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What good do awards bring to Philippine cinema and its audience?

There are dime-a-dozen awards in this republic. 

In show business alone, there are more or less thirty award giving bodies including the ones in the academe devoted to outstanding in local films apart from recognitions in home TV and radio, stage, music and now social media. Even the remotest barangays and LGUs in the Philippines have been handing awards to their perceived best in entertainment. 

We zero in on awards for the movies which begun in 1950 when Maria Clara Awards were founded by a group of entertainment writers or the ones who wrote about movies like Alejandro Roces now National Artist for Literature and other columnists in the defunct The Manila Times of the Roceses. After two years of awarding, Maria Clara Awards folded up to give way to the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences or Famas in 1953. This was a reaction to the alleged biases of some voters among the movie columnists in Maria Clara. 

Just the same, the founders of Famas were also movie writers but they enjoyed the support of the local film community until the changing of the guards among its generational ranks. Later, issues of influence peddling and vote-buying tarnished its name. At the moment, Famas is the oldest existing awards group in the country. Three years ago, Famas had taken a new vision with adjudication from film practitioners and the likes and its 2020 awards edition will be held online on December 20, 2020. 

In 1976, in a perceived reaction to Famas’ traditional, formalist and feudal approaches to review and selection of winners, the progressive members of the arts community, mostly writers and intellectuals like Mario Hernando, Behn Cervantes, Bienvenido Lumbera, Nicanor Tiongson, Nestor Torre, Jr., Manny Pichel, Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr., Petronilo Bn. Daroy, Pio de Castro and Justino Dormiendo organized the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) and gave out its first set of awards in the same year. Gawad Urian had awarded its winners in a virtual ceremony last October. 

Meanwhile, in 1983, upon the creation of the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), the film industry formed its FAP Awards, purportedly a local version of Oscars in Hollywood where its guild members voted for their peers. It’s still around but it has changed its name to Luna Awards which will stage its virtual awards night on December 18, 2020. 

Two years after, entertainment writer Oskee Salazar led the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) to come out with annual awards rites for movies. Wonder why there’s no Star Awards this year. 

One the side, there was and still is the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA). 

When the democratic space dawned in Philippine society in 1986 and onwards, award-giving bodies mushroomed in all colors, shapes and sizes. The more, the merrier. In the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

What are film awards for and what does the industry and the audience benefit from them? 

In the manifesto of MPP, a film must mirror human society from the point of view of a Filipino. Urian is the mediator—that analyzes film as a product—between the industry and the viewers as consumers. Young Critics Circle (YCC) also clings to the utilitarian value of a film. Others contend for art appreciation and still, others profess preservation of the status quo—that movies are just for diversion. 

In terms of awards, British-Filipino filmmaker Jowee Morel doesn’t crave for an award. “I do films not for awards,” he said. “I just want to do films.” 

What’s important or Jowee is his pursuits of the philosophy of mindfulness and meditation so that the world—including showbiz—can achieve inner peace. There are nasty people in the biz and Morel feels sad for them. “Inner peace can be achieved by introspection,” he said.

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