Portia Placino

Repository of my thoughts and images of art, literature, travel, and life.

The Search for Paradise

It’s been a while since I’ve seen challenging films. I’ve been watching Hollywood-need-not-think ones because I’ve been thinking too much as it is. But going through my interdisciplinary elective, I am once again exposed to the world of challenging cinema. What struck me most was the Mike de Leon’s Aliwan Paradise, a 1992 short film. I should have seen this before, as an Art Studies major, but surprisingly, I have not. I wish I can get a copy of this short film so I can also expose my student’s to it as well. The issues presented are what struck me most, almost two decades later, we are still facing the same problems. (Look back to my previous blog entry How “Babae sa Septic Tank” ruined my Friday night.)

The story is basically about the search of the entertainment industry for something new, for bagong-bago that would sell to the public. The presentation was exaggerated to a point of a carnivalesque entertainment. Such style, ironically, lives on today, such as in noon-time game shows. The much-protested Willie Revillame‘s shows reflect such sensibilities in the search for bagong-bago. The exploitation of the poor and their suffering is still the same, except that we now enjoy them in digital HD. I can almost see Johnny Delgado‘s character epitomized into the “well-loved” entertainment heavy weight WR.

The aesthetization of poverty is also alive now, more than ever in our award-winning independent films. Even the supposed anti-independent Ang Babae sa Septic Tank falls into the same trappings. Just because it is comedic, audience assumed that it is different, but its representation of the poor as the desperate, car-robbers obviously fails in the satiric attempt. The poor is beautiful and it is marketable. Almost two-decades later, we are still in the same pit. How will this end? When can see new ideas in today’s filmmaking?

As I study and delve into media theories that we have, I hope to explore more on this subject. We are in a changing world with constantly changing media, but still, we seem to be stuck in the same ideas. Is it the market? But who is to say that quality and challenging films will not sell? Granted, that I also enjoy the need-not-think films, but that doesn’t mean that I will not enjoy challenging cinema, it is just not as accessible. Films like these are still stuck in the archives somewhere or deep in university libraries. Perhaps access to the challenge is what we need.

This is a great beginning to the semester as I gear towards the end of my course work. I will challenge myself once again with films that inspires change. Hopefully, I will also find more time to write about it and perhaps some might get to read it and in turn watch such films. And, as an end goal, not just for me but for the rest of the Philippine cinema world, a beginning of the end of poverty porn. One can dream, after all, even Aliwan Paradise is a just a dream.

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