Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Success of YANGGAW

The Success of YANGGAW, the Struggle of Indie Films, and the Age of Piracy
by Reymundo Salao

Yanggaw is an indie film directed by Richard Somes, funded by Cinema One, and includes Ronnie Lazaro, Tetchie Agbayani, Joel Torre, Gio Respall, Monet Gaston, and Aleera Montalla in its cast. Yanggaw tells the story of a woman afflicted by an illness as she is infected by the curse of becoming an aswang (a Filipino folk monster who is cannibalistic and is sometimes interpreted as able shape-shift into animals). But what the movie focuses in is the drama that occurs in her family when they realize that someone they love has become this monster.

You rewind the clocks to a couple of months ago, Yanggaw was an indie film that garnered success in the film festivals but had the same problem that many indie films had; which is that their movies are not exposed to the masses. Sure, film geeks were familiar about it; some probably just heard about it (probably at entertainment news bits that are underrated by the media); but basically, your average movie-going everyday Juan and Maria did not know anything about it or did not even care about this movie (& the rest of these indie movies).

But just recently, here in Iloilo City, the movie Yanggaw has gained popularity all of a sudden, just like a hype that is genuinely generated by people who have much regard for it. Yanggaw just seemed to come out from nowhere, and now, everybody knows its main characters Junior and Amor (and why its not wise to play volleyball when it's already getting dark. Sorry, just an inside joke if you watched the movie, hehehe). Almost every movie lover from all walks of life has an idea of what this Yanggaw movie is all about. How did this happen? The movie did not have a theatrical release, nor was it given sufficient media or advertising attention the way mainstream movies are usually given (the overexposure they usually have.) It did not have big stars, not like how mainstream local movies would cram their movies with teen starlets and matinee idols. It did not have product placements, flashy pop references, cameo appearances from celebrities, and enough corny jokes just to get attention from the movie-going public. How did Yanggaw get so famous, aside from the fact that it was also an excellently made movie?

I don't think one can deny that it's also because of Piracy! YANGGAW found its way in the Pirated DVDs markets, and because of this, the movie has had a direct exposure on the local masses. It did not take long before the movie became talk of the town. People started telling other people about how good this movie was, and the word-of-mouth popularity just sparked curiosity and later on, almost everybody you know has watched the movie. I think this is perhaps the very first, if not the only example wherein Piracy has actually helped a local movie gain some attention and popularity. And in one way or another, can it be considered success.

In case you did not know, our film industry may be classified into two major groups; the mainstream film industry, and the indie film industry. One of the reasons why the Philippine movie industry still has not gotten some respectable status despite recognition of many Pinoy indie films in film festivals around the world is that our indie film scene operates in a very underdog, underground manner. Under-exposed, under-funded, and extremely underrated.

Many of us are aware that the mainstream film industry produce films that are badly made, movies created solely for profit and are almost completely devoid of any sort of creaivity or originality. These are basically movies made by their dictatorial producer-masters, instead of real film-makers. These producer-masters are the giant companies of local entertainment media. These giants are the ones with the resources to advertise their movies and make sure that the masses would be drawn to their poorly made, but well-marketed movies.

Meanwhile, Indie Movies are never given much attention, there is just a dim spotlight for the indie film industry. Why? Because the giant media corporations feel that they never get much from these films. They never give it spotlight because the stars these films use usually do not include the actors and actresses signed under these corporations’ contracts, theyre not under their company's "pool of talents". They never give it spotlight because they feel there is no money for it. You may put it in similar comparison with many of our legislators, they never make laws which are really good for the country, not unless it is a law that they can make money out of.

Going back to our main topic, YANGGAW is indeed a movie that has risen above "film elitist" obscurity and into local mainstream success. It proves that Ilonggos have a talent in film-making, it proves that there are still Pinoy-made movies that can be world-class quality, a well-made true Grade A movie, and at the same time, one that can be embraced by the masses. It also proves that in this age of internet, file-sharing, and CD-burning, a good movie, a true obra, will sooner or later find its way to the people who will love it and it will get the praise it so deserves.

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