Who’s afraid of the MMFF top grosser?


VICE Ganda and Ai-Ai delas Alas in “Sisterakas,” this year’s apparent title holder

So there’s this yuppie who complained, seething, that he had to wait two more weeks to catch “Les Misérables” because he had to endure “Si Agimat, Si Enteng Kabisote at si Ako” and “Sisterakas.” Man, was he livid!

And there was this cineaste who came close to hyperventilating because, by the afternoon of the second day of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), “Thy Womb,” the only movie he wanted to watch during the 10-day fiesta, had been pulled out of one of the cinemas in the mall. It was replaced with “Si Agimat,” one of the two highest-grossing films. Forgetting that ’tis the season to be jolly, the film buff started sputtering cuss words.

Okay. Here are some in-your-face, down-to-earth facts: The MMFF does not cater to people who can sing the entire score of musicals about the French Revolution, nor to film scholars who believe franchises of horror or comedy films that have been around since the term of the first Macapagal president should be outlawed.

The truth of the matter is that we should stop fooling ourselves and expecting things to change.

Fiesta, not fest

The MMFF is only a film fest by name; it is actually a fiesta. Better yet, it is the biggest tiangge  (flea market) that opens on the day Christ was born. And there is nothing wrong with that.

For how can anyone find fault in a celebration of a multimillion-peso business that offers so much fun, amusement and entertainment, and even serves as painkiller to traffic-weary Pinoys? How can that be an error of judgment or, to be more specific, a crime against tastefulness? Whose taste are we concerned about? Can we be honest about this?

An alternative

Listen, snoots: The MMFF is an alternative to Rizal Park, Star City and Enchanted Kingdom.  This is the only time of year when the Filipino has enough money to watch movies. And when they come flocking to the theaters, they come in droves. Literally in prides—tatay and nanay with the chikitings (small kids) whimpering, wailing, hanging on to their parents, braving the long lines.

Christmas is pampamilya (a family affair); thus, you have these child-friendly movies served in the fiesta year after year… after year.

If we can accept queso de bola, jamon tsina, fruit salad and other foreign delicacies on our dining tables each and every Christmas of our Pinoy lives, why are we making such a big deal our of the endless installments of “Enteng Kabisote” and “Shake, Rattle & Roll”?

Sigh of despair

Why do we rant with rage or sigh with despair, all the while still hoping that one day these franchises will go away and that there will finally be more socially relevant and cinematically validating films on the roster? What right have we to scream, “Utang na loob, awat na (For heaven’s sake, stop it)”?

Tough luck, kiddos: On opening day, “Si Agimat” reportedly raked in P31.5 million;  “Shake 14,” a cool P10 million.

This can only mean that all those who are complaining and demanding allegedly better, if not movies of greater variety, do not constitute the percentage of the population who really matter to the fiesta.

Yes, yes, those who feel miserable because they have to wait for two more weeks to catch “Zero Dark Thirty” will have to contend with the fact that “Sisterakas” made almost P39 million on the first day. (Add laugh track here.) We can also bet that this movie about the search and annihilation of a top terrorist will not come close to a movie starring Vice Ganda, Ai-Ai de las Alas and the Presidential Baby Sister.

Wanna bet?

No right

For as long as movies like “Si Agimat,” “Sisterakas” and “Shake” are making money, the ilustrados (enlightened ones) have no right to complain.

Or they can go watch “El Presidente” and see what life was like in the late 19th century, to realize that, well, things are still pretty much the same in this country. (With the notable exception that in the film, Baron Geisler found himself, for some strange reason, impersonating Dick Dastardly in “Wacky Races.”)

A business first

The festival exists because moviemaking is a business. Remember that it is an industry. Movies are made based on the law of supply and demand. More important, your favorite producer does not exist for purely humanitarian purposes. He is investing money to make more money. That is not too hard to understand because it is the same principle that operates in any business—whether it is a fishball cart or a billion-peso, multimedia conglomerate.

Producers have a very simple guiding rule: You want to watch this, then we will make it for you. Do you want to cry, laugh, get scared, etc.? Name it and we will do it, as long as it will sell tickets. Will these movies uplift taste and refinement of spirit? We’re not even going there. We will just squeeze your lungs until you turn purple laughing at Ai-Ai de las Alas or make you suffer cardiac arrest as you cry your tear ducts dry following the plight of Angel Locsin. Everybody happy?

REVILLA and Sotto in “Si Agimat, Si Enteng Kabisote at si Ako”

Because goals are set based on how much money the festival hopes to make for the producers and its organizers and beneficiaries, we should accept that a film like Brilliante Ma. Mendoza’s “Thy Womb” is more of a fluke, and Mark Meily’s “El Presidente” got in simply because of ER Ejercito.

