Sexless Pinoy Cinema

The decline of sex in the genre of indie and short-time Image Four years ago in my scriptwriting class, one classmate turned in a movie script for a pornographic movie. No, I don’t have a copy of it. But from what I remember the script was all ninety minutes of grunts and grinding that would otherwise not make the pages without the scene description written in italics. The reason I recall the student’s audacity to turn-in that paper is that I find that sex is lacking or dwindling in the micro-cinema genre where it seems to be most apt. Another reason was that about three nights ago, I was watching Tikoy Aguiluz’ Segurista on Youtube. This movie is a gem for those who haven’t watched it yet.  For those who recall Gamol movies like “Alabang Girls” and “Ikaw ang Ms. Universe ng Buhay ko,” this movie stars Michelle Aldana, which according to Jaemark tordecilla’s blog I visited, looks like a taller, prettier, and definitely hotter Sex Bomb dancer. The same blog said that she’s smart, graduating from UP Diliman in 1998, and that it must be true because she’s out of showbiz. Anyway, these two observations about cinema a decade apart offers the assumption that we have been effectively cleansed of the evils of the flesh. That the formulaic romantic-comedies in the cinema where there is a dearth of sex and the sexual is indeed the reality portrayed. I have no objections about that and I have no objections about the content of mainstream movies but my hope for independently produced movies was to revive a cinema that was neither condoning nor condescending its audiences.  And I’ve always disapproved of cinema that tries to instruct too much, a cinema that is not self-aware of its own ignorance. And I’ve always been left discontented because of the nature of the theatre. Micro-cinema and its transfer from the big screen to the computer screen promises a genre of more scope and hold on truth with the basic question, how much can you show in three-minutes and how much of these actually make sense? Apparently if you take note of cinema’s abstinence, sex does not make sense. There is a deliberate separation of movie makers in this genre from that of porn or sleazy R-18 videos of the Viva Hotbabes. For some filmmakers, realism meant going into the street and filming stories of contemporary life; it meant filming history. There’s no essential difference between Pinoy films of the nineteen-forties, our melodramas of the nineteen-fifties, and historical portraits of the sixties and seventies. Our movies essentially trace the rise of modern Pinoy culture. In the process, movies makes the places, artefacts, and practices of today. During the mid-nineties, we saw the arrival of ST films that populated the local movie scene. Film outfits such as Seiko and Viva released a plethora of forgettable movies designed to attract male audiences. The main attraction was either a former striptease or child actress that was going to bare it all on the big screen. I recall how silly titles like “Unang tikim,” “Lamat,” “Sa pagitan ng langit,” “Mga kalapati sa gabi,” “Paraiso sa gubat,” “Tag-ulan ngayon…ang Bukid ay basa,” and my favourite “Patikim ng Pinya” became enduring names for their playful meaning in the context of sex. What was wrong with that? Nudity and suggestions of sexuality have been won in movies. Nobody no longer goes to jail for baring their breasts on the big screen but recent digital movies made in the Philippines had largely done away with sex with one or two directors as exceptions. We recall that as early as 1968 when explicit sexuality has made periodic appearances at the very edge of the art house scene, Filipinos were also launching their own brand called “bomba.” Bomba was art back then. While in art house, usually there’s a strobe light, a suicide and/or a murder, and everyone speaks French, the Pinoy film-maker had the virgin forest maiden as a mainstay character, riding a horse by the beach or bathing by a waterfall.  But too much flesh can kill you. And by the nineties, movies and actresses no longer ring a bell except in domains of kitsch. Kinky volumes such as “Sex in Philippine cinema” hosted by dubious characters such as Ogie Diaz (now Quezon City politician) may provide trivia but do not exactly present how sex has been portrayed in the cinema ever since we started making movies, or how it explores issues around censorship, taboos, fetish, simulated/real sex, culture. Interviews with a number of actors, cultural observers, film historians, producers is seriously absent. Boy Abunda’s reckless comments in attempt to intellectualize his TV program and himself with such comments as “Naghubad para sa bayan,” is just plain hilarious. Do we have a problem with very graphic sex scenes? When you watch it with little kids, yes. But sex has been part of a long tradition of cinematic experiences. Our parents and their parents before probably first became aware of their sexuality in the cinema. On that note, movie sex must be at least educational. I mean if you’re watching it then why not at least learn something from it, right? All I’m saying is let’s get it over and done with (again and again). The repeated censorship and sanitation of cinema screens of undesirable (but desirable) images only stems from the role of an active power that ceaselessly tells you what you can and cannot watch. To delete one aspect of cinema is to deny an aspect of its culture and history that has been connected over many years, a dynamic culture must inform the cinema and vice-versa. If cinema will take central role in sex education and exploration, so be it. The horrible thing is that since Pinoy ST has been relegated to rundown theatres, the Pinoy bourgeoisie has explored his sexuality with foreign movies like American Pie, Thirteen, Porky’s, Kids and Splendor in The Grass. This obstructs the dynamism between movies and its viewers, and practically erases a big portion of our popular culture’s memory since then. The progress achieved by sexuality and the cinema has been stalled. For example, the advances made in exploring occasions of homosexuality has been waylaid and depreciated. Now all everyone thinks of a good gay movie is Brokeback Mountain. Micro-cinema may provide a revival of this dialogue in what is hopefully an honest, informed and visual way. Movies have proven that the ST genre can be funny and articulate in voicing the present social and cultural conditions. Film in turn has affected the way in which we view sex, and how our understanding and acceptance of sex has then been reflected in cinema. Aside from the Asian Financial Crisis of the nineties, the primary billing of Hollywood movies over local movies, swelling cost of film production, too much taxes, high-tech film piracy, and rise of cable television, it must be noted that capricious film censorship further contributed for the trimming down of production costs of film outfits that resulted to dismal box office returns of domestic films, and the near annihilation of the local film industry. It was during this time that the only type of local movie above water was the ST. That should be a minor consideration though, since sex in the cinema if it must be revived must be because it shows growth and not marketability. If it helps make sales, then fine. We must have trust in our audiences that they will literally see through and actually learn something from it. It’s so expensive to watch a movie these days that I don’t like walking out of a movie house just knowing the story.  Like in any other good movie, like “Segurista,” in the nineties (a reason why I miss the 20th century), I believe that sex publicly portrayed, all the more if allegorical and artful, always has something meaningful to say.

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