In remembrance of Film Critic and Cinephile Alexis Tioseco who will have been 33 today. Here’s an essay he wrote for the Berlinale Talent Campus during 2005 about what it was like to be a film critic in the Philippines. He also mentions the key to improving film criticism in the Philippines is to work independent from any influence in order to have a chance of creating progressive works; similar to what indie filmmakers are doing.
I love the arts. I believe art is a powerful, powerful tool. It has the capability of affecting the very soul of a person in such profound, lasting ways. Film in particular is a medium that I feel to be most in tune with the pulse of society.
I first began to write about film for a youth section in a Philippine daily some three years ago. Eight to ten articles after the first I wrote a serious piece on a film for an issue whose theme was addiction. The article was butchered – re-written in a watered down style by an editor who had not even seen the film discussed. That was the last article I wrote for the paper. I have since then become a staff writer and featured writer on Philippine Cinema for the website Indiefilipino.com. The name’s prefix “indie” denotes “Independent”, which represents both the type of media agent we are, and the main thrust of our coverage (focused on, but not limited to, independent film). Media in the Philippines, and various critics have admitted this to me directly, are given an envelope when they attend a premiere or press preview of a film. Inside that envelope is their “lagay, or in English, bribe-money, which is used to persuade the critic to give the film a favourable review.
The need I have to write for a publication such as Indiefilipino in order to be heard unfiltered mirrors the need of the Philippine filmmaker to work independently in order to be heard unfiltered. In the present context of Philippine Cinema, it is only through working outside the system that any chance for progressive criticism, or for creating progressive works, is possible.
Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s 5-hour intimate epic masterpiece, BATANG WEST SIDE, was a ground-breaking work when it premiered in the Cinemanila International Film Festival in December of 2002. WEST SIDE was a landmark achievement not only because of its radical length (by far the longest Filipino film ever made) but even more so as a declaration of independence by Diaz, and call to arms to young filmmakers to nurture their craft and treat their work with respect. I was always keen on writing about cinema and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, but it was only after witnessing the lack of serious critical attention given by the Philippine media to BATANG WEST SIDE, that I truly began to feel a responsibility with regard to my writing on film.
Being a young film critic in the Philippines can be daunting. Aside from Noel Vera, a fearless critic whose opinion I might not always agree with but usually respect, there are hardly any other critics in the Philippines that write regularly and write well about both local and international cinema; there are very few critics that are dedicated to the craft of criticism, in a manner more than simple “good“ or “bad“ reviews, in short; there are very few people who deserve to truly be called film critics, and therefore very few people to learn from.
It is for this reason that I look forwarding to the opportunity of working with and learning from the pool of established and seasoned critics that will guide the Talent Press, and doing so in the context of such a grand festival as the Berlinale.
Alexis Tioseco (Philippines)