Art, propaganda and creative freedom

By Farah G. Decano


THERE is so much fuss about which one is the better movie between the musical “Katips,” or the drama “Maid In Malacanang.”  Famas Awards has spoken.  “Katips” won hands down.

If you wish to be simply entertained by “Mariteses” then you may consider the “Maid” movie.  It is about house servants narrating to each other what they observed during the last three days of the deposed president, Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., in Malacañang.  Based on this gist, we must not logically expect from the movie an in-depth analyses similar to that of political experts or famed historians.  Instead, we anticipate mali-mali perceptions and exaggerated exchanges among gossipmongers which are stereotypical of maid roles in Filipino big screen.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that maids are dumb talebearers.  If they truly are, in reality, then we won’t entrust to their care our belongings, our homes, and our families.  We love our kasambahays.  We treat them as part of the family.  And they deserve all the protection given to them by law.  All I am saying is that the conventional portrayal of househelps in the Filipino big and small screens are anything but accurate.  Remember, the mali-maliMatutina” of John en Marsha?

I understand the creative consultant’s (Senator Imee Marcos) aim to present her family’s side of the story.  In fact, she described the film as “a work of truth.”  She wants to inculcate in the minds of the masses what they should know during the last three days of her father’s presidency.  The director Darryl Yap is probably of the opinion that one must first win the hearts of the masses before the latter can be open to a new narrative.  What better and safe way to achieve this than by presenting historical events as seen through the eyes of those who belong to the common people – the house helpers.

I find Mr. Yap’s strategy clever.  The movie seems to be packed with all the elements of a usual hit movie: a bit of drama that has two or more intense confrontational scenes, some comedy and a little action.  The controversial director may have aimed to mix truths, exaggerations and myths in a manner that will suit the purpose of his principal.  While he does not pretend that the movie is scientific in approach, he raises his creative freedom as defense for whatever deviation he may have employed.  Whenever the public demands truthfulness regarding some matters about this movie, he can conveniently draw out the following excuses available to him: 1) his artistic liberty; and 2) his boldness to explore the other side of the story.

As of press time, there are two factual errors pointed about the movie: 1) former President Corazon Aquino’s demand to immediately drive the dictator out of the Philippines; and 2) the Carmelite nuns playing mahjong with President Cory.

Can these deviations be justified by creative freedom?  Maybe.  After all, there is such a concept called propaganda art.  It is the use of art in order to draw out emotions and promote a certain cause or purpose without regard to the truth.

This brings us back to the age-old quote, with freedom comes responsibility.  Should the very creative Yap dabble with propaganda movie art as regards our history during a time when truth is scarce?

In the end, it is not really about Mr. Yap’s artistry that is in question.  It is his motivation.

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