Metro Manila Film Festival

Redefining The Role Of The Metro Manila Film Festival: Learning From Cinemalaya

There’s absolutely no doubt that the recent Cinemalaya Film Festival was a resounding success, both critically and commercially. In fact, it came to a point where the festival basically marketed itself, and tickets to practically any show became a hot commodity. In this case, we see that the local indie film scene is not only surviving, but is in fact thriving.

I have discussed, quite thoroughly, the issues I have with current mainstream Filipino films, and, setting aside the rare exceptional show, I believe that these problems still exist up to now. Make no mistake about this, I believe, fully and completely, in the talents of Filipino filmmakers, but we have to admit that mainstream cinema is currently in the crapper, and needs a bit of help. I think, at least in this sense, that we can all agree that local mainstream moviemakers need a platform to prove that they can be edgy, powerful, AND popular.

Which brings us to the problem of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The MMFF was initially established in 1975 for the purpose of promoting quality Filipino films that artistically depict Filipinos’ stories and history. In this context, it is clear that the MMFF has since lost its focus, and is now merely a platform used by studios to bilk money from a moviegoing audience (with a ton of Christmas cash) held hostage by a lack of choices. (Only MMFF movies can be shown during the Christmas season). The problem is especially clear once you check social network sites and realize that most of your friends are complaining about how much they hate the MMFF but still watch the movies showcased because they have no options.

That is a tragedy. It points to a lack of understanding between what the audience wants, and what studios should create. The problem then becomes crystal-clear: studios want to make money, and most Filipinos want better films. Except studios continue to make crappy films, and Filipinos continue to watch them.

To this end, the success of the Cinemalaya Film Festival becomes important because it shows that better, edgier films do not necessarily result in less sales. In fact, the opposite is quite true: the main problem of the 2013 Cinemalaya was a lack of tickets and theaters, not moviegoers. This underscores the need of most Filipinos for films with a vision and which are capable of connecting in an emotionally powerful way with viewers; not the usual hodgepodge of silly dramedies with action-romantic-horror-fantasy elements.

We do not want movies that have a “little something for everybody” because, unless the movie is at least ten hours or so long, that probably translates to “this movie is stupid and meandering, but look, we have half-naked studs and starlets na pa-cute“. We deserve better. In fact, we need them.

So, giant-studios-with-equally-gigantic-marketing-budgets, it’s time to do a little bit of soul-searching. You need to, again, understand your role in the development of Filipino culture and mindsets. Believe me, ten, twenty years from now, you wouldn’t want to be known for movies such as Shake, Rattle and Roll, Enteng Kabisote, anything with Bong Revilla in it, or, god forbid, the horrible, horrible Si Agimat, Si Enteng, At Si Ako.

Besides, it’s not like we have any choice but to watch what you put out anyway. (Like I said, the MMFF makes sure that we have no other movie options during Christmas; ergo, you’re bound to make money.)  So do your part. Help in the creation of a better local cinema we can be proud to show to the world.

Featured photo taken here.

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