Should we demand more from the MMFF?

In theory, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is supposed to be a fun and exciting few days as we make way for locally made films, but it also elicits fierce criticism. Grab some popcorn as your friends share their feelings and their reviews online.

The MMFF has been around since 1975 and has produced films that have become classics. Insiang, Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, Kisapmata, Himala, Jose Rizal, Tanging Yaman, and Dekada ’70 were products of the annual festival and have rave reviews. Somehow, the MMFF evolved and became a totally different festival, with critics saying that the organizers now prioritize cash cows, regardless of quality. Even those working in the industry have aired their frustrations. Erik Matti, the man behind BuyBust, Seklusyon, Honor Thy Father, On the Job, and the upcoming Darna lamented in 2017, “Ang problema nga lang it’s the same type of films, the same kind of movies. I know what happened in the selection.”

Is it time to demand more from the MMFF?

This year’s lineup proved to be quite controversial, going back to its age-old formula of putting big stars in what some would say questionable films. Critics have bashed the lineup, with respected writer Philbert Dy declaring that he’s skipping the festival altogether.

Of course, it’s unfair to generalize the entire lineup since there are usually gems to be found each year. But the last time we had an incredible lineup was in 2016. That year, we had films like Die Beautiful, Oro, Saving Sally, Sunday Beauty Queen, and Seklusyon. And while rave reviews poured in, the box office suffered. Compared to the P1.020 billion the festival earned in 2015, 2016 earned P373.3 million.

Those who criticized that run of the MMFF claimed that the lineup was too serious and there was nothing for the family. They said that people go to watch movies to escape from reality, not face an even grimmer version of it. It’s true. Seklusyon is a horror thriller, and Sunday Beauty Queen is a documentary on domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Oro was about the murder of four miners in Camarines Sur by the armed forces of a politician, while Kabisera dealt with extra-judicial killings. Not exactly the type of film you would bring your family to on Christmas day.

While it’s true that that year’s lineup proved heavier than the usual fare, it showed the potential of Philippine cinema. A good Filipino movie doesn’t have to talk about poverty or corrupt politicians. Time and again, we’ve seen lighter fare that’s not just focused on becoming cash cows: Heneral Luna, Bliss, English Only Please, RPG: Metanoia, and many more. They prove that they can be both substantial and family-friendly.

It’s time to put an end to the argument that the Vice Ganda starring films and the franchises are made for the masa because it’s what they want. Sure, box office numbers don’t lie but if you show them that there are better stories to tell while still respecting their taste for comedy hijinks (Kimmy Dora) and kilig-worthy scenes (That Thing Called Tadhana), we can have a festival where everyone wins.

An MMFF where families, kids, critics, cinema operators, and festival organizers are satisfied. Sounds like a happy ending.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts below!






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