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

By Kristine Servando, | 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)

20 short films aim to show real issues in May polls

By Marinel Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:30:00 04/08/2010

AmBisyon 2010 directors at the CCP exclusive premiere

“WE WILL CHALLENGE THE ‘X’ rating and take it to the highest court,” said ABS-CBN executive Maria Ressa of the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) decision to ban two short films included in “AmBisyon 2010.”

Brillante Mendoza’s “Ayos Ka” and Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Ganito Tayo Ngayon, Paano na Tayo Bukas?” were given the “X” rating by the censors last week. This prohibits the films from being shown in theaters.

“AmBisyon 2010” is a collection of 20 short films produced by ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) “to show the real issues at stake” in the coming elections.

“That [rating] rallied us around the cause—freedom of expression,” said Ressa, news and current affairs department head.

Expected reaction

“I sort of expected the way the MTRCB reacted to my short film; the movie is critical of the administration,” Jeturian said during the premiere screening of “AmBisyon 2010” Tuesday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Jeturian’s film follows a day in the lives of three people who get to read the government’s claim of economic growth. The director said his film aims to show whether the reported gains are felt by the common folk.
Mendoza’s “Ayos Ka” is a music video with lyrics that starkly contrast with images of poverty, prostitution, drugs and murder. On second review, “Ayos Ka” received an “R” rating, restricting it to viewers 18 and above.

“What’s surprising,” said Jeturian, “was, the same materials were approved for airing on TV. I guess the judgment was really arbitrary.”
“The MTRCB is allowing the showing of ‘AmBisyon 2010’ only on ANC,”

Kane Choa of the corporate communications department said on Wednesday.

Jerrold Tarog, director of “Faculty,” said he was pleased his work was included in the omnibus. “This project is a first,” he said. “Although I have to admit that, with the limited budget given to us, there’s only so much we can do.”

“Faculty” is about two teachers with two opposing approaches to education. “I asked for that subject (education) because I’m currently doing another full-length feature on the same subject. ‘Faculty’ is a veritable prequel,” Tarog said.

A filmmaker’s job

Pam Miras’ “Wag Kang Titingin” is about war and violence, seen through the eyes of a child. “This omnibus is good because it involves the independent community in the elections,” she said. “It’s just sad that it will not be shown in movie houses.”

Jon Torres’ work is titled “Ayaw Namin ng Demokrasya: Gusto namin ng Pag-ibig, Pag-asa at mga Katulad Nito.”

Said Torres, “I chose democracy for a topic because it’s [abstract] and leaves more room for experimentation. It made me ask, ‘What is democracy? Do we really need it?’”

Jade Castro, who made “Hindi Ako Makatulog ‘Pag Wala Ka Sa Tabi Ko,” said, “I wanted to be part of ‘AmBisyon 2010’ because I’m a filmmaker who is also a Filipino. It’s my job to tell stories … to articulate what I know.”

“I thought, if I could present the farmers’ issues [and] struggles and present these in the context of the elections, that would be something,” said Ditsi Carolino, director of “Lupang Hinarang Sumilao,” about the 1,700-kilometer walk of 55 farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon, to the Palace in Manila.

Ressa added: “I think we all decided that we need something better. There’s no way we can have change if we don’t change the way we see. It starts there. What we’re trying to do … is show the Filipinos a different way of seeing things, and who can do that better than these directors.”

Free screening

Also part of “AmBisyon 2010” are Eddie Frejas’ “Hanap Buhay,” Gym Lumbera’s “Dahil sa ’Yo,” Sunshine Matutina’s “Hingalo,” McRobert Nacario’s “Ang Assassination,” Ellen Ramos’ “Wasteland,” Aissa Peñafiel’s “Habol Hininga;”

Jon Red’s “Pandesal, Sardinas at Gatas,” Raymond Red’s “Pusila,” Emerson Reyes’ “Ang Telenovela ni Juan at Luzviminda,” Kiri Dalena’s “Requiem for M,” Emman dela Cruz’ “Laro,” Paolo Villaluna’s “Wasteland” and Erik Matti’s “Da More Da Meniyer.”

“AmBisyon2010” will have a free public screening at the UP Film Institute tonight at 7. The five-part TV special on ANC also starts tonight at 6 (four films every Friday), with replays Saturdays at 8 p.m., starting tomorrow. It airs on Studio 23 starting April 15, 10:30 p.m.


ANC Schedule:
5 Fridays 6PM – April 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7
5 Saturdays 8PM – April 10, 17, 24, May 1, May 8
5 Sundays 4PM – April 11, 18, 25, May 2, May 9
4 Mondays 1PM – April 12, 19, 26, May 3

20 filmmakers. 10 issues. 20 short films.

It is a nation that lives by its stories: housewives living through the eight pm soap opera, teenagers who toss meager allowances on movie tickets, the audience that shakes its head over the daily news. AmBisyon is about the dreams of a nation, the vision of a future in the context of a country locked in poverty. It is about hope, possibility, truth—through the lenses of those who tell its stories.

In amBisyon2010, the Abs-cbn News Channel brings together twenty independent filmmakers who will tackle their version of the state of the nation. Corruption, Democracy, Economy Education, Environment, Health, Justice and Human Rights, Population, Poverty and Security: these are the issues that will determine who will take on the national leadership in the elections of 2010.

On a budget of P30,000, each filmmaker will produce a short film that pictures their vision of the nation after 2010. The films will have their theater premiere in late February of 2010, three months before the national elections. For ten weeks after, ANC will air the short films in weekly prime time episodes, together with behind the scenes interviews with the filmmakers.

amBisyon2010 brings together the dreams of a nation—and the possibility of change.

Ikaw, ano ang ambisyon mo?

Directed and edited by Jason Tan
Produced by Patricia Evangelista
Cinematography by Mackie Galvez
Music by Malek Lopez
Performance and words by Lourd de Veyra