Claiming the Filipino Action Movie Identity

by Junelie Anthony Velonta | News Writer


The Filipino action genre has no concrete identity. From the limitless barrage of explosive ordnance to the infinite number of bullet fodder dying endlessly, Filipino action movies have had nothing to offer but clones of the outdated “macho” movies of 80’s Hollywood or the fantastical wire-fu antics of Chinese Wuxia (武侠) movies. Most Filipino action movies are indistinguishable from foreign ones – language and tendency to copy paste formats aside.

To construct a Filipino identity, however, analysis of the iconic action movies of other cultures must be considered.

The propagation of the Japanese Chanbara (チャンバラ) genre in the West is mostly attributed to Akira Kurosawa. Save the swords and the language, Kurosawa employed traditional martial arts and semi-original but localized stories to create a unique identity for his films. The results are films that are uniquely Japanese with a Kurosawa flare.

The West has an equivalent of this too. Under the banner of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), many martial artists from different backgrounds have begun to revive the long lost martial traditions of Europe. This practice, however, has been present since 1970’s. Films like “The Duellists,” “Barry Lyndon,” “The Deluge,” and “Alatriste,” have successfully implemented the European martial traditions to reflect a Western identity.

These have also been reflected by our South-East Asian neighbors. Movies belonging to the “Ong Bak” and “The Raid” series, both use localized settings and stories coupled with the use of native martial arts. The “Ong Bak” movies use a traditional form of Muay Thai to reflect rural points of view and mythological representations.

Taking these into consideration, Philippine action movies should take a focus on local settings and the use of native fighting arts. Luckily, the Philippines is home to a variety of native fighting arts. From the Spanish inspired Escrima systems of the Visayas and Luzon to the dance-like movements of Kuntao from the South, action movie choreographers need only to pick an appropriate style of the narrative.

As for the local setting, the creativity of the writer is free to go through its course – though it must remain respectful and true to its inspirations. The format of the show, which has a name that starts with “Ba” and end with “gani” should be avoided, as it has become far too removed from what it was marketed to be. Of course, the Thor-rip-off-esque should also be avoided. After all, our identity as a people are reflected by the movies we watch.

About theweeklysillimanian (1996 Articles)
Official student news publication of Silliman University.

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