By MANUEL L. MORATÓ
Another blasphemous movie?
Last week in my column last Saturday where I made mention of a blasphemous movie “The Last Temptation of Christ;” and how I was able to stop its being shown in our country like many other countries did. The Philippines is the biggest Christian nation in Asia; and the third or fourth largest Catholic country in the world – if I am not mistaken.
As I have mentioned, our law does not allow us to show a movie insulting any religion. We cannot approve a movie insulting Christ, nor a film insulting Mohammad.
Now another blasphemous movie is scheduled to be released this June to August, according to Mr. Rey Topacio who warned our people to help spread the news. The movie is entitled “Corpus Christi” which means “Body of Christ,” …“a revolting mockery of Our Lord.” He wishes to inform all Christians to help stop such offenses against Our Lord. According to Mr. Topacio that some regions in Europe have agreed to ban the film.
During my term as MTRCB Chairman from 1986 to 1992, all I did was not to sign the importation permit. All foreign made movies must acquire import permits from the MTRCB which would be presented to the Central Bank to acquire its importation permit. But it needs an endorsement from the MTRCB before the Central Bank can act on it.
If this information is true (and most probably it is) for it was a stage play for many years in Broadway made into a movie. Our MTRCB must be in the look out. I suggest that they find out the name of the producer by talking to the local distributors in the Philippines this early.
In the case of “The Last Temptation of Christ,” I was given a betamax tape of said movie by a former classmate of mine in the U.S., warning me to do something about it as it is blasphemous and was banned by many States in the U.S., Europe and some countries in Asia.
As I said, Israel banned the film as well. When I reviewed the tape of “The Last Temptation of Christ,” it could not be allowed by our law for it to be shown in our cinemas all over the country. Please don’t ask me anymore to explain why for it is bad enough to explain what I saw. If I remember correctly, the movie was produced/directed by Martin Scorsese, an ex-priest.
During my MTRCB Chairmanship, there were times I occasionally invited responsible persons as guests to sit in the review of a sensitive movie to get their opinion and comments. They do contribute wise and prudent opinion. Though they have no powers to sign to approve or disapprove, there were times during my term that I needed the support of responsible parents in classifying a movie either for general patronage, parental guidance and for those suitable for adult only.
The Chairman of the MTRCB does not review films, as a general rule. But if the Chairman has the time to sit for review of a movie, he or she can. The MTRCB has 30 board members who are given assignments in groups of 3 to review a film. The Chairman can approve the decision of the 3, or compose a group of 5 to review a film, if in doubt, and to give their opinion for or against the decision of the 3, in cases of sensitive movies.
During my term, I required 17 board members (majority) to sit in review of very sensitive movies. There is nothing wrong with that. I won’t mention the name of the movies. A few were outright pornographic that even if I allow to cut some scenes, it cannot be given a permit for public exhibition that only the Chairman can sign. A great responsibility indeed.
Let me relate to you a foreign movie that was passed by my 3 board members then and approved it. I decided to sit in review to be sure that it can be shown publicly. It was definitely a pornographic movie which was entered in the Cannes Film Festival and “won an award,” as the representative and distributor here in Manila told me. I won’t mention his name, but I know that he is still around.
I told him, if I sanitize this movie by cutting the obscene parts, nothing would be left. How can a film with breasts and organs flying all over the screen be sanitized? I told the distributor of this foreign movie that if I allow for the film to be sanitized, you won’t even have enough for a trailer of it to be shown on TV to promote the film.
I told him that I am “deporting” the film back to America; and to tell the producer/director to eat his film. There was no way for me to give it a permit for public exhibition in the theaters. It’s against Philippine Law. Period. We have no X-rated theaters here.
The distributor repeated that it got an award in the Cannes Film Festival. I told him that the award means nothing to me for it was viewed by film critics. What he was asking for was a permit from me to be shown in all the public cinemas in the country. In the U.S. and other countries, it was X-rated and shown in X-rated theaters. But our law does not allow any X-rated theaters in the country. We are not sophisticated enough as a people; and also because we are a Catholic and Christian nation.
One of the 3 board members (a lady) who approved it in the first review said to be well-connected in Malacañang sued me in court. I won the case. The court sustained my decision.
So as I said, I “deported” the film back to America. I told the distributor, if you insist, I will not sign all the movies he will present to the board. He got the message loud and clear, and did not insist anymore.
By the way, I meant what I said. I would rather resign than give a permit for public exhibition of a film contrary to law. And as a Catholic, I really cannot be a party to what runs contrary to my faith.
I am speaking for myself. Why do I say this? Because I do not agree with some of the members of the Church hierarchy who keep gnashing their teeth and egging President Duterte to “quarrel” with them. They took a vow of humility. They should turn “the other cheek.” Medyo napapalayo na at naliligaw na ang ilan sa kanila “preaching” the wrong message, contrary to what Christ told them to be.
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