#SupportLocal, but Locals are Unsupported?

by: Jana Maisei Venigas || Photo Credit: Tiffany Afable

Squid Game, directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, premiered in September 2021 and quickly became popular among Filipino viewers—ranking first on the Top 10 List of Most Watched Titles. Following this, the most Googled 2021 South Korean dramas were: True Beauty, Vincenzo, Nevertheless, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, and many more. This only goes to show the appreciation Filipino viewers have for South Korean dramas, but some are willing to burst this bubble. 

In the budget hearing for the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Senator Jinggoy Estrada expressed banning Korean dramas or K-dramas, as he observed a lack of support for locally made films. While it is not a hidden fact that our entertainment industry produces a string of films and shows that sometimes falls flat among local viewers, this is not due to competition from foreign films. 

Filipinos won’t embrace local films. They just won’t have a choice.

Estrada believes that by reducing competition, or international film imports, we can promote local entertainment to its home consumers: the Filipinos. But this is not the case. Left to a narrow number of films and shows, the diversity of the entertainment we consume and create will diminish.

Rather than looking up to quality international production, we are looking myopically into ourselves; into the lousy scriptwriting, lackluster acting, and poorly-shot Philippine soap operas. In fact, forcing people to consume entertainment from solely their home country will not push them to foster a love for it, but would instead just reduce their choices, which seems to be a trend among our lawmakers.

#SupportLocal, but Locals are Unsupported?

The substandard quality of our entertainment is not due to the lack of talent among our Filipino scriptwriters, actors, and directors, but rather to the lack of support they receive. Many indie-quality films have the potential to compete internationally, but they are indie for a reason. The crews of these films are on their own, with meager funding to start with. Despite the flourishing talent present in many of our Filipino creatives, testing the waters and getting experimental through film is risky.

The difference between the Filipino film industry and that of South Korea and other countries is its government’s neglect of the former. Instead of nourishing creativity and allowing Filipino viewers to organically embrace locally-produced entertainment, we are stunting the growth of our filmmakers and suffocating those who wish to consume good cinema. Moreover, our film creatives are scouring to get by, unable to reach their utmost potential because their government does not allow them to shoot for the stars. On top of that, Filipino viewers also sense a class barrier when it comes to viewing. With theater visits at an inaccessible price for some, the déclassé soap operas streamed on TV take up a large percentage of the films viewed by the masses.

After Estrada received heaping backlash from K-drama fans for his comments in the FCDP hearing, he later clarified that he did not actually mean to ban K-drama or foreign films in general, but wished that Filipinos would have the same passion for local films. Still, if he intended to appreciate local creatives, he should have realized that the best support for the industry comes from the government, whether that be through cutting taxes, increasing funding for scriptwriters, directors, and actors, and lowering theater ticket prices. 

Our film industry will never flourish in the entrapping grips of protectionism. Much like how a flower wilts when deprived of water, our aspiring artists cannot produce quality films that Filipinos will genuinely watch and love when they have to worry about putting food on the table.

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