Political Film Collectives, Introduction to ASEAC Panel
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Political Film Collectives
In the Philippines, political documentary films are an integral part of the indie cinema movement. This film style also experienced a flourishing in synch with the phenomenal rise of indie cinema in terms of output, range of topics discussed, and process of production and reception. The production process is programmed by political film collectives, which in turn, have ties with cause-oriented groups or the people’s progressive movement in the country.
The objectives of the film collectives are therefore political: consciousness-raising towards the progressive analysis of issues affecting the nation, film as tool to mobilize people to act on these issues, and films to organize individuals to the cause of the movement as active members. Digital technology is maximized for an overtly political objective. The political collective members collectively study the technology as they study the social and political issues. Projects are collectively planned, and done with collaborations with other people’s organizations. In doing a film about homes being demolished to give way to a new railway system, the political film collective would integrate with the community, through the assistance of an urban poor group based in the area.
The integration allows for film collective members to understand the conditions of existence of the community, and to plan how the film is to be framed to highlight the conditions of existence and possibilities of collective struggle by the people of the community. When the film is eventually done, it is shown to the community for feedbacking. The feedbacks are integrated to the final copy. And then the film is passed on to other areas of organization work in the community, and to other sectoral networks: students, out of school youths, educators, women, workers and peasant organizations.
Unlike the problem of indie filmmakers in search of a moviegoing audience, the films produced by political film collectives are shown in the sites of community socialization, including basketball courts, larger homes, hallways, and so on. When screened, the films are used as part of discussions of issues, whether it be expanding organizing work or as consciousness raising tools for the other sectors.
The level of efficiency of producing and disseminating media texts by political film collectives remains high that these collectives now flourish in major regions and sectors in the country, including the guerrilla fronts. In Metro Manila, the youth media group is Sipat or Sine Patriyotiko; the workers’ sector has a documentary group based in the NGO, Eihler; and the multisectoral group Bayan has Kodao Productions. There also exists various political film collectives based in the regions of Cordillera, Ilocos, Southern Tagalog, Bikol and Mindanao.
What political film collectives undertake is a kind of purposiveness of filmmaking, something that remains debatable in the mainstream indie films’ contest for meaning and practices, as mention in yesterday’s presentation on the liberal democratic middle-grounding of Cinemalaya’s construction of the indie film. It also sidetracks the issue of audience as the films are clear who it is made for. Shown in trade union offices and picket lines, audiovisual roooms and classrooms of schools, and urban poor and peasant communities, the films are appreciated by its audience.
Started by the original film collective, Asia Visions in the 1980s, what ensues now in the rise of political film collectives is the use of film for critical pedagogy, connected with the backlash on the Left’s split in the 1990s. These films engage in reiterating the necessity of Left politics in the recent neoliberal economics that negate the viability of drastic social transformation. These films, therefore, are a testament to the political project, whether it be in indie film or cinema in general.