Gerard Butler’s Plane may be banned for screening in Philippines

Controversy surrounds the Hollywood action-thriller in the Philippines

Philippine Senator Robin Padilla (left) gestures and Plane's promotional poster (right) featuring lead actors Gerard Butler and Mike Colter.
Philippine Senator Robin Padilla said that his office met with the officials of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) on 17 February 2023 to discuss the possibility of blocking the showing of the film "Plane" starring Gerard Butler. (Photo credits: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP via Getty Images; Plane the Movie official website)

The Philippines’ movie classification board said it has “committed” to banning the screening of Gerard Butler’s movie “Plane” in the country, after several politicians criticised the supposed negative portrayal of the Southeast Asian nation.

The film, which is about a commercial pilot who faces a rebel group after his fictional Trailblazer Airlines Flight 119 from Singapore to Honolulu via Tokyo suffered damage from a storm in the South China Sea, and was forced to make an emergency landing in what turns out to be Jolo island in the restive southern Philippines.

Senators Robin Padilla and Juan Miguel Zubiri led the condemnation of the film for supposedly insulting the country by portraying it as overrun by rebels and militia.

'We can't afford to be silent'

Padilla said his office had met with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) officials, including its chairperson, Lala Sotto, who had promised to call the attention of the film’s producers and block the movie from being shown in the Philippines.

“They (MTRCB) told me, they already talked to the distributor. And we also want to write to the producer,” the actor-turned-politician said in a radio interview.

He also found an ally in Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who also said that “as a nation, we should send our regrets that this is not the real situation on the ground.”

“As I’ve said, the film should’ve just maintained its fictionality and not name our country, the Philippines,” Padilla said.

Padilla also called on his countrymen to stand up for the Philippines especially when its reputation and name is being smeared by foreigners.

“We can’t afford to be silent … My message to you [Filipinos], when the time comes that our country is being attacked and belittled, we shouldn’t defend these foreigners,” he said.

Not a reliable commentary on country's affairs

However, the Director’s Guild of the Philippines opposed the proposed ban, saying it would be a cure worse than the illness itself and would set a precedent for films to be held hostage by imagined slights to the country's reputation.

"To outrightly ban the film, especially one already approved by the MTRCB, is a cure much worse than the illness itself, injurious to free expression and sets a precedent for films to be held hostage by imagined slights to our country's reputation,” the guild said.

The organisation also argued that the film was just a mindless B-movie entertainment and not a reliable commentary on the country's affairs, and that banning it would be tantamount to censorship.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and lifestyle writer who focuses on politics, the economy, and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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