musings

HENERAL LUNA: the film that went there

been trying to write this particular article for weeks now. started this when HENERAL LUNA was still on its 3rd week and now, the film is enjoying its 5th week in the theaters (and almost on its 6th! fingers crossed). still overwhelming, really.

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ive done movies for quite some time now.. small ones. not so small ones. mostly independent features. jerrold tarog. brillante mendoza. erik matti. pepe diokno. tikoy aguiluz. even a shelved project with chito rono. in all projects and in every opportunity, we work hard in each one of those features, regardless of scope, budget, and intention. successful at the box office or not, we’ve done that movie and we still do more movies.

all filmmakers do their art because it’s akin to breathing. we just create. that’s how we really live. every sleepless night, every cursed long day shoot, every triumph in an early packup, our own heart’s struggle. from the guy who runs around all day serving coffee to that guy in front of the monitor yelling cut over the PA system. that’s love. that’s passion. that’s all heart. and even if the movies we make struggle finding an audience, we rally on and strive on the next masterpiece and hope maybe this time, people will notice and watch that movie. watch it and recoup a little of our investors’ money.

when we got called by jerrold tarog to do production design for HENERAL LUNA, we said yes because, jerrold. period. the other minor reason was because we would be working on a period movie, something we’ve never done. but generally, we’ve worked with jerrold so many times before and the work was always fun and challenging, it was not even a question if we’d do it. we’re there.

we certainly did not predict any of the wonderful things that happened to HENERAL LUNA. we only knew it was a special project, like all the movies we’ve done before. like jerrold’s SENIOR YEAR. or romeo candido’s ANG PAMANA. like brillante mendoza’s CAPTIVE.  but what happens if our dreams come true? what if the audience connected to the film and raved about it? then watched it again with a different set of folks. and soon would gross more than 1 million in ticket sales? HENERAL LUNA was the movie that happened.  it was the film that went there.

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HENERAL LUNA is almost at the end of its 5th week screening in cinemas in the Philippines. so far it has grossed 240 million in ticket sales. 240 Million! for an indie! for a historical movie! that’s history right there. who’d have thought this movie would become a cultural phenomenon, a critical and a commercial success? frankly, this movie has broken a lot of records and trends in the film industry.

BIG STARS. we dont have big stars in HENERAL LUNA, only big actors. industry practices believe the big stars draw in the audience. but our no-big-star film just made a killing at the box office. of course, a lot of factors play into that BUT, we just made it there by the strength of the material, the performances, and by the buying power of the audiences. thank you, Lord!

on the other hand, big star movies opening a few weeks ago suffered experiencing what we went through in our first week! piolo pascual’s SILONG got bumped off and shared theaters with nic cage, and nora aunor’s TAKLUB lost theaters halfway through its run. what the? in the meantime ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES opened quietly and earned 15 Million on its first day, the same amount we earned in our first week of screenings. as what my tita vilma always said, you can never can tell.

HISTORICAL MOVIE. JOSE RIZAL grossed 90 million when it played to a captive audience in the 90s. with inflation that would be… hold on. i failed math in college. JOSE RIZAL made a lot of money. anyway, HENERAL LUNA is slowly getting there to be that big blockbuster historical movie that historically broke records.

AUDIENCE IMPACT. blockbusters happen when people go back to the theaters and pay to watch the same movie twice. or thrice. and drag more people into the theater to see that movie. with this, THAT THING CALLED TADHANA became the post-festival success story and box office hit. vice ganda movies hit 400 million also because they were shown during christmas and on an mmff run.for a historical movie, HENERAL LUNA is enjoying the repeated viewings of its captivated audience. furthermore, they embraced the film and it’s no longer just our movie. it’s everyone’s past and present. it’s their wake up call. it’s their life and rallying cry for change. big words!

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meme by carlo tabije

RAVE REVIEWS. ive been so used to mixed reviews on movies ive worked on all my life. chos. there hasnt been a filipino movie that practically would rank 90% freshness on rottentomatoes.com, had it been rated. i can understand schools encouraging their students to watch the movie. however, it is a different kind of success when you hear companies, like this pharmaceutical company, sending out an email to all employees nationwide to watch HENERAL LUNA paid for by the company? when was the last time normal folk clamored for cinemas to keep screening a movie so they can get more people to watch it? we never aimed for this and yet the film continues to elicit raw, untapped emotions from people haha lahat na ng tao nagmumura!

PINOYS BACK IN THE SINEHAN! a lot of the posted reviews online also say things like, i havent been to theaters in a really long time BUT, or i would not normally watch pinoy movies especially in the cinemas BUT. they found a movie they all loved and they watched it in the sinehan that charges a leg. and they watched with family in tow. we have lost our Sinehan Culture and it shows with the few that do, opening of phones and texting while a movie is on, talking and putting your feet up. the couch culture prevailed, unfortunately. but going back to heneral luna, now all these people are finding time and getting babysitters so they could just go and watch in the sinehan. like wow.

50% DISCOUNT. when we first learned about it, two thoughts ran in our heads. 1.) that’s great, more students would get to watch it because ticket prices would be more affordable! and 2.) that’s great, but we’ll struggle at the box office because that would cut down the ticket sales by, like, 50%. lol. but when was the last time you heard a film producer practically giving away this movie for loose change just so you could watch it? fernando ortigas really has a heart of gold, bless this man. and two more things, students could afford to watch it twice or thrice because tickets are only around P100. on the other hand, there were also students who paid full price because they believed in the film, some even loved it so much they dragged their parents to the sinehan and made libre their dad and mom. like omg, ang saya lang.

FAN ART! this movie became some cultural phenomenon. good Lord, the memes and the awesome fan art. the use of the film’s memorable lines in every day conversation. there’s a whole album on facebook of people drawing scenes and characters from the movie. i dont think it has really happened before. so crazy it’s awesome.

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screencap of the heneral luna fb page album of fan art. credits go to their respective owners. click on the photo to go the album page.

ENTRY TO THE OSCARS. we had a weak start when we opened in theaters sept 9. we made it through the weekend and reviews from people who watched it were positive and encouraging. ticket sales generally picked up on the 6th and 7th day so we slid nicely into a 2nd week screening schedule and sales went higher as payday hit. sometime after that, the film academy of the philippines suddenly announced HENERAL LUNA was representing the country as entry to the foreign language category at the oscars. naturally, more people now got interested and more news shows were talking about HENERAL LUNA. and then we made it to a long weekend break! the sales just kept going up that we warranted another week in the theaters.

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meme by carlo tabije

a lot of good things happened for HENERAL LUNA. the circumstances surrounding the film made it a hit and these factors may or may not be had next time. maybe the success of this independently produced, historical film, HENERAL LUNA, was a one-time big deal . my realist self would tell me there is no trend to come out of this phenomenon. next time, it doesnt mean that if it’s a historical movie, or if it’s artikulo uno, or jerrold tarog, it will necessarily catch the same wave of support from the general public and will become a hit. however, my optimist self also tells me people will always support a well made, well written pinoy movie. and my optimistic self would tell me, this might be replicated come GOYONG (gregorio del pilar movie). but if more pinoys are now open to philippine cinema then we may just find our audience and by this, we will really have another golden age of Philippine cinema.

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