OFFLINE: A tale of two Filipino movies

Showing this week are two Filipino movies, one of which tells a tall tale of the final days of the Marcoses before they were kicked out of the country and the other a fictionalized account of the dangers that activists faced in the same era known as martial law.

The first, Maid in Malacanang, is pure propaganda and shows the faux heroism of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who left the country rather than allow the coming violence that would surely claim countless lives had he allowed his followers to face off with the one million Filipinos who had gathered at Edsa.

It’s all fantasy, and is directed by a young man who admitted in an interview that he had had a relationship with a minor some years ago, when he was already in his mid-20s. So yes, the director is a self-confessed pedophile.

Those who had seen its early screenings say that it’s a fantasy film through and through, showing the heroism of the Marcos patriarch from the eyes of their maids.

No mention was made of the billions of pesos in cash and jewelry that the real maids must have helped pack, and which was discovered in dozens of crates when the Marcoses landed in Honolulu, but not before having US Customs inspect their baggage.

The film also shows a mob carrying torches ready to storm Malacanang, which is pure BS.

Those unlucky enough to catch an initial screening must have warned the producers that they would face not only a huge financial loss, but very likely empty movie houses.

It’s that bad, they say.

Thus, to avoid an embarrassment, Senator Imee Marcos reportedly bought tens of thousands of tickets to be given away free to anyone and everyone interested in seeing their version of what happened in 1986.

She also supposedly forced some big companies and civic organizations to purchase tens of thousands more for distribution to their people.

And if that wasn’t pathetic enough, some schools are said to be forcing their students to watch the unfunny joke of a movie and there would then be an exam about the historical travesty.

A screening for media was scheduled, and just to make sure the reporters and editors would show up, they would be offered free popcorn plus a loot bag to boot. I would not be surprised if envelopes stuffed with cash was inside those bags.

Still, with the gawdawful reviews, Maid in Malacanang is doomed to fail.

And what of the other film?

It has a funny title of Katips: The Movie, which I admittedly do not know the meaning of. But this movie just won big at the annual Famas awards, with no less than seven trophies including Best Director and Best Actor.

The Famas is the Philippine equivalent of the Oscars, so it is a pretty big deal that Katips is such winner, while Maid in Malacanang may well be the local equivalent of such duds as Ishtar or worse, Heaven’s Gate.

Imee Marcos was present at the Famas ceremony as she was told that she had won some little known special award.

She showed up and it must have been a spectacle to see a film that tells the truth about the martial law years in the form of a musical earning high praise and accolades, while the silliness that is Maid in Malacanang that Ms. Marcos fully backed is now fated to draw flies when it shows in theaters this week.

As Chinese-Filipino civic leader Tessie Ang Sy said after she was sent a box of tickets to distribute to her fellow Chinoys, “promoting a film that has been judged a distortion of history by distributing free passes to students is truly appalling. It is tantamount to asking these educational institutions to promote outright lies, falsehoods, and historical distortion.”

She also said that while the Chinoy community supports the Office of the President and wishes the administration well, “creating more polarization by forcing untruths on the public just makes us citizens lose any remnant of respect that we may have had for the current leadership of the country.”

Also speaking up was the president of Xavier School, favored by the middle class and the well-to-do Chinoy community. Without mincing any words, he said that “we received the tickets, then returned them.”

A Catholic school that also accepts regular Pinoy students, the president of Xavier added that they were committed “to historical facts and cannot participate in a campaign to distort history.”

Defenders of Maid in Malacanang are using reverse psychology by saying that people should watch it, and decide from themselves if it is fact or fiction. They add that those who reject the movie outright are “afraid of the truth.” Isn’t that a line from A Few Good Men?

To be honest, I have not seen either film, but have every intention of watching direk Vince Tanada’s Katips this weekend.

And I have more bad news for Senator Imee. One of the country’s top directors Joel Lamangan – Tanada will reach his stature eventually – has promised to make his own film about the evils of the martial law regime.

I can’t wait. I am just sad that the likes of Lino Broca, Ishmael Bernal, Malou Diaz-Abaya, and Eddie Romero are no longer around to do the same. But Mike de Leon is still very much around, and maybe he can be enticed to come out of retirement and give us his vision.

If not, isn’t Peque Gallaga still around? He’s made some really neat horror films and that’s what the martial law era was really like. It was a horror story which appears to be having a comeback of sorts, what with the son of the dictator now acting as president.

He’s not a very good actor, I might add.