Otherwise, entries that are so out of the usual templates deemed “sellable” by the selection committee will have a very remote chance to land in the Magic 8.

For the record, “Thy Womb” got in only because Unitel pulled out “Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang.” Otherwise, there would have been yet another child-friendly General Patronage movie on the menu.

Let it also be known that the inclusion of “The Strangers,” a horror movie megged by an indie director and starring an ensemble of nonbox-office performers, came in with the support of Star Cinema as distributor and because of its producer’s track record.

Like spaghetti and lechon (roast pig) on the noche buena table, the movie outfits selected to grab a slice of the delicious holiday box-office pie were more of the same.

So why are we even surprised that we got, more or less, permutations, reincarnations and reformulations of the movies from last year?

So who’s complaining? Certainly not the producers who took home more than P30 million on the first day.

A different MMFF

Times have changed.

This is no longer the same MMFF that gave us Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” or Celso Ad. Castillo’s “Burlesk Queen” or Mike de Leon’s “Kisapmata” or Lino Brocka’s “Insiang” or Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Brutal” and “Jose Rizal.”

This is no longer the festival that showcased the best and the brightest of Filipino filmmakers.

The moment they started awarding the best picture trophy to the top-grossing film, not only was the criteria changed, the whole mind-set of the celebration was realigned. The competition now centered on who got to take home the biggest profit. The trophies became peripheral, if not merely instrumental in earning more money by power of endowed prestige.

That is why it is all right for theater owners to bump off under-performing entries (regardless of how good they are as cinematic pieces), to give room to the more profitable movies. That is why there is no rule, and certainly no political will, to give the better films the fighting chance to not be gobbled up by the ultracommercial, tried-and-tested formula products created precisely to make money.

Original purpose

Originally, the festival’s original purpose, as envisioned by the late Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas, was to provide a window for Filipino filmmakers to show their finest works. But that lofty goal has been ignored in favor of something more practical and real: How much profit you can earn in the two weeks when box-office grosses are tax-free and Hollywood movies are blocked out of theaters. Again, by the laws of capitalism, there is nothing wrong with that.

Maybe what needs to be clarified is that the MMFF has ceased to be a festival for Filipino filmmakers. It has morphed into a festival for producers.

We hear of plans to modify the rules, to democratize the selection process, to open new platforms for indie films, student films and the like. But let’s get real: It is still about the eight films that open on Christmas Day. It’s all about the movies being an industry that seems to have put aside the fact that cinema is also an art.

Again, as we said, only a few are complaining. So, tuloy ba ang ligaya (will the merriment continue)?

(The author is an award-winning scriptwriter and filmmaker. He teaches Producing, Writing/Directing for Film, and Writing/ Directing for TV at the De La Salle University.)

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  • Edward Solilap

    You must consider that movies are entertainment and people watching it may think it’s possible to be true but doubted to happened in real life. Most of the audience with typical Filipino culture doesn’t accept reality that’s why they call it “Cine Lang e” and you don’t need to explain these issues to us your patient readers right?

  • Al Calde

    Yes, MMFF is not for the improvement of phil movie industry,..

    MMFF has been producing low quality movies in the past 10years.. it is not casting the best and brilliant of stars and stories… 

    The philippine movie industry is comparable to politics in this country.. PATRONAGE!!!!

    Gone are the likes of Muro-ami, jose rizal at el…

  • Jake Lopez

    Movie producers sell dreams which could be sold so cheap. Why do stars in movies live in big mansions and drive MBs, BMWs, Volvos, and speak English? Among the mass media, movies and TV are the greatest influencing factors that change our culture. Instead of showing movies that temporarily gratifies the common tao’s psyche, local producers should produce movies that could educate, enhance our culture, or simply change the moviegoers attitude that to dream is good enough…forget what you can do realistically.

  • Jun Man Acsa

    During the Christmas season, people simply wants to enjoy it with their family… it is their choice to watch movies that will make them laugh and for that one fleeting moment, forget all the hardship they experienced during the past 12 months as they prepare again to face the challenges of the coming year.  

    Also, the very reason why the Filipino film industry is in the doldrums is because of the teleseryes… why watch those dramas in the cinemas, when they can watch it “for free” in the comfort of their homes.  So is ABS-CBN and GMA films complaining?  Nope… because it is the TV business giving them the profits and not the film industry…

  • Lupa

    People watch these movies because they have no choice yun lang ang palabas eh.  Naikot na ang buong mall at marami pang oras so sige manood na lang tayo ng sine. -.-  But yep, every year only one or two are worth watching, the rest are full of crap. 

