How to earn an X-rating, and other lessons from AmBisyon 2010

By Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 04/10/2010 11:04 AM

ambisyon 2010 directors

MANILA, Philippines – Curious audiences who flocked to the Cultural Center of the Philippines last Tuesday were curious to know: What about Jeffrey Jeturian and Brillante Mendoza’s Ambisyon 2010 films earned an X-rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB)?As they found out after the cinema premiere and gala on April 6, it was irony and a newspaper dripping with feces that did it.

Mendoza’s music video “Ayos Ka” is set to the upbeat rap song “Pilipinas Ayos Ka” that extols the Philippine’s nonexistent virtues (among its claims are that there is no poverty). Its accompanying scenes of slums and squalor, however, prove the opposite.

Jeturian’s  film “Ganito Tayo Ngayon, Paano Tayo Bukas?”, meanwhile, shows the lives of ordinary citizens in Metro Manila as they read the day’s newspaper headline on how great the economy is.

However, the headline doesn’t seem to match reality. In its final scene, a kariton-pusher who collects junk for a living accidentally steps on wet poop and wipes it off with a newspaper page.Jeturian’s short film ends with the close-up of the broadsheet page, showing the country’s alleged economic leaps, splashed with shit.

The irony of both poverty-themed films was not lost on the MTRCB. In a second round of reviews, Mendoza’s film was given an R-rating instead of an X, but Jeturian’s film kept its X-rating, such that it cannot be shown in public cinemas.

The MTRCB argued that the films cast the country in a bad light. The filmmakers argue back that it’s simply reality.

TV debut

While Jeturian’s film can’t be shown in theaters, ANC’s producers were able to secure a permit to show most AmBisyon 2010 films on television— even the one with an X rating.

ANC’s advocacy film project AmBisyon 2010 made its much-anticipated television debut this week.

Starting on April 6, audiences can watch all 20 short films—created by 14 established directors and 6 budding filmmakers—on ABS-CBN channels ANC and Studio 23.

“We feel it’s a little odd [that the films can’t show in cinema but can be shown in full in television,” says Patricia Evangelista, one of the project organizers at  the CCP gala where the directors were honored.

“But it’s also because the MTRCB has different panels,” she said.
Evangelista said the filmmakers and producers disagree with the MTRCB’s decision, “but they will follow processes and will show the films on ABS-CBN.”

In the run up to May 10, 2010, ABS-CBN channels will air a package of 4 films per week for 5 weeks. ANC will start airing the episodes every Friday at 6 p.m. with replays at 8 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Studio 23, meanwhile, will air the episodes every Friday at 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.

ANC also held a special screening of AmBisyon 2010 at the UP Film Center on April 9, the only other time when the films could be shown in a theater.

The project is meant to showcase each filmmaker’s unique vision and hopes for the country, especially at a time when voters are picking the next leaders.

Socio-political issues

Through each filmmaker’s lens, pressing issues like population control, environmental problems, the curtailment of press freedom, the poor state of education and healthcare, unemployment, land struggle and the question of democracy and poverty come alive.

Drawing from her personal experience with unjust healthcare, Sunshine Matutina’s “Hingalo” follows the desperate attempts of a husband to save his wife from dying from a miscarriage, but watches her die as they are turned away by every hospital they go to.

Ellen Ramos’s animated film “Wasteland” shows a child who goes through hell and water to go to school but finds that their ramshackle school cannot hold up anymore.

Jerrold Tarog’s “Faculty” is about two private college teachers—one an activist, the other a conservative—who clash on what a teacher’s role should be.

Thorny grassroots issues are also a highlight of some films, including Pam Miras’s “Huwag Kang Titingin” about the daughters of a seeming New People’s Army rebel and Ditsi Carolino’s documentary on the Sumilao farmers.

Some films tackled the Ampatuan massacre, where 57 journalists and civilians were brutally murdered by a local warlord’s armed bodyguards.

Kiri Dalena’s “Requiem for M” shows highly-charged footage of the funerals of those killed in the massacre, but the scenes are played backwards.

Emmanuel dela Cruz’s “Laro” re-enacts the gruesome events using action figures and toy trucks handled by playacting children.

The lighter side?

There are also some comedic streaks to some films, like Henry Frejas’s black comedy “Hanapbuhay” about a poor funeral parlor employee who waits—unsuccessfully—for people in his village to die.
Aissa Penafiel’s film team, meanwhile, created “Habol Hininga”, that shows what life would be like in a heavily toxic environment—with people living life as usual, but having to wear scuba fins and a funny-looking gas mask at all times.

Jade Castro’s “Di Ako Makatulog Kasi Wala Ka Sa Tabi Ko” distills health issues through the eyes of JC, a young call center worker who mistakes the pain in his chest (probably caused by his penchant for smoking) as heartache for his girlfriend Kim.

Seemingly apathetic teens discuss the possibility of infidelity while cuddling in bed in John Torres’s Visayan-language film “Wala Kaming Pakialam Sa Demokrasya.”

An anti-administration Presidential Security Group member gets to air his true sentiments about the president he guards over a sumptuous breakfast in Jon Red’s “Pandesal, Sardinas, Gatas (PSG).”

Meanwhile,  whimsical visuals and quirky dialogue rule supreme in Emerson Reyes’s “Telenovela Ni Juan at Luzviminda”, an allegorical disagreement between a boyfriend named Juan (the Filipino people) and his girlfriend (the Philippines) about when to give birth to their child named “Democracy.”

The same goes for Erik Matti’s “Di More DiMeyrrier”, a funny take on population control about a bearded God who orders Evs and Dan to procreate, no matter what the cost to their tiny garden of limited resources.

Pure ambition

Corruption is exposed in Raymond Red’s mafia-esque film “Pusila” about a candidate who bribes his way to win a crime lord’s support and in McRobert Macario’s thriller “Ang Assassination” about a hitman hired by a politician to kill his rival.

Man’s relationship to the environment is the theme of Gym Lumbera’s philosophical piece “Dahil Sa’Yo”, about an old man who has an almost human relationship with his banana tree. He serenades it with his guitar and even cries when he cuts up its heart (puso ng saging).

Finally, Paolo Villaluna’s epic “Wasteland” follows the lives of a genteel mestizo family as they prosper in the 1960s, fall into financial ruin during Martial Law, see hope in the 1986 revolution, but ultimately come to a tragic end year post-1986.

Evangelista says not all audiences will agree with the perspectives put forward by each film, but she says “we must all agree that the perspectives are legitimate.”

“They may be perspectives that many Filipinos share, but who don’t have a voice to speak,” she says. “The filmmakers are sharing theirs. So we’re aiming to spread the messages as far as we can.”

Screenings at schools and other venues are in the works so more voters can watch and learn the issues. What it takes to change the country, organizers say, is just bold, hopeful ambition. (Newsbreak)

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