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Whose side are you on, anyway?

/ 12:00 AM January 02, 2017

We fully expected it, but we were still dismayed last Dec. 26 when, sure as shooting, we saw and heard some TV people dissing and dismissing the 2016’s opening-day box-office figures as being “much lower than usual.”

Where were the “traditionally” long lines for tickets, they sniffed and wailed, their eyebrows arched way up “to the sky” for maximum, derisive emphasis?

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Some so-called newscasts even included interviews with “disappointed” parents who were looking for the usual, all-star blockbusters, because their kids were yearning to watch them, not this year’s “relevant” films.

A news report even mentioned an absent star by name, and it was the turn of viewers’ eyebrows to shoot up to the stratosphere, because the star was associated with the TV outfit making the downbeat report.

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The dissing was expected, since the “renewed and refocused” festival was stepping on many big toes, but the fact that it came after the 2016 MMFF opened was too hasty even by crusty cynics’ reckoning. Couldn’t the usual “nega” suspects have waited a couple more days to make their downbeat evaluation?

Show biz veterans know only too well the unintended or intended effect of “nega” ticket reports—they subliminally send out the message that the movies on view aren’t all that exciting and delightful, so the “bandwagon” viewing surge that producers long for isn’t achieved.

Some commercial film producers even pad their early box-office grosses to artificially create that surge and “word of mouth” excitement, so its negative counterpart could be just as persuasively potent—in the opposite direction.

The cynical goal could be to “prove” that the refocused MMFF isn’t connecting with viewers, especially kids who just want to have a happy, escapist time at the movies at Christmas—so, a “retweaking” is needed for the 2017  edition of the year-ender festival.

If enough people end up believing this, the festival’s gains could be eroded, and it would be back to escapist, commercial “business as usual” for the MMFF’s subsequent editions.

Which is why “defenders” of the refocused festival should realize early on what’s happening now, and do their best to counteract it, before further erosion and retrogression happens.

Everyone should be reminded that the original Metro Manila Film Festival was legally “allowed” by the city of Manila to screen only Filipino films, because local productions were losing badly to Hollywood imports for viewers’ attention and patronage.

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It was a crisis situation that required the unusual move to “persuade” Manila moviehouses to show only Tagalog movies for a limited period, instead of the Hollywood blockbusters that “colonially minded” Pinoy viewers preferred.

To their everlasting credit, Filipino movie producers and directors then took full advantage of the privilege they were given, and came up with their best movies—which surprised viewers “forced” to watch them, belatedly impressing them with the realization that our films weren’t  the “bakya crowd” fare they were cynically and derisively thought to be.

We need to be reminded of all this, because the 2016 MMFF is trying to go back to the original, transformative festival’s “best Filipino films only” mission and vision—and the usual, cynical, “excluded” suspects are covertly and sinisterly trying to subvert it.

They’re doing it by planting the seeds of doubt and disfavor, thus making some people conclude that the renewed festival is turning out to be a “failure,” because it’s not making “as much money” as before.

But, the “advance indictment” is illogical, because that’s not what the festival is supposed to be about. If the 2016 edition does showcase the best cinematic efforts of our filmmakers, it has already succeeded. Whose side are you on, anyway?

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TAGS: MMFF, MMFF 2016, Movies
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