Shoot the Revolution: People's Cinema and Political Collectives in the Duterte Era

JULIAN B. BATO
COLLEGE OF MASS COMMUNICATION

Awarded Best Research Thesis by the UP Film Institute during the College of Mass Communication 2019 Commencement Exercises.

Abstract:

Collective filmmaking proliferated in film history as an alternative mode of production to commercial-industrial and independent-auterist filmmaking modes. As oppositional cinematic entities, film collectives embodied an embrace of shared goals, small-scale mode of production, guerrilla film approaches, and egalitarian social relations within their film groups. In the Philippines, the intersections of collective filmmaking and the anti-dictatorship protest movement birthed the emergence of a People’s Cinema that countered state propaganda and raised consciousness of mass audiences.

However, discourse on film collectives is marginalized in foreign and local film scholarship. This research study endeavored to help address this gap through an examination of political film collectives in the Duterte era, namely Kodao Productions, Tudla Productions, Mayday Productions, and Film Weekly. Using the lens of the Third Cinema framework, the study investigated how political film collectives can develop a militant cinema that decolonized their mass audiences from the ideologies of capital while forming an oppositional existence to dominant cinema in the Philippines. This exploratory scholarly undertaking was accomplished through the construction of case studies substantiated by findings collected through semi-structured interviews of collective members and netnography of their online presences.

The findings showed that political film collectives in the 2010s continued the legacy of their People’s Cinema forebears by sustaining collective film practices that were oppositional to those of First Cinema and Second Cinema filmmaking modes. The political dimension of their activist film practice was strengthened by a symbiotic relationship with political vanguards and mass audiences. Additionally, the case studies demonstrated the influences of developments in media technologies on the political economy of their cultural production. Furthermore, the activist film festival democratized the film festival experience to audiences inhabiting marginal spaces in neoliberalized environments.

However, the case studies revealed the complexities of politically-charged collective filmmaking in Duterte-era Philippines. The findings surfaced the contradictions of theory and praxis that compromised the collective and political aspects of their film practice, while also substantiating the discussion by contextualizing their specific perspectives and real-life circumstances. The study concluded by affirming the urgent task of the People Cinema of political film collectives to agitate mass audiences against the different crises in Philippine society. Finally, the study showed the need to update and modify the Third Cinema framework to reflect the ever-changing landscapes of militant social movements and media paradigms.

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