Tito Genova Valiente
Several years from now, perhaps 50 or even more years, people will be looking back at this year. The year 2016 has been declared as the Year of the Rebirth of the New Fascism and the New Racism. Madonna has the wisest words for how to regard this year that is going: F__k off 2016!
In the local world of culture and cinema, a new group of people has overhauled the annual film festival that, in the process, removed the blockbuster films declared by cultural workers and critics, including this writer, as dumb shows that make the Filipino audiences dumber. Those were not the exact words but memory, like history, is never the better judge. But I am going ahead with the title of this ranting.
When at last December came and the announcement of films was released, the initial reaction was dismay and not celebration. The films were labeled “indie”, a mark that is the kiss of death in any affair with the big audience.
I was in the province when the film festival started. Off to the cinema I went and there saw, together with the selected Metro Manila Film Festival entries, was the film of Vice Ganda, heretofore and hereinafter, the avatar of bad taste. Shunned from the film festival, it showed itself at the box office and heralded another film festival. With the “official” festival at hand, the Vice Ganda film, like the storm that gathers heat and strength as it moves across the sea and into the land, became even stronger. More people were queueing for that film than for those that were aimed at the viewers’ soul.
What is it in the films of Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto that attract viewers? We cannot ignore this phenomenon by saying these films are nonsense. If we do so, then are the people loving them nonsense?
We cannot legislate good taste, we often say. Examine that sentence and find there the death sentence of culture. We cannot assume corrupt officials to have good taste, do we? Who then shall instill the good taste?
Years from now, books on culture will be discussing films that, by then, had been seen only by a few. Those comic films that, as their supporters and box-office results had validated, will not be written about. They will not be even part of footnotes, unless some pop-culture academic will be talking about “Films That Are So Bad They Are Already Beautiful.”
Now, that is the problem of history. It cannot be a judge, because it is a remembrance of things past, and all depends on the historian at hand and the archives available. What we see as history really judging is the present. If we are treading on the present that is about to go, the last gasps of this horrid 2016, then it is the future looming that will be looking back, and not history for it is of the past.
Some nights back, my high-school batchmates were talking of personal histories. Amazing it is how, in a small circle, remembrances are disparate. Louie, the lawyer, insisted that Arnel, the honored government servant, died before noon. This was to prove the lawyer’s theory that heart attacks never happen in the afternoon, but, as the old song goes, in the wee small hours of the morning and even up to 10.
Heart attacks are like histories. When they happen, they not ruled by the past but watched over by the grieving present and the future waiting in the wings. We never learn from the attacks. We never learn from histories, because we never see them coming and, by the time we look back, something else has taken over the horizon, like more killings and stronger fear that someone will die in our family and a government could just go on with what it is doing, and people are shrugging their shoulders because there are millions out there still liking the administration. People are waiting for some histories to judge all these events, including a festival that terrifies people because it is, for the first time, screening films that are good for the mind, but not for the season.