ITH the proliferation of sex and violence in the movie industry today, morally correct films have become a rarity.

Conscious of the effect and influence of films on the viewing public, the Office on Women of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has to form its own movie classification and ratings board—CINEMA.

Formed on July 14, 1999, Cinema stands for the Catholic Initiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation. Its task: to rate, classify, and review movies to provide a guide to families in particular, and to the Catholic faithful in general. Generally, it praises movies that uphold exemplary Christian values.

Cinema was formed during a conference of bishops, where priests expressed their concern about the rapid spread of pornography in the media.

According to UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery alumna and Cinema’s executive secretary, Zenaida Rotea, M.D., the CBCP Office on Women has become one of the lead agencies of the CBCP in promoting Gospel values.

Pornography and violence

Cinema aims to answer the commonly asked question, “what is the Church teaching regarding pornography and violence?”

Its information material states that: “the Catholic Church teaches that pornography is a grave offense because it seriously injures the dignity of the participants. The subjects become objects of base pleasure and sources of illicit profit for others. Pornography and sadistic violence debase sexuality, corrode human relationships, and exploit individuals, especially women and young people. They undermine family life and marriage, foster anti-social behavior and weaken the society’s moral fiber.”

Rotea said that Cinema believes that frequent exposure to pornography or violence in the media, especially through movies, can be confusing to children who may not be able to distinguish readily between fantasy and reality.

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Moral eyes

Contrary to what others think, Cinema does not grade films based on “gospel values” alone, but also on technical and aesthetic virtues.

“When we watch a movie, we look at it with different measures on our minds. We observe everything that embodies the material. We do not only consider the technical aspects such as the musical scoring, cinematography, editing. We, most importantly, consider the moral that the movie tries to give its audience,” Rotea said.

Cinema has an executive board. Composed of dedicated professionals serving as volunteers, that releases weekly a classification and review of films showing in first-run theaters. In addition, it has a pool of 36 reviewers, mostly lay people, who have undergone special training on film review and classification.

“Cinema follows the same rating system as used by its ‘sister-boards’—review bodies affiliated with the Catholic Church in countries all over the world. Covering technical and moral aspects of any given film, it is an elaborate rating system that does not leave any stone unturned,” Rotea explained.

Film scales

Like other reviewing bodies, Cinema makes use of stars (for technical assessment) and balls (for moral assessment). Technically, the movie is rated as poor, below average, average, above average, or excellent. Technical areas of concern are cinematography, editing, lighting, composition, visual effects, sound effects, musical score, dialogue, and production design. Movies that recently got a high technical rating include A Beautiful Mind (four stars), Mel Gibson’s We Were Soldiers (four stars), and Magkapatid (3 1/2 stars).

Morally, movies are rated from exemplary, to wholesome, acceptable, disturbing, and abhorrent. In the moral evaluation, the reviewer will decide on the central idea, the film’s impact, and the outstanding features of the film. The reviewer is given a table with three subjects to fill up, namely subject matter, manner of presentation, and moral implication.

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For the benefit of the public, Cinema has come up with a viewers information guide which contains sensitive information on graphic depiction in a film in terms of vulgar language, sexual issues, violence, emotional stress, and drugs/alcohol.

Among the films that have received low moral ratings are Sisid and Red Diaries (both starring Assunta de Rossi) and Sutla (Priscilla Almeda), A film that got an exemplary rating was Tanging Yaman.

Identity

Rotea clarified that Cinema is not a censorship board. It only rates and classifies movies. It hopes that its evaluation will help guide viewers in assessing the moral implications of a movie.

“We have only one vision—a film-literate citizenry that, through the guidance of Cinema, promotes Filipino Christian values and traditions,” Rotea said.

Cinema issues its Cinema Bulletin weekly and distributes 1,000 copies to bishops and parish priests in Cebu, Iloilo, Baguio, Tarlac, Zamboanga, Malaybalay, Albay, Cagayan de Oro, and Kidapawan City, as well as to schools, universities and seminaries, especially in Metro Manila.

Cinema’s reviews are also published in Home Life, Woman Today, Blue Collar, Life Today Magazine, Inquirer LIBRE, Metropolitan Mail, and Bulawan Magazine.

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