every film is political

A film can never be free of political ideology, as Marx always says, everything is political— even just by watching a film that can be connected to gaze and consumerism, or even creating a film that relies on capital for the production are all political. Just as how, Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Narboni in their article, Cinema/Ideology/Criticism (1969) stated that “film is a particular product, manufactured within a given system of economic relations, and involving labor (which appears to the capitalist as money) to produce…”, “film is a commodity, possessing exchange values through the sale of tickets and contacts, governed by the laws of the market”, we may have the creative freedom to do what we vision, but there are limitations as per how the social institutions such as the government can control our works. 

In the context of the Philippines, during the Martial Law era filmmakers cannot create content or narratives that tackles the Marcos regime, especially if it is a critical stance towards his dictatorship and family dynasty. Filmmakers have to maximize their intelligence with their film language so they can release their films in the market through subtle criticism of the state, but some alternative filmmakers did not waive to create dauntless political films despite the threat that Marcos had imposed on them. While today, with Duterte’s Anti-Terror Law and even the abrogation of the UP-DND Accord, we are also experiencing the persecution of our creative freedom for it limits us to produce films due to red-tagging accusations.

Aside from that, it shall also be noted that although we create political films, it does not mean that we will not undergo the preproduction, production, and post-production processes. We still have to find funds to make our films happen, our script is the material that will be exhausted so it can be sold to the producers so we can have the capital to produce a film. The production exploits a bunch of the working class for labor, in exchange for capital too, and even in the release or distribution of the film, it’s either you go to the universities to show your film or distribute it in the big cinema houses such as SM Cinemas– which is a very capital-driven moviehouse, and this even depends upon the investment and contract with your producer and executive producer. The whole process of filmmaking involves money, and when there is material, economic, and capital necessity or conditions, it will always be political. Moreover, as we create political films, have we even checked how privileged we are to produce something? Have we checked if we are caught in the system we wish to break down as Comolli and Narboni stated? Those are some of the questions that we must ponder upon since film is also an ideological product of the system, and we are living in a material and capital-driven realm. 

On the other hand, the reading of Jean-Louis Baudry, The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in Cinema connects film watching to the dominant philosophical theories such as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It does make sense that how Plato visioned the people trapped in the cave were like spectators in cinema for they are also watching an apparatus or the shadow. Baudry defined apparatus as something where we can have the sense of “spatial extension” as if it is a telescope or a microscope, people who were shackled in the cave only see the ‘material’ realm or a representation of reality. Although they were caught up only in a world of ideas still, what they are seeing and how they are being directed to see is still a part of a bigger reality. Just like what Marx stated, even if it is only idealism, there will still be a hidden truth on materialism, a disguised truth. It was also emphasized that what we see on the screen– just like in cinema, is a determining factor that can either help us to break away from the illusion or factors that blinds us to know the evident reality or we will be kept shackled due to misrepresentations. Baudry relating cinema to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is like a metaphor for how the dominant system works. The latter also posited through Freud’s theory that “cinema is not a dream, but it reproduces impression of reality, it unlocks, releases a cinema effect which is comparable to the impression of reality caused by a dream”, made me realize that maybe we do not have the control in our dream as we sleep, but as we watch films we can by being active audiences through analyzing, and not just consuming the elements of films– and this is what separates dream and cinema. 

I am convinced that the apparatus theory is still apparent even if the movie houses are closed due to the pandemic since we are still capable of watching films, as Baudry defined, cinematographic apparatus as something that has distance and separates us from “true reality” connecting it with Freud’s function of an apparatus where we feel spatial extension, by the means of our TVs, laptops or even cellphones, we can still feel empathy or sympathy to the characters of a film, or even resonate ourselves through the experiences of the characters, thus we still have the sense of metapsychological extension through representations, and these are all possible because there is still an underlying apparatus. 

Last but not the least, it is indeed significant to note that film watching tends to make us passive by force immobility, and cinema can offer a partial psychosis where we cannot control how the narrative will end, yet we are still capable of making sense of what we see by becoming active spectators so we can derive lots of realizations and meanings– where we have the control upon, especially knowing that every film is political.

“Cinema/Ideology/Criticism” by Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Narboni (1969)
“The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in Cinema” by Jean-Louis Baudry (1975)


Horizons of queerness, auspicious sociality - post
Oliver (1983) dir. Nick Deocampo, a film made during Martial Law era

1 Comment

  1. bolisay says:

    Dear Aiah,

    So the question that gets asked often is: Knowing that making films entails some sort of subjecting oneself to the ideologies of capitalism and patriarchy, and knowing that cinema entails submitting to the ISAs, why do we still make films? Why do we risk it?

    (Well, of course, we are aware of cinema’s power to influence, and making films can also be a form of resistance. Are we aiming for perfection, for a work that is not in any way tainted by ideology? No. And that also seems impossible. Here lies the beauty of cinema: we do it despite. We do it because we believe in it.)



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