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The MMFF movies in my mind

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THE METRO Manila Film Festival is definitely back with a vengeance after the 2023 edition has officially earned P1 billion total gross at the box office. This is the first time since 2018 that the annual festival’s gross sales reached the billion-peso mark.

This is good news for the Filipino film industry as movie ticket sales have been on the decline even before the pandemic. With notable entries this year like Rewind, Mallari, Gomburza, and best picture winner Firefly, the movie-going public once again find themselves treated with films that do not only entertain them but also encourage and challenge them to look at themselves and the society they live in, as if reminding them that, indeed, “art imitates life.” As Dean Ernan Paragas of the UP College of Mass Communication aptly puts it, this year’s movies “essay new stories through novel storytelling.”

The annual MMFF Gabi ng Parangal, and eventually the awards night of the country’s different award-giving bodies paved the way for my love for Filipino films. Back in the days, one had to go to Manila to watch the movies, or wait for a couple of weeks or even months after the holiday season until they were shown in the provinces. I remember watching some of the entries in my hometown’s defunct YP Cinema, and the Edros in downtown San Fernando during the early until the late 80s.

While I have always loved watching movies, I do not consider myself an expert in weighing the artistic merits of films. Always a film lover, never a film critic. When stand-alone movie houses were slowly replaced by all-in-one malls, my friends and I would troop to the movie theaters during the holiday break to watch as many entries as possible in a day. This was the time when one could enter the cinema at any given time, without the assigned seat number. Knowing that we were pressed for time and catching a quick meal in any of the food establishments was next to impossible, we would bring all sorts of food items including soda and plastic cups, perfectly hidden in our big paper bags. We made our MMFF experience practically an excursion trip to the movie house!

The MMFF has produced some of the country’ best films.  For some of the movies that were produced and shown during the period when I was simply too young and financially-strapped to watch, I learned about them in my readings on the history of Philippine cinema, watched them as part of our film appreciation activities in our Humanities class at the state university, viewed them in some film retrospectives and got to appreciate them even more in film restoration projects.

Today’s younger generation might want to take a pause and take some time to watch the films that speak volumes about the quality of entries in the annual MMFF. Considered as the second golden age of Philippine cinema, the 70s produced film classics such as Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?, Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara’s Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo, Celso Ad Castillo’s Burlesk Queen, Eddie Garcia’s Atsay and Lino Brocka’s Insiang and Ina Ka ng Anak Mo.

On the other hand, the 80s saw the emergence of films that tackled a variety of socio-political and cultural issues producing movie greats such as Marilou Diaz Abaya’s Brutal, Moral and Karnal, Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata, Ishmael Bernal’s Himala, and Mario O’Hara’s Bulaklak sa City Jail.

The annual film festival also went through a rough patch, notably during the time when a heavier emphasis was given to the “commercial viability criterion” in selecting the official entries, prompting critics to say that the festival has become one large profit-oriented and money-making activity. The affair became a race to be regarded as the highest grossing film, and not as the best film.

The MMFF in the 2000s produced films such as Laurice Guillen’s Tanging Yaman, Chito Roño’s Dekada 70, Jose Javier’s Reyes’s Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo, and Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo, Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies and Ruel Bayani’s One More Try among others. These are both commercial and critical success, proving that entertainment and quality can always go together.

While it is true the movie production remains a business venture, many film producers continue to believe in the power of the cinema. So, in the next MMFF or anytime a good Filipino movie comes along, make sure to go to the theater, watch it, share your experience and encourage others to support it as well. Let us show film producers that we want our money’s worth and that we do not want movies that insult our sensibilities as viewers.

 

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