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On Film Appreciation and Depreciation

I wrote about this sometime ago with the original title “When the “I” Matters.” After reading it once more, I realized that it is in fact part of my treatise on “exclusion.” And that my philosophy, belief and stand on film making and viewing remain the same up to now. I wrote this on March 9, 2009. Tagal na pala ‘nun!. It’s now August 10, 2012. I have added this page not as an addendum though, for this was in fact, my preliminary thoughts on the subject.

Beauty they say is relative. And I think that appreciation of beauty and film appreciation are pretty much the same. Both depends on the beholder—his frame or state of mind the time he views, for example the film, painting, sculpture or architecture; or his disposition the time he hears the music, song, poem, etc. Let’s zero in on the subject of film viewing. Was he irritable, happy, angry, hopeful, highly expecting, exhausted, what not, the time he views the film? What about his background—a moralist, authoritative on the subject, demanding, a critic? A high school or college student? A school teacher or university professor? Or just a simple viewer who merely wants to enjoy while at the same time absorb what he sees whatever his profession may be. What does he know about filmmaking—technical and creative part of it? Film structure and form? Is he after technical perfection and glossiness of the film over what the film actually offers? Does he look beyond the images? In what the film is trying to say, or rather, what the filmmaker is trying to convey? If the Censor’s board for example, only eyes on “censorable” images without seeing them in the context of the whole film, is that being just and fair? If one sees only a segment and forgets the totality and value of the entire film, isn’t the act limiting?

Anyhow, it is my belief that if a viewer puts a stop to his viewing experience because there is something he does not agree with, or finds something technically wrong in it because he is a perfectionist, it is his right to be so. For at that point the “I” matters. The self becomes important. Their yardstick becomes their experiences, morality, beliefs or what they believe to be what should be. They then stop to participate. Empathy ceases. Negative reaction overpowers. They become ill at ease. Everything seems wrong to their senses. They will dwell on what they view as lack, mistakes, probably indulgences, violence, too much sex, etc. Film “depreciation” follows. Nothing else will matter. For by then they would only be considering themselves.

I have produced a couple of feature-docu films, which are advocacy and educational by nature. And I would like to start on the reactions to Silent Odyssey (2008), a docu on Deaf Filipinos, the more recent among my films:

A friend says SO is “dragging,” another friend says it’s “engaging.” Both are UP graduates.

One says “It’s very long.” The other says “It’s OK with me. I didn’t notice the passing of the time…” Both are hearing educators. They come from the same school for the Deaf.

A blogger who runs a computer school for the Deaf says it lacks historical researches because his school, a Deaf institution and some people whom he expects to be in the film are not there while a lawyer says “malalim at scholarly ang treatment.” Both saw the film for the first time when premiered at the UP Film Center in UP. The former, an educator of the Deaf for years is dismayed, the latter who gets a glimpse of Deaf culture for the first time is touched by what he has experienced.

Although both started walking with me in my journey, one got tired, stopped and just looked from a distance—completely distracted and finally detached. The other continued with the walk, saw everything along the way and felt the sentiments of the subjects—he got involved, his film viewing experience was participative and whole.

There are clearly various types of viewers: there are those who refuses to see what I have seen in the journey because their interests are not my interests, those who are so much into themselves that they could not detach from their being, those who are so critical because they feel they know better and there are those who enjoy the journey with me because of getting enriched by the knowledge they get from the odyssey into diverse world. Film appreciation revolves around the feeling of empathy or having none of it. The experience is subjective. What I appreciate as good and beautiful may not be to others. Everything boils to one thing: YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYBODY.

On ALYANA, here are some reactions:

audience-reactions1

When Alyana was premiered, the only negative response that I got was about its length and some shaky shots. I am a film editor and I pretty well know when and where some, not all in the audience will feel uneasy or get bored. But my mentality runs this way: “If you get bored, go out and return if you like. If not, go straight home. Take it or leave it.” That way, I really appreciate being an INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER. There is no one to tell me what to delete and put in. But I am not numb to positive criticisms. Definitely not. Just get me convinced and I shall take them in consideration.

Alyana have three versions considering the type of its audience, time constraints and requests by the sponsoring groups:

Version 1 – (2 1/2hrs / 150 min) – the original premiered version with the segment on Occupational Therapists (OT) added. Best for direct beneficiaries and stakeholders: persons with autism and their families, special educators, therapists, caregivers, etc. This is shown only upon request.

Version 2 – (110 min) – the version which goes around the Philippines. It has a 5-year Censor’s permit, the copy shown at SM Cinemas and first exhibited at the Cinemanila International Film Festival (CIFF). It had special screening at the Festival on the Issues Concerning the Mentally Challenged in New Delhi, India in 2006.

Version 3 – (97 min) – the version which was captioned for the Deaf audience. Best for upper high school students and up and those with short attention span. Also good for showings in places where time is a big factor. This version was first shown at the International Women’s Film Festival 2007 in UP and the version requested by Silliman University and ASP Chapter in Iligan City.

(For more reactions to the film, see the page on the right column entitled “Alyana in Tagum City.”)

FOCUS
My film is oral history in format. Focus is a must in watching my films. If one loses focus, if the viewers cannot relate to the experiences of my subjects or cannot for a while detach themselves from who they actually are at the time they sit and watch, the probability is very high that they won’t enjoy and profit from it at all. They will get BORED!

MEANT TO HELP CHANGE ATTITUDE
Since I am not making advocacy films to please anyone but to help change attitude towards my subjects, help erase myths and hopefully remove negative stigma about them, nothing external matters. It is my personal satisfaction to achieve what was formerly just an idea or just a dream. It is my joy to be able to overcome all the obstacles in making my films. It is the accomplishment of what I believe to be my “mission” and to share what I have learned that matter most. The viewers have their own brains to process the information presented to them anyway. Again, it is a take it or leave it proposition. It is MY journey afterall. Viewers cannot be forced to bear the brunt of sitting for hours if nothing sink in their minds anyway. It is a waste of their time. At least, I have never heard anyone commenting that my films are trash.

Remarks of the majority to both films are positive and encouraging, indicators to me that I am doing the right thing and that I am on the right track:

“A bold step—mind and heart opening.” (Autism Society Philippines President DANG KOE)

“…very, very important work to understanding the culture of the Deaf…” (De La Salle- College of Saint Benilde President, VICTOR FRANCO, FSC)

“a trail blaizer…” (Founding ASP member, Mrs. CARMEL ALMENDRALA)

“…hope your Silent Odyssey reverberates nationwide to wake us up, to keep the isolation, ignorance and prejudice outside our world” (Atty. ROBERT SISON)

“It touched my heart deeply…I was crying!” (Maria Luz Cole-Havraneck, Silliman University Alumna, Dumaguete City)

(For other comments on SO, see the trailer at Youtube.com watch?v=fFUeGiYyH6I)

Alyana is going around the Philippines since 2006 while Silent Odyssey  started roaming outside Manila last October 2008 organized ironically by groups of hearing individuals. Both have showing engagements being planned and prepared by various groups for screening this year 2009 in their respective communities.

The Philippine School for the Deaf Parents-Teachers Association has postponed their showing of SO slated in February as Deaf Inc. in Palawan plans to show it too in Aborlan sometime this year.

Alyana is scheduled to have three showings again in Batangas City from 8 am at Lyceum of Batangas this coming Thursday, March 5. It was first shown thrice last February 7 at Batangas Provincial Capitol in Batangas City. (Click here for the Batangueños’ reactions: watch?v=cDKY9bkD-9I)

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