Philippine Independent film

Background of the Study

Since today is a fast changing world and that media are a big influence to what the society is now, Philippines has no escape to this impact. As a matter of fact, Philippines is one of the countries most influenced by media. From the latest trends of fashion down to which dish washing being used is based on what is seen and heard from different mediums. The media either as forums in which important issues are debated or as storytellers that carry beliefs and values across people, space, and time are central to the creation and maintenance of our various cultures (Baran, 2012).

The audiences can take an active role in shaping the culture in the mass communication process that at the same time, shapes them. Media, particularly television are used by media practitioners and media audiences for mass communication purposes to further important social, political, or cultural bases. Television is one of the most used medium today.

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Watching movies is the cheapest form of entertainment for the Filipino masses. It affects and echoes what the society is now.

From teleseryes to advertisements, the television has this impact to the viewer’s mind consciously and unconsciously. Thus, giving the media the responsibility to offer the audience ethical and valuable information. A film acts as a medium of communication in the form of language, by means of signs which are used to express the inner reality of movie makers. These are certain values contributed or communicated by movies and they are either beneficial or harmful to the total development of viewers (Maligalig, 1997).

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Mass Media is one of those factors that affect a person’s value formation among themselves, particularly among the youth. Since Filipinos are fond of entertainment and the television itself, we are easily moved by the fast growing industry. Along with this fast growing industry is the much wider acceptance of audience to the messages conveyed by media. According to Rodman (2006) people become increasingly dependent on media and media content to understand what is going on around them, to learn how to act meaningfully, and to escape.

Read more: Philippine Cinema Analysis

Today’s generation, the most current subject is the social and political status of the country, may it be a trend in social media about issues such as sexuality and whether it may be posted as positive or negative. Along with this growing film industries is the freedom of expression to which the Philippine independent film is known. In accordance to this freedom of expression the local film industry has the sky as their limit to whatever they are to portray in their works. Philippine cinema, in short, appears to have reached full circle: it is at the stage of refining and formulating its own conventions and, in the process, getting in close contact with the ferment in the other arts and at the same time, the serious critical attention and concern of people with a broader interest in culture. This is inevitable; as an art form the cinema in the Philippines can no longer remain isolated from the main current of sensibilities and ideas that shape other artistic forms, such as literature, painting, the theater, etc.

Neither can it fly from the actuality of social life which, after all, is the source of all artistic expression (Daroy, 2014). Philippine independent films being independent to the messages they want the audience to convey must be aware of how they portray their subjects, particularly political and social issues. This is probably the most sensitive topics that the country is facing for many years and in line with this, media are a big contributor to how the people perceive this kind of medium. In today’s media, movies and films are very well thought and planned that it is not impossible for them to enter the minds of the viewers. It somehow affects and changes their own perceptions about things, may it be positively or negatively. But another concern is how well the viewers are aware of this kind of issues. They can easily take in messages sent by movies or films but cannot filter which is to enter and which is not. As an art form, film reflects the culture and the beliefs of the people it caters to and most of the times is the one who shapes their consciousness (Daroy, 2014).

The Philippines is a palimpsest where traditional, modern and postmodern influences manifest themselves contemporaneously. Its politics is traditional, its culture modern and its media postmodern. Understanding the role of new technologies, such as digital media, under circumstances requires an appreciation of incommensurable factors that are nevertheless intercalated. The surface of Philippine politics appears imperturbable but underneath it, notions of the political are being reformulated as a consequence of the new media and its globalizing influence (Pertierra, 2012). As a communication student, the researcher would want to gain more knowledge about the Filipino’s level of awareness to independent films. Whether it mirrors the reality and situations that is happening around or is it just another mere entertainment for them. Indie films as what it is usually called, tackle real life sensitive issues that the society experience.

