’ Tunay na Ina (1939), one of the oldest existing Filipino film and Manuel Conde’s Ibong Adarna (1941), the first with colored sequence. These excerpts can be very helpful to teachers and students of film.

It would also be beneficial to independent digital filmmakers to create a website where their films can be sold online. It may include a catalog of digital films in the Philippines complete with production notes. As of today, there is no internet store that sells digital films from the Philippines. An interested buyer would not have any idea where to buy the works of John Torres, Lav Diaz or Raya Martin. Most of the digital filmmakers now are just using the Do-It-Yourself or DIY approach, making DVD or VCD copies of their films and selling them to friends, bookstores, conferences, tiangges or film screenings. They can pull their resources together to set up a central website to sell the DVDs and VCDs of their films. They can follow the example of Objectifs Films , a Singapore-based organization, which features a catalog of around 40 digital short films from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Objectifs acts as a distributor of Southeast Asian short films and utilizes the internet as its display area. Digital films can also be downloaded from the internet for a fee but this requires a cable or DSL connection, and both are not yet prevalent in the Philippines.

Film criticism and writing in the Philippines can get a much-needed boost if a website that contains compilations of excerpts and links to film criticism and film reviews can be created much like the websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic . Both websites contain a compilation of film reviews by well-known critics all over the world and acts as a database of film reviews.

Thought ICT has had a great impact in the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines, there are several issues such as piracy, censorship and technological infrastructure. The proliferation of download sites such as Limewire and other P2P (person to person) file-sharing programs, digital films can easily be downloaded without the permission of the filmmakers. Filmmakers can avoid this by using Youtube since it does not allow downloading. They can also disable the right click functions in their websites or use Macromedia Flash. There are also digital filmmakers who allow the distribution of their films without copyright or with reasonable copyright. The issue of censorship is also surfaces since as of today the internet is not under any censorship body. Digital films distributed on the internet are not under the jurisdiction of the MTRCB. Another issue is the readiness of the technological infrastructure in the Philippines that can support a wide distribution of digital films. Most internet users still use dial-up which is very slow when downloading films. Only when cable or DSL connection becomes a standard does distributing films on the internet can become a norm.

Film distribution and circulation can also benefit with the potential integration of the internet, cable TV and mobile phones. Filmmakers can produce content which can be distributed in all the three major ICTs.

These issues and prospects will hopefully provide more avenues for the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines and ensure the role of digital cinema in social and cultural transformation.

Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

DIGITAL FILMS ON MOBILE PHONES AND CABLE TV: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema

Part V: DIGITAL FILMS ON MOBILE PHONES AND CABLE TV

The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Though not as prevalent as the internet in terms of circulating digital films in the Philippines, the mobile technology holds tremendous promise. With the introduction of 3G in the country by the two largest mobile providers, SMART and GLOBE, distributing digital short films through the mobile phones is now being explored. With the proliferation of cellular phones equipped with a video camera, one can make a short film easily. The world’s leading mobile phone maker, NOKIA, sponsors Nokia Shorts, an international competition of short films made by using Nokia mobile phones. Nokia is also the major sponsor of Mobile Filmmakers Awards. Filipina Janice Yu won the Mobile Filmmakers Awards in 2005 by using her Nokia N90 to shot underwater scenes in Anilao, Batangas. Another Filipino, Noel Osting, won as Best Editor. The Mobile Filmmakers 2006 Awards had two Filipino finalists – Reynaldo de Guzman and Joel Cardenas. The digital films shot using a Nokia mobile phone is available for viewing at the Mobile Filmmakers Awards website and will also be shown at the international cable channel Discovery. It has not been distributed via mobile yet.

Mobifilms has a portion dedicated for the more established filmmaker such as Singapore’s Kelvin Tong and Bertrand Lee and Malaysia’s Yasmin Ahmad. The Philippines is represented by Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tracking Shots .

There have been efforts though, to use mobile phone technology to distribute television soap operas. ABS-CBN Interactive and Globe is pioneering Mobisoaps, the first ever series created exclusively for mobile phones. Digital short films on mobile phones may not be far behind.

Cable TV also promises to be a good avenue to distribute digital films. Finalists for the Cinema One Originals film competition are screened on the Cinema One cable channel. Unfortunately, like the mobile technology, its potential has not yet been fully explored. On regular local TV, ABC 5 airs documentaries on its late night show called DOKYU. It has since been transformed as an avenue to show independent and mostly digital short films in a show called SHORTS: Istilong Iba, Indie Pelikula.

Part VI: FUTURE PROSPECTS to follow.

Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.