Filipino movies

[OPINION] Maids, martyrs, murderers, and GomBurZa

Dean de la Paz

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[OPINION] Maids, martyrs, murderers, and GomBurZa

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

'Cinematic detail, from casting, costumes, and makeup, to sets, sideshows, and musical scores can ever-so-subtly enhance or alter from facts'

They are titles, labels, representations, and attempts to rewrite, or correct history. The attempts are not necessarily rooted in the events depicted but on current exigencies and what are demanded of audiences as determined by its writers, producers, and directors.

From Maid in Malacañang to GomBurZa, in the titles alone it is obvious where this discussion might be headed. It could easily be about diametric differences, apples and oranges, fiction versus fact, or lies versus the truth. For many it should be obvious. Especially for those who had earlier watched Daryll Yap’s Maid in Malacañang and Martyr or Murderer, and those who saw Pepe Diokno’s GomBurZa.

Maybe we shouldn’t even go there as we risk insulting readers who would probably have gotten far better cinematic or political analysis from their barbers, hairdressers, and, on the aspect of politics, from veteran political commentators. To their learned and age-wizened skill at weaving through the schizophrenic maze of Philippine politics, we yield.

Realizing that the medium of entertainment teaches, we are compelled to widen our scope. The impetus? A recent gathering at a leading university’s gymnasium to launch another anti-disinformation initiative organizers say had its roots on that fateful Tuesday hours after the voting public realized that Ferdinand R. Marcos had taken the presidency and was inevitably set to be proclaimed following the count of the Duterte-appointed officials at the Commission on Elections.

The launch simply added another flank to the ongoing initiatives led by private sector fact-checkers from those already within legitimate mainstream print and online media, to mushrooming non-government organizations and the long-fledgling yet brave and bold solo-flight radio, podcast, and YouTube opinion makers and op-ed writers who openly risk their lives to separate truth from lies in a society sunk deep in fake news.

As apparent as the disunity is among our leaders who see among themselves profound greed, ambition, and the need to perpetuate regardless of the demands of democracy or the statutory limitations established to avoid authoritarianism and autocracy, the diverse retelling of history in cinematic form ironically bears common objectives.

Rather than pick among starkly different versions, allow us to review common threads of the “anti-disinformation” theme.

As Hollywood has done to the most impressionable or, heaven forbid, the poorly educated undiscerning yet opinionated who would likely learn history from the silver screen than from the traditional teaching institutions like schools and universities, entertainment has been the most influential source of education. From epic biopics to musicals, simply add TikTok as a subset.

How many have read Hugo’s Les Misérables and understood the French Revolution against those who watched Schönberg’s abbreviated musical version of the 1832 Paris Rebellion or its 2012 movie production? How many Americans know of the Alamo if not for John Wayne in a coonskin cap as Davy Crockett in the 1961 film? Did Filipinos really know anything about US president Alexander Hamilton if not for the Broadway musical? Did Bonaparte witness the beheading of Marie Antionette as depicted in Ridley Scott’s Napoleon? What subliminal message is imparted when Edu Manzano portrays Benjamin Magalong in the film Mamasapano: Now It Can Be Told?

Cinematic detail, from casting, costumes, and makeup, to sets, sideshows, and musical scores can ever-so-subtly enhance or alter from facts. Allow us to briefly present a few common caveats when employing as anti-disinformation tools non-traditional albeit profoundly effective popular educational media.

One, dramatizations are not meant to validate history. They are however, meant to inspire further discovery and perhaps from those that some validation might occur. While a motion picture’s retelling of events are drawn from recorded or published history, dialogue, unless recorded, are likely interpretations.

This includes translations from the original, to encapsulated prose and modernized styles. Note that when Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna became a blockbuster, in the unavoidable interplay between viewers and the dramatization, falling prey to subliminal cognitive bias, pundits started freely quoting from its invective-laden script and extrapolating those to the current timeline and then invoking relevance.

Two, viewers cannot discount political motivations both from the incidents depicted in the timeline of the dramatization or from the current political environment. Politics is not only our national blood sport, for many there is little else that defines their lives.

Three, even with the benefit of hindsight, a balanced perspective is impossible as dramatizations are viewed with pre-conceived underlying bias and predispositions. Worse, a dramatization’s authenticity is a function of the viewer’s ability to discern fact from fiction, his capacity for critical thinking, the level of his communication skills, and as always, his personal circumstances, values, and principles.

So at the end of the day, just sit back, suspend reality, enjoy the movie, and please pass the popcorn. – Rappler.com

Dean de la Paz is a former investment banker and managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance, and Mathematics professor. He collects Godzilla figures and antique tin robots.

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  1. ET

    Thanks to Dean De La Paz for his “few common caveats when employing as anti-disinformation tools non-traditional albeit profoundly effective popular educational media.” May I add something to the ending? “So at the end of the day, just sit back, suspend reality, enjoy the movie, and please pass the popcorn.” Can I add soft drinks, coffee, tea, fruit juice, etc.?

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