Most commonly they are known for bold exposures of reality. Revealing the truth and setting no boundaries, making it as realistic as it can. But as generation changes so does the film industry. Nowadays, we are inside the mainstream era wherein almost everything in televisions are for trends. On making films that either feeds intellectual hunger or satisfies escapist entertainment lies a very curious and questioning fascination of how Filipinos and the human beings in general relate to each other and to the world. Due to an intellectual hunger that needs to be fed, Philippine independent films confronts real life issues that the society experience while mainstream movies offer the mass market escapist entertainment which divert away from reality (, pg. 1). In this generation where indie film is being widely accepted, produced and even nominated in some known film festivals and gain various awards, the researcher considered that it is timely to make a study of Philippine independent film and how it is used as a medium in portraying the country’s political and social issues.

Statement of the Problem

This study aims to find out the nature of Philippine independent films, how they feature the country’s political and social issues and how they affect the viewers. Specifically, it seeks to answer the following questions:

1. What is the demographic profile of the respondents in terms of: a. sex?
b. age?
c. religion?
d. nationality?
e. civil status?
f. educational attainment?
g. profession?
2. What is the level of exposure of the respondents when it comes to Philippine indie films? 3. What political and social issues are portrayed in Philippine Independent Films? 4. What is the level of effectiveness of Philippine independent films as: a) watchdog?

b) forum for exchange of opinions?
c) teacher?

Significance of the Study

Since indie films are racing up to the top and is now more appreciated by the audience, this study would benefit most Filipino viewers. Since it aims to tackle the social and political awareness of Filipinos on what they perceive from Philippine independent films. It can give them consciousness that what is portrayed in televisions are true or not. Give them evaluations to how they will filter the freedom of expression through films and awareness to their contribution to the society’s issues. Specifically, people behind the media can benefit from this study. Since they are a great impact and influence to the viewers.

Their awareness and ethical values to how they affect the audience with their works whether it is proficient and educational or just another form of entertainment that allows the people to escape the real problems of life. Also, this study would also benefit communication students that will give them awareness that they are big contributors in shaping the society. And that it all depends in their ethical values and ability to deliver efficient films or mediums to the people. To the local mass media which are mostly the audience of this films. For their awareness of the importance and out-turn of such mediums and their contribution to social and political awareness.

Scope and Limitations

The study focuses on the Philippines political and social issues as portrayed in indie films and as perceived by the audience. The researcher will use four Indie movies which are randomly selected by the researcher. The researcher will conduct a film review for the respondents and will be conducting a survey based on the film the respondents watched. Though this study focuses on the social and political issues portrayed by Indie Films, it also aims to study other aspects indie film features concerning the country’s culture in the film industry to give further and broader knowledge about the Philippine indie film. The study’s locale is the Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation in Lucena City. The respondents of the study are students enrolled in Art Appreciation class, Sociology class, Ethics class, Society and Culture class and professors from the College of Arts and Sciences who are advisers of the chosen classes.

Theoretical Framework

The attitude change theory is adapted from psychology. Mass Communication theorists adapt these borrowed theories to questions and issues in communication. People’s behavior with regard to issues more important— democracy, ethnicity, government, and gender roles, for example is influenced by the attitudes and perceptions presented by our mass media (Baran, 2012). In respect to this theory, mass media being highly influential has a great impact to how the audience will see and understand messages delivered in Indie Films.

Meanwhile the magic bullet theory, from the name itself ‘bullet’ conceptualizes on the idea that, whatever the media portrays it is easily accepted by the audience. Like a bullet that easily strikes. So, in this case whatever idea it is delivered in a social and political indie film, it is no surprise that the viewer might have a sudden change of perception towards his own. On the other hand, cultural theory has the underlying assumption that our experience of reality is an ongoing, social construction, not something that is only sent, delivered, or otherwise transmitted to a docile public… Audience members don’t just passively take and store bits of information in mental filing cabinets, they actively process this information, reshape it, and store only what serves culturally defined needs (Baran, 2012).

Audiences still filter what they hear and see in films. Issues being tackled in Indie movies are relatively events happening in the real world. So, it depends on the viewer whether it is the truth for him or not. Dependency theory argues that especially in our complex and changing society, people become increasingly dependent on media and media content to understand what is going on around them, to learn how to behave meaningfully, and for escape (Baran, 2012). So, Indie films features the culture particularly the social and political aspect of the country, and becomes a way to inform people about the issues being compromised.