    • dmarkgonzales

      if watching these crap movies indicates that people don’t have other choices, bakit hindi sila manood ng Thy Womb if they claim they are more of intellectuals…. dahil kung sasabihin natin na walang silang choice kasi yan lang ang palabas.. a discerning mind will tell you not to watch any movie at all.. makakatipid ka pa.. pero tingnan mo tumatabo pa rin sa takilya yung mga ganyang pelikula.. its because gusto talaga nilang panoorin hindi dahil wala na silang ibang options..

      • Pierre Albert San Diego

        That’s because the masses have been programmed to like these movies. Parang dog training lang yan eh, pag inulit-ulit mo yung isang bagay masasanay na yung aso.

        It’s a vicious cycle, producers complain that the masses do not appreciate intelligent films. But then again they are the same ones that dumb down the viewing public’s choices… 

        Responsibilidad ng movie producers na itaas yung antas ng produkto nila para umangat ang pag-iisip ng mga nanonood. 

      • MaxOpinyon

        Puro ka reklamo, bakit di ka kaya magventure into movie producing, para magawa mo yung mga intelligent films na sinasabi mo.  Grabe ka, inihalintulad mo pa sa trained dogs ang movie going public as if may napanood ka kahit isa sa mga iyon para husgahan mo ng ganyan.

      • Pierre Albert San Diego

        Ikaw may napanood ka na ba? Kung tingin mo pang awards yung Enteng Kabisote, hindi na ako makikipagtalo sa’yo. 

        Napanood ko yung Thy Womb, maganda sya kahit sobrang dragging nung story.Mapapaisip ka sa ginagawa ni Nora, kung kakayanin ng ibang babae yun.

        Yung Sosy Problems o The Strangers baka mapanood ko bukas.

        Yung Enteng, Shake Rattle and Roll, at Sisterakas, hindi ko papanoorin. Sumusuporta ako sa pelikulang Pilipino, pero hindi ko sasayangin yung pera ko sa produkto ng mga tao na alam ko na namemera lang. 

        Ikaw, bukod sa mga pelikula sa MMFF, ano pa yung ibang pelikulang Pilipino na napanood mo?

      • amapangarap

        gandang ganda daw sya dun sa my monster

      • MaxOpinyon

        Dyan kayo magaling ang manliit ng kapwa, sarcastic.

      • MaxOpinyon

        1st thing, it’s good that you’ve named the films that you disliked.  Opinyon mo yan, pero huwag mong maliitin yung ibang tao kung na-a-appreciate nila ang Enteng, SRR at Sisterakas.  May mga age brackets at market classifications ang mga pelikula.  Like yung Enteng, pambata.  Kung yung mga anak mo eh mapapatawa ng Enteng, sasabihan mo ba silang trained dogs. OMG.  Kaya nga iba-iba ang genre ng mga pelikula because you’re free to select. Kung lahat ng entries eh puro kaparehas ng Thy Womb, hindi ka kaya maumay, mapapaisip ka nga sa lalim ng pelikula, pero kaparehas mo ba yung ibang Pilipino na hindi naman kasing talino mo mag-isip.  Arogante ka kasi.

      • Pierre Albert San Diego

        I believe our local filmmakers can make quality films that are profitable for any genre and for any age bracket. Producers just won’t let them because they want to stick to proven formulas.

        Yung case na lang ng I Doobidoo… that was a pang-masa film that was intelligently done. If it was shown in this year’s filmfest, I think it would’ve been more profitable. However, naka-lock na yung mga franchises ng Regal, ni Enteng tsaka ni ER Ejercito. 

        Sayang yung entry dapat ng Unitel na Lola Basyang, that could have been a great pang-masa movie with intelligence. Pero I don’t think it would rake in Sisterakas / Enteng money dahil nga nabakuran na ng more established franchises.

        Similar sa kaso ng RPG-Metanoia in 2010, despite RPG-Metanoia’s flaws (the rendering becomes too choppy in some scenes, I didn’t like the color scheme used) it was a pretty good family film. Sadly, it did not get a fair shot dahil kinain ng franchise ng Enteng, Tanging Ina, at isang Kris Aquino horror flick. 

        What the MMFF should do next year is to stop accepting franchise films. Tutal, these franchises already have legs naman with the viewing public. Siguro naman may manonood sa kanila kahit hindi film fest (i.e. Kris Aquino horror flicks) Ipalabas sila some other time of the year so new films and new ideas would be shown each year sa MMFF.

