Why MMFF 2014 is fielding a predictable slate of sequels
The Manila Film Festival was originally conceptualized as a showcase for the best movies that the Philippines’ film industry produced. Twelve days were set aside, during which only Filipino movies were shown in Manila theaters, to counteract the dominance of American movies on local screens.
In fact, American films were so dominant that they reigned supreme in all of the movie houses in the city, with only two venues showing Filipino productions! This was due to our “colonial mentality,” which made viewers look down on Filipino films as bakya fare.
No cheap quickies
However, when the first Manila Film Festival unreeled (in 1966) under the auspices of Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas and local producers like Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe Jr., the viewing public realized that our movies weren’t the cheap quickies for the culturally unwashed that they thought they were.
In fact, some of them were good, professional productions, a number of them even in color—and viewers found themselves enjoying them!
In only a few years, the Manila Film Festival became such a successful showcase for the best local productions, that it helped turn the tide of foreign dominance of our movie screens.
Slowly but surely, even outside of the festival’s 12 “exclusive” days (in June), local movies started playing in “American” movie houses—and doing well at the box office—so, the festival achieved exactly what it had set out to do.
Trouble was, the festival became so popular that it was soon expanded into a larger showcase for Filipino movies, and became the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in 1977.
Alas, its success led to excess. The hearty profits it was making for local producers made them dream of even bigger grosses, so the “quality” criterion for choosing official entries to the festival was “relaxed” to a more “commercial” orientation.
The festival was moved to the Christmas season, so there was a preference for “family” movies, and “serious” productions were frowned upon.
As a result, the festival ended up no longer fulfilling its original mandate (providing a showcase for the best Filipino movies) and became what it is now, a “showcase” for big, “commercial” productions that make the most money at the tills.
This explains why the 2014 MMFF is fielding a predictable slate of sequels—“Praybeyt Benjamin 2,” “Feng Shui 2,” “Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2,” “My Big Bossing’s Adventures”—and the umpteenth edition of “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
In addition, nonsequel but similarly commercial productions like “Magnum Muslim .357” and “English Only, Please” have made the grade. The only “serious” production in the bunch is the historical film, “Bonifacio: Gusto Mo Ba Siyang Makilala?”
Worse, the very topical drama, “Whistleblower,” failed to get the festival’s official nod, reportedly because it was “too serious” and thus would not do well at the tills.
This is so disappointing—and instructive: The whole country is agog over the whistle-blowers’ exposés, and yet a film about them is turned down by an official festival? Surely, the MMFF should make room for a couple of relevant movies, and make big money from its six other official entries!