Due to the rush of almost going straight to work upon arrival in Manila and until now still finishing the unpacking of a total of seven luggage, plus enjoying the time with the newborn (although currently minimizing physical touch due to my cold virus), I was only able to watch two MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival) entries this year. Unfortunately, I had to skip the third one which I already had a ticket for due to some errands. But for the past 11 years that I have been professionally reviewing MMFF films (I temporarily stopped reviewing by the first quarter of last year while the baby was on the way), I can proudly say that I have never felt this happiness and excitement, eventually content, before, during, and after my MMFF 2016 screenings.
The two films I saw made me so proud of Philippine cinema. Honestly, for the past years, it was almost always a chore that I would have to drag myself to watch and write reviews for MMFF entries for work. This year, watching MMFF entries was an entirely different experience. The only regret I had was that I arrived in Manila too late that I couldn’t send reviews to my editors anymore, plus time is currently not on my side — so let me just give these very quick, capsule reviews about the MMFF films I watched this January 2017:
“Saving Sally” is truly a labor of love. As a filmmaker exposed to many animated works myself, I know how much challenge came in. Yet, the most important part of the film, its heart, remains pretty intact throughout. Its amalgam of Pinoy artworks with Asian and Western influences turns out relatable and splendid despite some story/script setbacks. During the screening, I overheard people around reacting and mainly rooting for the main characters. After the screening, I overheard words like “cute,” “nice,” and other beautiful words for the film.
“Die Beautiful” is a movie gem full of heart. A fine mix of laughter and sorrow breathes life to the narrative — thanks to the effective storytelling and impressive acting performances. Noticeably, people were rightfully reacting and enjoying the film throughout the screening.
If we regularly have such kind of films in the mainstream, I am pretty sure it will eventually end the era of dumbing down the Filipino audience through mainstream movies. May the accomplishment made by the MMFF 2016 continue to influence our future commercial offerings. It’s time to stop feeding Filipinos with so much recycled junk, which has dominated the theaters for many years. I believe the Filipino audience is now ready for this #reelvolution.
I hope lawmakers and policymakers continue to support Philippine cinema by making applicable laws and policies similar to South Korea’s screen quota, which penalizes theaters not screening enough number of Korean films at a given time. I understand the business side of things, but I believe there are certain ways to work this out like — movies are quite heavily taxed, if I’m not mistaken, it’s called amusement tax given to the local government. Isn’t it just right that the tax the government gets from films be spent for films? There are ways to utilize this for cinema projects and incentives to all Philippine cinema players from producers to filmmakers to theater owners.
On a personal note, I’ve been on a hiatus on making films for a couple of years now, as I focused more on advertising works where money has been relatively good. I did some branded shorts but they’re still quite different. After seeing the rise of both quality mainstream and independent films where my roots are, something’s telling me I should start working on both my old and new scripts and soon get back to my first love… soon.