Tobacco-free movies in MMFF: Is it possible?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2012 12:12 PM | Updated as of Mar 23 2012 01:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Last year’s entries in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) were monitored for smoking scenes as the government strives to make the annual event tobacco-free in the near future.

Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), made the call last year to exclude scenes that show actors smoking cigarettes, drawing the ire of filmmakers and moviegoers.

He said viewers, particularly the youth, may be enticed to smoke when they see their favorite actors puffing cigarettes.

“We don’t want to send the wrong message to our children. We want to inculcate positive, health-conscious values and awareness,” Tolentino said.

Anthony Roda of the Department of Health’s National Center for Health Promotion recently wrote about a study on tobacco in MMFF entries, which was presented as a poster at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore this month.

In the article, Roda said smoking scenes in each film were counted, with accuracy estimated at plus or minus ten scenes, shots and seconds.

Not surprisingly, period “Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga” was found to be a “smoking-filled” movie with 44 out of the total 91 scenes featuring actors with cigars and cigarettes.

The film, which stars actor-politician ER Ejercito, did not do well commercially but earned the MMFF Best Picture award.

“Ironically, this adjudged quality and best film is filled with tobacco and smoking scenes from the first four minutes of the movie up to the last few minutes towards the end. Smoking is also very obvious in the movie’s trailer, music video, print advertisement and poster,” Roda wrote.

“The lead actor and his cohorts smoked cigarettes, while the main villain smoked cigar. The jail warden and some policemen were portrayed as smokers…Although there were no noticeable brands of cigarettes and cigars, the movie seems like one big and long tobacco advertisement,” he added.

Other movies with smoking scenes, according to the study, include horror flicks “Shake, Rattle and Roll 13” and “Segunda Mano.”

Drama movie “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” did not show smoking scenes, but it was implied in a dialogue by one of the film’s main characters.

Meanwhile, Roda commended the three family entertainment MMFF entries for not showing smoking scenes – “Enteng ng Ina Mo,” “Ang Panday 2” and “My Househusband: Ikaw Na.”

PH not yet ready

In the article, Roda said tobacco-free movies “may not be possible in MMFF at this time, but the pioneering effort to call on filmmakers not to depict smoking in their films may be the start of something big.”

“It has already elicited healthy public discussion and debate,” he wrote. “This now gives an opportunity not only to push for government action, but also to encourage for self-regulation.”

Tolentino has hinted that it may be time for the movie industry to run the MMFF by itself, according to Roda.

“It is about time to consider such films as indirect tobacco advertising and promotion vehicles, which is a violation of an existing law, and therefore should not be eligible for any government subsidies or tax incentives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roda said it would also help if actor-politicians, such as Ejercito, will not be seen as smoking characters to set a good example to the youth.