Related to this is the agenda setting, a theory that argues that media may not tell us what to think, but media certainly tell us what to think about. Television is an effective medium where the message is left for the audience to think about, unconsciously affecting the way they perceive things.

This falls to cultivation theory which states that television viewing can have long-term effects that gradually affect the audience. Their primary focus falls on the effect of viewing in the attitudes of the viewer as opposed to created behavior. Media, movies in particular has that certain power to cultivate us with the messages they bring. Cultivation theory as the idea that television constructs a version of the world that, despite its potential inaccuracies, becomes the accepted reality simply because the culture believes it to be true.

Similar to this is social-learning theory which tells that people can learn new ideas and behavior from watching other people. Though actions are learned and seen on television, we cannot keep the viewers from adapting the culture of the characters in movies. Showcasing new ways of talking, dressing, socializing etc. which are different from the culture that the viewers were accustomed to. For example is the way Filipinos are today, generally the teens in their way of socializing and being liberated which is adopted from American films.

Conceptual Framework

Mass Communication theories such as attitude change theory, magic bullet theory, cultural theory, dependency theory and agenda setting theory. All theories that explains the role of mass media in cultivating and affecting the audiences, the families and individuals. Yet, it is hard to measure the level of influence social media has given the viewers’ when it comes to social and political issues that is conveyed in indie films.

Philippine independent film is part of the mass media which cultivates and transform the way people see and perceives the social and political aspects, which can be considered as the most controversial issues today. People respond differently to films depending upon their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and personal background. Since this art form of sending messages is part of the social media and considering the mass communication theories, it can have comparative effects in social and political views and the method of their understanding and acceptance to this matter and how it happens. To further explain the background, the researcher prepared an illustration that will serve as the conceptual paradigm.

Figure 1. Conceptual paradigm of the study.

Definitions of Term

The following terms are made for clarity and more understanding Aspect as used in the study, refers to a particular part or feature of a matter
Awareness means the state of having knowledge of, understanding of, appreciation, recognition, perception, or familiarity with a particular matter (http://www. Culture means a refined understanding or appreciation of this (Compact Oxford English
Dictionary, 2003). Effectiveness means existing in fact, though not formally acknowledge as such (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003).

Forum refers to meeting or medium for an exchange of views (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003). Impact is a marked effect or influence (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003). Indie film as used in this study is a film produced not belonging to a major record company Influence refers to the power or ability to affect someone’s beliefs or actions (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003).

Knowledge refers to information and skills acquired through experience and education and awareness or familiarity of a fact or situation (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003).
Political refers to the government or public affairs of a country (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003).
Portrayal means a representation or act or process of depicting or portraying ( Sensitivity as used in the study refers to the sensitivity of a person towards a given matter Social relating to society (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003). Teacher as used in the study refers to a medium where knowledge or experience is acquired Watchdog refers to a person or a group that monitors the practices of companies providing a particular service or utility (Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2003).


This chapter will discuss related literatures and studies that will support the research. These studies will be contributions of information, facts and ideas regarding the Philippine independent films and how it perceives social and political issues in the country.

Film is an artistic language which is expressed by means of images in motion, with or without sound
Films have a historically determined form and structure that create meaning and they have a complex set of conventions to communicate meaning and make it accessible. We as viewers have helped create the structure and conventions of films by enjoying what we see on screen and wanting to see more of the same. Like all aspects of popular culture, films develop out of a curious kind of negotiation process, in which filmmakers attempt to understand what we want to see, and we let them know if they are right by buying tickets and renting videos (Kolker, 1999).

There are many things in our lives that we don’t want to take seriously. Movies are one of them. We go to the movies to be entertained, scared, grossed out; to make out, spend time, have something to discuss afterward. But we don’t often want to think about movies as a serious part of our emotional or intellectual lives, or even treat them with the same intensity we use when we discuss sports or politics. Outside of a film study course we rarely hear other people engaged in a discussion of films that goes much deeper than plot or characters (Kolker, 1999).

