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What now, MMFF?

/ 12:02 AM April 03, 2017

The 2016 edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival was hailed for its “evolutionary and revolutionary” move to go back to the basics of its charter, stop favoring “commercial” blockbusters, and showcase the best movies filmmakers could come up with, be they mainstream or indie.

As a result, the festival was dominated by quality independent productions, and the big producers of formula blockbusters were left in the cold.

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Another consequence was a significant dip in grosses, with the 2016 festival earning less than half of the previous year’s billion-peso take at the box office.

Scene from “Seklusyon”

Scene from “Seklusyon”

Some people felt that the gains in terms of higher-quality movies was well worth the “loss,” but others obviously and vociferously disagreed.

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In light of that decidedly mixed outcome, what will this year’s MMFF turn out to be? Will it sustain its “back to quality basics” thrust, or will the revisionists and blockbuster backers win the contentious debate?

To a large part, that depends on how the MMFF’s new executive committee’s decisions shape up in the next few months. At the moment, new members have been named, some members not held over—but, the new execom has yet to come up with new rulings and guidelines.

So, the 2016 changes still apply—but for how much longer? We must presume that discussions are being held about the “lessons learned” from last year’s “evolutionary” movies, which struck some quarters as too revolutionary to continue supporting.

Until the new MMFF execom comes out with its first new directives, we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the right lessons have been learned, for the good of the Filipino film industry and its audience.

Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia in “Vince & Kath & James”

Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia in “Vince & Kath & James”

But, if you don’t want to wait and feel that you, as a viewer, should be a part of the discussion, here are some factors to consider before the new execom makes its preferences known for the 2017 festival:

The 2016 changes were artistically successful and effective, but fell short on point of patronage, reach, appeal to young viewers, and income.

If additional changes and improvements are to be made, they should focus on these corollary issues, not the criterion of quality, which should remain dominant—no “watering down to become more popular,” please.

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Movies for young viewers should be encouraged, provided that they’re good, organic and integral films. Mainstream producers should also “remotivate” themselves to qualify for the inclusion by vamping up their standards and coming up with popular blockbusters that also have something to say. They’ve occasionally done it in the past, and they could even more purposively do it again!

“Sunday Beauty Queen”

“Sunday Beauty Queen”

As for indie filmmakers, they should remind themselves that, for the most part, film is a mass medium for layman viewers, not purists and aesthetes. So, they should strive harder to make movies that more people can relate to, and understand.

If these and other adjustments are made, the 2017 MMFF can be more youth-oriented, accessible, representative, make more money—and yet retain its firm focus on quality, above all else.

Isn’t that the “win-win” situation and solution everyone keeps hoping for?

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TAGS: filmmakers, Metro Manila Film Festival, Movies
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