Filipinos in Hollywood Headed by FilAm Creative
The Plight of the Filipinos About “Plane”
According to Mark Labella, Executive Director of FilAm Creative. “PLANE” boycott is heartbreaking. Robin Padilla, a Filipino action star turned politician, calls to boycott a film that is a work of fiction that does not purport itself, in any way, to be based on a true story. Filipinos are proud, smart, and hospitable people, and everyone in Hollywood and back knows that. A boycott underestimates Pinoy common sense and the ability to distinguish between fact and a Hollywood film. Hollywood still has a representation issue– there is so much work to do for America’s second-largest AAPI population that Pinoys are rarely seen and celebrated in US media today. Boycotting cuts off lines of communication with Hollywood and major studios to enhance that representation. It signals that we are unwilling to open dialogue to improve future narratives. “The Plane” should play in the Philippines and let the Filipino public decide whether it is worth seeing.
First and foremost, “PLANE” is a work of fiction. Filipinos are intelligent enough to understand that a work of fiction does not accurately represent the entirety of its population. When I spoke with Gerard Butler at the premiere, he noted, “Why is it that the nicest people in real life make the best bad guys? Filipinos are the most generous, sweetest people…” He’s right. Filipinos are also talented enough to play good and bad guys. When I guest starred on a CBS show called S.W.A.T.; I received a jacket with the message “KAIBIGAN” on it. This is a set gift from a team of primarily Caucasian producers who sincerely appreciate Filipino hearts and work ethics in both personal and professional lives.
That being said, this boycott undercuts the work that Filipino Americans have been working for– which is to play actual Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in Hollywood productions. So what if we are bad guys? The film does not, in any way, purport itself as a true story. Representation goes both ways. If we want representation, we have to be willing to play both bad guys and good guys– just as there have been bad guys who are American, Latino, Australian, Korean, and European. This is simply a popcorn flick. It was not made to be a deep study of character and culture.
Moreover, the proud Filipino Americans who participated in this film have enough Pinoy pride not to allow anything racist or stereotypical representations of the Filipino people. Don’t underestimate our faculties as artists. We will have spoken up against racism if hints of one exist.
Most of all, there are more productive ways to open lines of communication than boycotting a film. Because whether we like it or not, the film is a box office success. It rated veritably fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and a sequel is rumored to be in the works. Why not ask the filmmakers and the studio to do better for the sequel and write in Pinoy characters that better represent the hospitality for which Filipinos are known? Let’s come together to create a discourse of informed civility. When we censor opportunities, there may not be another one. As a screenwriter, I fight for representation with every letter that I write on a page. It’s not fair that we Filipinos are rarely seen on TV and film despite our numbers in America.
In conclusion, I urge the MTCRB to evaluate the film as what it is– a work of fiction that has no bearing on the character of the Filipino people around the world. We cannot be so thin-skinned that we overreact to being “bad guys” in a film. The Filipino people and the world have the common sense to understand that this film is not a racist piece of art that condemns Pinoys. It’s just a popcorn flick. I will not comment on the socio-political underpinnings of Jolo. But “The Plane” does not claim to be “based” or “inspired” by actual events. Let the Filipino people decide whether they want to watch this film or not. We are not in the middle ages. Let freedom prevail in a country of personal choice and democracy.