Film is not only entertainment but is part of industrial and political culture (Kolker, 1999). All nations, our own included, understand the power of film and television to influence their people, to propagandize values and ideologies (Kolker, 1999). The unstable nature of the country is reflected in the film industry. The prospects of good films in the Philippines, according to Red, is very bleak. But he stresses, that there are encouraging signs. Whenever foreign film festivals come around, the low-budget films of alternative Filipino moviemakers are invariably invited. That fact is a clear sign, says Red, that good filmmaking has managed to endure – that in the general garbage heap of the Filipinos, a few worthy gems still manage to shine. Movies are a powerful force in Philippine society.

Movies, more than just a source of entertainment, reflect a nation’s personality. On the silver screen takes shape all the hopes, dreams and fantasies of the common man: legends, love, the stuff of myths and make believe. Its heroes become larger than life, often attaining the stature of demigods. They are looked upon as role models, serving as resources of inspiration ( In the constantly changing world of the Filipino film industry, film festivals have become windows through which the Philippines let the world see its screen images.

It leaves a glimpse of ideas that tackles the issues of the country. Film making plays a major role in our industry right now, it leads into the development of the Filipino culture in terms of creativity and artistry. It may lead on reaching different people’s perspectives, and opens the mind of the people about what is really happening in the society. Indie films create a huge impact not only in the country but also internationally. It catches a lot of attention even without entering the mainstream, simply because the industry has elevated into a different level already. The writers evolve as well, gaining new ideas, different perspectives, and a lot more stories.

Artistic form is best thought of relation to a perceiver, the human being who watches the play, reads the novel, listens to a piece of music, or view the film. Perception in all phases of life is an activity (Bordwell & Thompson, 2004). Movies are a powerful force in Philippine society. Movies, more than just a source of entertainment, reflect a nation’s personality. That is why it is all the more saddening to note the dismal state of our movie industry. Each week, we are confronted by a sordid parade of sex, violence, and asinine comedies ( To say that independent filmmaking has become the soul of Philippine cinema is no longer an exaggeration.

For years, Filipino independent filmmakers like Kidlat Tahimik (Perfumed Nightmare, 1977), Raymond Red (Anino, 2001), and Brillante Mendoza (Kinatay, 2009) among many others have received critical acclaim worldwide. As film festivals, competitions and distribution channels such as Cinemalaya and Cinema One have motivated young maverick filmmakers in recent years, indie films have become synonymous to creative content and perspectives for many Filipinos today. Although the Philippine indie film industry has come a long way from its early developments in the Marcos era when realistic portrayal of Filipino society in the arts was not considered “beautiful” by the dictatorship, government support is still lacking to sufficiently help indie filmmakers (

According to Bohn, Hieber and Unguraid (2000), along with sleep, work and school, mass communication consumption are the activities that dominate Americans’ lives and that it consumes about one-third of the average day

The rise of Philippine Independent Films may have been a big step for inspiring Filipinos who wants to captivate their audience through what their perspective is when it comes to what is going on around them. On trivial escapism is by a very curious and questioning fascination of how we Filipinos and the human beings in general relate to each other and to the world. Whether they are about social commentary, political statement, psychological study, or keen insights into human relationships, all of these topics represent controversial subjects that are catered specifically to niche audiences and markets (

In the end, what distinguishes independent cinema is its priority for artistic endeavor (over financial gain, vis-à-vis mainstream cinema) while still being accessible to the audience (vis-à-vis alternative experimental cinema). Each filmmaker attempts to show his own story in an original way (

According to, there have been several issues on Philippine independent filmmaking that have become apparent especially after its emerge a few years ago. One of these is the prevalent theme of poverty that exoticizes, even exploits, Filipino poverty. As said by a local Indie writer, Paul Sta. Ana, that the main issue here is the intention of the filmmaker which, he admits, is hard to determine. The question is whether filmmakers are producing these films because they want to reveal Filipino reality or they seek the attention of international film festivals. He says that context is crucial not only in conceptualizing and presenting the material of the film but also understanding the subject position of the filmmaker.

