MANILA, Philippines - Two films directed by internationally acclaimed Filipino directors Jeffrey Jeturian and Brillante Mendoza for ABS-CBN's short film project, AmBisyon, were rated X on Thursday (March 25) by the Movie & Television Review & Classification Board (MTRCB).
Jeturian’s film “Ganito tayo ngayon, Paano na tayo bukas?” focused on the state of the economy. His camera follows a newspaper from the time it is delivered to a homeowner to when it is used to wipe feces from a foot of a cart-pushing vendor.
Jeturian uses a newspaper printed with the same controversial advertisement that came out in early January trumpeting the Arroyo administration’s economic successes. The film ends with President Arroyo’s photo on the crumpled newspaper.
The MTRCB said the film was X-rated for “undermining the faith and confidence of the people in government.”
Film on poverty 'injurious' to RP prestige?
Mendoza’s film, “Ayos Ka,” is a music video whose hopeful soundtrack is a stark contrast against images of poverty, prostitution, drugs and murder.
The MTRCB claimed Mendoza’s film is “injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines and its people."
ANC, ABS-CBN's 24-hour news channel, produced the AmBisyon 2010 film series in the name of public interest. It sought to "offer a nation on the verge of a critical election the chance to focus on issues, not personalities."
AmBisyon's goals were shared by the film industry. Twenty big names in Philippine cinema thus offered their talents to each create a short film on a chosen issue.
The films are scheduled to screen at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City on April 6, and in a 5-episode weekly series over ANC and Studio 23 beginning April 9.
ANC to appeal ruling
In a statement, ANC said it will appeal the ruling.
"We in ANC respect due process, and will be requesting a second review on Monday. We hope the MTRCB will reconsider," the ANC said.
"We support our filmmakers in their decision not to revise their films. While the views of the 20 AmBisyon filmmakers may not necessarily reflect ANC's, we believe that these films are legitimate perspectives of the state of the nation," the ANC added.
"We trust in the public’s capacity to decide whether they will claim these views as their own."
Press alliance hits X-rating
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) expressed "deep concern" over the MTRCB's decision to give the poll-related short films an X-rating, "effectively banning the shows from being broadcast."
"Even as ABS-CBN has vowed to appeal the classification, SEAPA believes MTRCB's rating for the documentaries, and especially its appalling reasoning behind the decision, damages the Philippine environment for free expression and press freedom, ironically at a crucial time when Filipinos would benefit from diverse, frank, and unflinching issues-based discourses relevant to their future," SEAPA said.
"Neither 'faith and confidence of the people in government' nor 'the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines' should be the imposed priority of the Philippine media. In an election period especially, the media's faithfulness should merely be to the many sides of truth to any issue, to its own independence, and to the public that demands, and has a right to, information and free and fair commentary," the group said.
The SEAPA said: "Worse yet, the MTRCB's move could send a chilling effect to all other filmmakers, journalists, and media executives, with its suggestion that negative portrayals of government and the country's social conditions would not be tolerated. SEAPA calls on the MTRCB to entertain ABS-CBN's appeal, and to take the opportunity to reverse itself on an egregious decision that injures Philippine democracy and the very integrity of the coming elections."
SEAPA is a regional organization whose mandate is to promote and protect press freedom in Southeast Asia.
It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow if Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association; and the network's Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism.