I remember a press screening I attended, then film critic friend Philbert Ortiz-Dy made me realize one very interesting, one very important thing. It was a 360-degree turn on my impression of how women are in Philippine cinema and other media professions.
Phil agreed on how gender equality should seriously be addressed in the U.S. Woman filmmakers and film workers, even the most famous actresses included, don’t get equal treatment in Hollywood from opportunities to talent fees.
Then, he told me that it‘s way different in the Philippines. Come to think of it… while gender equality is still something that should be addressed in various cases, there are a lot of woman filmmakers and media professionals who are on the top of their games in the country — from independent and mainstream directors to CEOs/presidents/owners of movie studios, TV networks, and production houses, alongside executives and artists down the line. Given these facts, women seem to get more opportunities and acceptance in the Philippines.
I think even the most famous actors and actresses lists, though I don’t have the actual figures, their talent fees are not primarily based on gender, which is a big concern in Hollywood, as expressed by a good number of A-list actresses.
I never blamed myself for that prior point of view of how women in Philippine cinema are treated, considering the time I was in film school as a wide-eyed cinema lover who realized there was only one recognized woman film director I can look up to — the critically acclaimed Marilou Diaz-Abaya. Even in the alternative cinema sector, it seems like all the names one can list down are male filmmakers. Despite some good opportunities that came my way early on as a struggling (young woman) filmmaker, I also had to contend with my physicality as I looked relatively younger than my age and there were many instances that I would have to assert myself to be the helmer of the project when people would judge me as someone else and not the one leading the team. Even pitches to some clients shared similar incidents, especially during my younger days.
Indeed, times have changed. Significantly. Now, young women can be filmmakers and no one questions them the way it was during my generation in film school.
I couldn’t agree more with filmmaker and educator Sari Dalena when she posted in her social media that more woman filmmakers should be included in the syllabi of academicians, whether in major subjects of film students or any related media subjects and electives, especially those of mass communication and communication arts students. Academic papers, journals, books, and even blogs and vlogs that are easily accessible by everyone, should be able to find many female names to feature. These initiatives will further help level the playing field for anyone — to the point when gender issues as we know them would simply become a thing of the past in the Philippine film industry.
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