The first decade of the twenty-first century is, without a doubt, a turning point or Philippine cinema. The relations and dynamics of the nation and its cinema have changed dramatically in the face of the democratization of the medium. Digital technology has shifted the landscape of production, distribution, and consumption of films in the country and has ushered in a new revitalized wave not only of independent cinema but also of studio and mainstream production towards an encompassing national cinema (Tiongson, 2013).

Our films not only manifest our ingenuity, passion and creativity as a person; they also reflect our sensibilities, aspirations, and hopes as a nation (Tiongson, 2013). Philippine movies plays a vital role in the society. It has the power to build or destroy the society and its people, because film is a very influential medium. Movies as a form of artistic expression draws the widest audience because this is a very affordable kind of entertainment. For two hours or more, one could have some time for fun and relaxation (Corazon, 1996). But quality entertainment seemed hard to achieve nowadays. The filmmakers’ standards and purposes have changed, same with the moviegoers.

Those good old days of the movie industry were gone. Excellent films are rarely produced and exhibited in the country. Accountable for this were the moviegoers who settle for cheaply-made flicks, and of course, the producers who cater to the public’s wants and desires to be able to gain profit. Film as an art form can transform an individual, a society, a nation. However, we have to stress the real definition of art – that it is a construct. The theory, procedure, production, dissemination and function of art (film, painting, music, dance, theater, crafts, etc.) are created or produced by individuals who are formed by the influence that perpetrate a western-based knowledge about the world and realities (Durian, 2013). It is not so much the fact that the characteristics of a country’s cinema reflect the peculiarities of its society which accounts for this relationship, but rather the longer and less obvious facts that the artistic and moral worth of movies as a popular medium ultimately corresponds to a society’s collective mentality (Maligalig, 1997). Movies in our national experience have been composed of Foreign and Local film production, and this is a dichotomy which exist to the present day.

Whenever we talk about films, audiences must be the one to choose whether they go for foreign or local films. Since we are Filipinos, we should patronize our own Tagalog movies, although Western films has its influence to our local movies. “The content of the movies does not seem much to determine the responses made and that the movie provides a powerful stimulus to fantasy life” Wallans Simpson. “Movies influenced them in regard to manners, social relations, morals, vocations and self-improvement. Invitation seems to be the single factor most apparent in their responses. After viewing a film youth are inspire to try to be like the hero, or influence their action behavior and conduct” Fleege. The effects of a movie presumably depend on the learning of material presented to members of the audience, and intelligence related ability to learn, but also it is related to other factors determining the effects of a movie. The more intelligent would be expected to be better in seeing general implications of the material presented even where conclusions are not explicitly drawn by the movie (Maligalig, 1997).

Movies reflects the natural elements of life. Sometimes it portrays the reality of life. Furthermore, it encourages us to witness the facts and to tackle our beliefs. The influence of the movie is not only through beliefs. The influence of the movie is not only through the eyes of the viewers but also to their whole personality. It may affect the attitudes and behavior of the viewers. The encouragement of the movie makers to the viewers to the messages to the movie makers becomes negative. Why? The purpose of the movie makers is to persuade the audience and the audience purpose is to be entertained. Whatever the message is, either positive or negative, the viewers must be the agent on how to react to it. The negative effects of movie brings the viewer’s more to action (Maligalig, 1997). Mass media are capable of affecting, influencing and changing our attitudes and behavior. Whatever message id presented to us is said to have a powerful success that may either be negative or positive depending on how it is presented and how we are going to react to it (Maligalig, 1997)

Movies, films and cinema were aspects of art. Movies become an even more powerful medium for entertainment and the transmission of ideas, it projects reality and the illusions of reality on theatre scenes, in TV sets in millions of homes, in schools, classroom and in building walls in isolated villages (Maligalig, 1997). Viewers and moviegoers are those people who go for watching films and movies. However, they classify as the receiver and the destination whatever the message is.

Whenever we talk about messages, it creates knowledge and information which will become the receiver’s thinking and how to react to it (Maligalig, 1997). Under this condition, the viewers will not be benefited and will emerge as losers in the end. Why? The producers will continue making money with their low budgeted and cheaply made flicks. Not to mention the negative effects entailed by these types of films to the viewers. Hence, the moviegoers should rise from their long sleep and demand for more quality pictures. Through this, we can help bring back those days of the Philippine cinema (Mendoza, 1996).