      • hustlergalore

        lola basyang, one of the films i was looking forward to, backed out because of the schedule. they could not finish the film in time for the 25th. but they will have it theatrical release next year, hopefully.

        rpg metanoia should have won best picture instead of that trashy tang nang movies last na to starring aiai delas alas.

      • Pierre Albert San Diego

        BTW, di ako arogante, demanding lang. 

      • Purok

        Hoy! Mal-edukado! Hindi alam ang figure of speech na tinatawag! Bumalik ka sa bukid na sakahan mo! hahaha

      • Ronald Gary Bengil Bautista

        Hindi masama magreklamo. Jan natutuo at nag iimprove ang ano mang industry! The “Dog Training” line was a figure of speech and I believe makes sense. People, as a society, can be conditioned and ganun ang nangyari sa Filipino moviegoers. Sinanay tayo na ganun na lang ang pinapalabas, kaya satisfied na lang tayo sa ganyan.

        Bakit? Hindi ba pwedeng maging funny or family oriented ang film and clever/intelligent and original at the same time? Pwede naman ah. Hindi naman kailangan na cheap laughs at rehash ng lumang films ang ilalabas nila every year! 

    • dark

      kung talagang tatangkilikin yan, bakit hindi isabay sa foreign films?
      i agree.. no choice lang kasi ang tao. sapilitang papapanoorin… natural tiba tiba ang producers, sila lang namanang pinapalabas na shows e..

      besides sanay naman ang pinoy sa ‘kaysa wala’ or ‘pwede na yan’ mentality e.. lahat ng choices crap.. from politics to entertainment…

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    Manifestation of pinoy’s(majority) mentality…..FUed!

  • Eric

    I agree with you, these film are not for people who will spent 150 to 200 pesos just to see these waste of time movies, lalabas din yan sa tv next month sayang lang ang pera mo.

  • super judge

    In a Filipino Family, members consist of majority of kids and teens. If you are going to watch a movie together this Christmas season, what movie is fit for the whole family? Of course you don’t want that u will be separated  in different cinemas since your goal is to ENJOY and have FUN  together since it’s seldom that we have this luxury of time to be with each other in a year. 
    This scenario should be considered by producers in coming up with movies.Majority of entries in MMFF are fit for COMMERCIAL release. The number one goal of the festival is to earn money that’s why they are very particular with INCOME. It’s normal since PRIVATE cinemas are being used and PROFIT is also the concern of those establishments. Having Thy Womb or El Presidente in MMFF is a MISMATCH because MMFF is not the same type of festivals like the ones they participated in Italy and Australia where limited cinemas are used for screenings(5-10 only). Thy womb is fit for Cinemalaya Film Festival(also held here in the Philippines) but never in MMFF. Even the majority of giving encouragement to support the movie in their comments here did not even exert an effort to watch the movie.  The movie is not the problem. It’s the timing. Before you are going to participate in a festival, know the RULES of the GAME.

  • MaxOpinyon

    Grabe naman ang mga tao rito, parang sila lang ang may monopolyo ng tamang “taste of art”.  Parang sa eleksyon din, nung manalo si Erap, sabi ng mga eletista at mga edukado kuno, eh bobo raw ang Philippine electorate, pero nung manalo si Gloria na may Masters Degree pa in Economics eh halos isuka rin years later. Come on guys, kung kababawang mga pelikula man ang gusto ng mga mas nakararaming masang Pilipino, bakit hindi nyo na lang tanggapin na may nakikita silang ganda sa mga pelikulang iyon na basura sa paningin nyo. I think you should all start thinking out of the box.  Ang basura sa paningin nyo ay maaaring ginto para sa mas nakararami.  Bakit lahat ba ng Pilipino ay nakatungtong sa Ateneo o La Salle, o nakakapagkape man lang sa Starbucks para maging parehas ng mga aroganteng standards nyo?  Baka nakakalimutan nyong ang mentality nyo ang nagbypass sa katotohanang dumating na si Jesus Christ nung panahon nya dahil hindi sila makapaniwala na ang Anak ng Diyos ay ipapanganak sa hamak na sabsaban lamang.

    • Pierre Albert San Diego

      So si Jesus Christ si Enteng Kabisote?

    • Emmanuel Jeff A. Gonzales

      What did I just read? 0_o

    • Emmanuel Jeff A. Gonzales


    • amapangarap

      epekto yan ng shabu

    • Anamarija

      nahihilo ako…

  • amapangarap

    panoorin nyo po, napakagandang pelikula, pinaghirapan po namin to.

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