Are we Pinoys really lacking in Originality?

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.

– Victor Hugo

Other countries have always something to say to us Filipinos. There are positive things, good things that we’ll agree with passion, and bad things that we either accept, or in a brief spark of patriotism, defend ourselves with passion. Regardless, if there’s one thing most Filipinos and foreigners seem to agree is that we Filipinos seem to lack originality, creativity and new ideas.

I’m not speaking in general term, but I’ll focus in this one facet of our society that shapes our minds: the media. Specifically, in our films, shows, teleseryes and even songs.

Last week, during the post-climactic phase of MMFF excitement, I just saw a tweet from about how Star Cinema’s entry for MMFF movie, One More Try managed to rip off an award-winning 2008 Chinese movie titled In Love we Trust. Sensing some kind of propaganda play, (since Star Cinema is under ABS-CBN which is a bitter rival of TV5 both in ratings and mining issues), I read the article and verified the claim. I also watched the trailer of the Chinese film just to make sure if the similarities are that huge, or it’s just a question of creative people coincidentally thinking of a same idea and plot.

Basically, the plot is similar. Two couples had one kid in their earlier years. They parted ways (in the Chinese version, they divorced), and now years later when they are happily married to their current partners, the mother finds out her child has a serious disease and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Since neither father and mother are unqualified donors, the doctor suggested they should reproduce another kid as a sibling to their poor child. In short, the former couple has to have sex until they can have a child. That’s where the conflict sets in, battling their own inner turmoil at the same time, hurting the people they loved for the sake of their kid. It’s a matter of putting someone you love above yourself, no matter how high the costs.

When I watched the trailers of One More Try at ABS, I was instantly hooked with the trailer. Finally something new. Not just your ordinary  wife-and-mistress-catfights which is making me sick down to my guts, nor the issues of infidelity that’s getting tiresome, which in Tagalog phrase, nakakaumay na.  Aside from Thy Womb, I wouldn’t mind watching One More Try because the plot is new, and there’s a powerful and though-invoking conflict of morals, which I didn’t really expect from MMFF.



Still, even if you say One more try is inspired by the Chinese film, it has a Filipino-kind of twist on it: melodramatic lines and dialogue, passion under the silky sheets, long shots of contemplation in each character as if their screen exposure isn’t enough. It tackles on Filipino audience. If you released a movie like In love we trust which deals more on the domestic implications of the characters, the highest it can go is on Cinemalaya which is rich laden with original stories but overly underrated. Since both sides haven’t proved or confirmed that the film is inspired by the Chinese movie, I rest my judgment for now, but this issue somewhat made me reflect on what’s happening in our creative industry right now. 

Among the debate of movies acting like a copycat with each other is the Hunger Games and the Battle Royale. Both has a fight-and-kill-to-survive element, but the similarities are not that perceivable. I would hardly compare these two gems because each has different effects on me, plot-wise.

On the question of originality as not our strongest traits, my classmate Nikos shared to us that his aunt who works in a local TV network once tries to submit original stories to Star Cinema, but they were rejected. Instead, they told her and other writers to research on international films who have good plots but never gained cult or popular status. Then they should copy that down, change some elements and voila, you have an original movie.

This can sadden anybody. Can we come up with something that is ours? Can we not copy the Western stereotype and make a revolutionary idea of our own? Are we really that inferior? Are our filmmakers just care about the money and as audience, are we really that ignorant and easy to please?

Come to think of it, the only original TV Show I enjoyed so far is the epic serye of GMA, Encantadia and even, Mulawin. I just love the mix of fantasy and love story combined in a magical world with creatures borrowed from our folklore. I enjoyed ABS-CBN shows too but none really marked a memory in me.

Is our lack of originality derived from our film industry’s drive to make money? Are we really that desperate to gain some audience? Come to think of it, audience also plays a major role. Are we capable of accepting a new idea or continue to cling to the old status quo, same old storylines and same old conflict only because the leading man and lady looks so good together?

Films and movies work in the same law as Supply and Demand. If we the consumers continue to look for mediocre films, the filmmakers continue, and will always continue, to give us a mediocre ones. And if we aspire to break from that mediocrity, we should look for the inner creativity among themselves. The Martial Law saw a flourishing of world-class films that shocked the world, we don’t need to enter a dark period to bleed our creative juices out and come up with something original, creative and that is uniquely  ours.

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