This chapter tackles about the techniques and procedures that will be used by the researcher in coming up with the study. It includes the research design, research locale, respondents, sampling procedure, research instrument, data gathering procedure, statistical treatment and the analytical framework.

Research Design

In this study, the researcher used a quantitative approach. Specifically, a reception analysis which aims to identify the aspect, and system of communication Philippine independent film has that dominates Filipinos when it comes to their perspective in political and social issues and how this films deliver their messages. Related literatures and studies will be analyzed in order to support and provide more information to the answers provided by the respondents together with the summarized findings of the questionnaire.

Research Locale

The study will be conducted in Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation because of its proximity and the availability of the necessary data. The researcher chose the locale because of the respondents’ abilities in answering the given questions. In order to get different perceptions coming from people from different backgrounds and culture the researcher would be conducting the survey to five different classes specifically; Art Appreciation, Society and Culture w/ FP, STD, HIV &ADIS, Socio-Anthropology, Philippine Literature and Ethics.


The respondents of the study would be coming from several classes. Particularly Art Appreciation classes, Socio-Anthropology class, Society and Culture, and Ethics classes. Professors from this classes would also be given a questionnaire, believing that they have more experience and wider point of view and knowledge about the political and social issues in the Philippines and they would have more proficiency when it comes in interpreting Indie Films. The five classes were chosen in order to have answers coming from students with somewhat relevant curriculum which we can relate in understanding films, specifically Philippine indie film. And get different point of views as well from students from different backgrounds and have different attitudes.

Sampling Procedure

The sampling design used by the researcher is purposive sampling and random sampling. The purposive sampling is used to gather different perceptions regarding the study, this goes for the students from the different classes and the professors. And the random sampling would be used for the Mass communication students and Psychology students in order to have comparisons between the respondent’s reactions. This design is also used so that there would be a balance answer coming from those who study and familiarizes themselves with films and its effects on viewers and those who does not. Research Instrument

The researcher will use a questionnaire in order to supply necessary information to complete the study. In order for the researcher to conduct an interview and survey, the researcher will conduct a film review for the four (4) chosen classes.

Aside from the questionnaires and copies of indie films, conclusions from different materials regarding Philippine independent film and articles about the country’s political and social issues will also be used in order to support the study. The researcher will also put her personal conclusion in addition of the study.

Data Gathering Procedures

The researcher gathered materials and information from books, internet sites, articles and related studies for further issues. Articles and related literatures will be analyzed in order to support the study. It is also used to widen the ideas and add knowledge for the study. Questionnaires will be distributed to the respondents to get perceptions. Later on, the researcher will analyze the gathered data and will interpret the information.

The summary will be from the outcomes of the gathered materials information and from the interpretation made from the questionnaires.

Statistical Treatment

There will be two procedures in formulating the gathered data. The gathered data will be tallied and tabulated through the use of the following formula: This formula will be used for the demographic profile and in formulating the survey.

1. Percentage

P=_f_ x 100

f=frequency/number of responses
n=total number of respondents

2. Weighted Mean

WM=weighted mean
∑fw=sum of the product of the frequency and the weight N=number of respondents


(2013, 01). Level of Awareness on Philippine Independent Retrieved 01, 2013, from (2013, 09). Philippine Cinemas in the 90s. Retrieved 09, 2013, from (2012, 07). Philippine Independent Films Versus Mainstream Movies: Intellectual Hunger or Escapist Entertainment?. Retrieved 07, 2012, from (2013, 07). Philippine Independent Cinema. Retrieved 07, 2013, from 2010, 12). Truthness in and of Filipino Independent Films: a Gadamerian Hermeneutical Approach. Retrieved 12, 2010, from (2012, 08). Expectations on Independent Films. Retrieved 08, 2012, from (2012, 07). Film. Retrieved 07, 2012, from (2013, 03). Sigwa. Retrieved 03, 2013, from

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Philippine Independent film. (2016, Sep 08). Retrieved from

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