MTRCB’s rating system isn’t broken—MTRCB is
MTRCB gives "Metamorphosis" an X-rating // CinemaOne Originals

MTRCB’s rating system isn’t broken—MTRCB is

MTRCB's decision to deem “Metamorphosis” a film “unfit for public viewing” points to a pustulating boil in the system—and it needs to be popped.

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UPDATE (11/07/19, 12:40 PM): JE Tiglao confirms that the film has now been granted an R-16 rating instead. We’re happy that this got sorted in civility and with an agreeable outcome.

The infomercial for the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) plays at the beginning of every film I watch in the cinema. Each time it plays, I cringe. Not for the amount of budget they obviously cut for its sorry-looking production values, but its contents. 

It does its job, make no mistake. The ad shows a family, with children that fall conveniently under MTRCB’s rating bracket. It explains that everyone can watch movies that have the G-rating, while children below the age of thirteen must be consoled regarding the heavier contents of a PG-rated movie. Then comes the Rs. R-13 movies are not for anyone below thirteen-years-old, or as the jolly blue announcer tells us, such patrons should “disappear!”.

Finally, we come to the part where it tells us about R-18 movies. I roll my eyes every time I see it. In poorly rendered vectors, the ad tells us that R-18 movies are only for patrons of the age of eighteen. Also, what it deems as an illustrative example of an R-18 movie is a scene set in a strip club, with women dancing around the pole.

There, I think, lies the problem. MTRCB’s idea of movies that should not be screened to minors are movies that explore sexuality. In fact, number one in their particulars is the following:

“The work depicts in a patently lewd, offensive, or demeaning manner, excretory functions, and sexual conduct such as sexual intercourse, masturbation, and exhibition of the genitals.”

Elwood Perez’s Silip and Peque Gallaga’s Scorpio Nights are perhaps most known to receive the dreaded X-rating. Both sexually charged, the two films aren’t without merit. The latter, perhaps more than the former, is a truly important work that, sadly, few people saw in its original release. At seventeen, I understood as I watched the film with the faint whirring of its VCD disc that the film has more to say beyond the expletives and racy scenes.

In 2015, Kidlat Tahimik released his adaptation of Tragic Theater, a novel inspired by the horrific events that transpired at the Manila Film Center. The film’s trailer received an X-rating (twice!) for being “too scary”. The theories, however, point to the fact that it’s an inherently anti-Marcos movie, being tied to Imelda Marcos’ closing of MFC, which ultimately led to a whole platoon of construction workers. The film eventually got an R-16 rating.

MTRCB’s rating system isn’t broken—MTRCB is
“Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na” (2013) // CinemaOne Originals

Call that conspiracy, but we have to remember that we’re talking about the same agency that condemned a beautiful film like Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na for using actual footage of real-life rebels. The film eventually got an R-16 rating, with the said footage censored.

In 2016, Petersen Vargas’ 2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten got slammed with an R-18, despite having no immediate violation to MTRCB’s specified particulars. The film opened the same week with John Wick 2 and Logan. Both ultraviolent films received an R-16 rating.

That brings me back to the MTRCB’s lip-smackingly golden infomercial. The R-13 segment depicts a scene with Gatling machine guns. It’s hard not to deduce that MTRCB’s perspective on what is unfit for non-adult audiences is like this. Drugs and violence are a-O.K., while anything that’s remotely sexual or sexually progressive is a-no-no.

MTRCB’s rating system isn’t broken—MTRCB is
“Metamorphosis” // CinemaOne Originals

J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis, a drama about a young intersex person, is now given an X-rating. The contents of Tiglao’s movie are, obviously, unknown to us, but it’s hard not to connect this with MTRCB’s obvious missteps. The film is premiering at the 2019 CinemaOne Originals Festival. MTRCB gave its rating one day before the festival opens.

On his Twitter, he shares:

The daring scenes aim to humanize the character who is an intersex. Intersex people are victims of stigma and misconceptions due to their unconventional anatomy.

He continues: “Ang mga eksenang ito ay hindi lamang purong kaliugan. Ito ay pagpapakita ng kanilang pagkatao, ng kanilang sexual desires, ng kanilang pagkalito at pagkabigo—mga bagay na dapat pinagdadaanan nating lahat, intersex man o hindi.” (“These scenes are not solely to show lewdness. These show their individualities, their sexual desires, their losses and confusion—things that we all should go through, intersex or not.”)

This is an important moment for us to take a stand, so that future movies that are at the very least dare to discuss truths agencies like MTRCB are too afraid to unpack won’t befall the same fate.