So, last week, I lamented on the severe lack of Christmas movies in the Philippines. Despite the country starting celebrating the holiday in, like, September, a whole four months before the date itself, movie studios in the Philippines have yet to produce a really memorable Christmas film. I guess that’s because they’re too busy producing new movies for the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. Movie production studios are too busy creating quality films for this, right?
Well… let’s go ahead and say this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, or MMFF for short, made a ton of money, raking in 600 million Philippine pesos, roughly 12 million US dollars, in only 6 days. That may not sound like a lot of money to the Western world. But that’s a huge chunk of change over here! And yet, I feel this year’s MMFF is what it is every year: a huge financial success but lackluster in quality.
To explain why I think think this, I have to really go back to one of my first memories of the MMFF. And I mean, way back in 1998! I was around 3 years old then but I can still remember a lot of buzz about one very specific film. It was a biopic about the Philippines’ National Hero, Jose Rizal.
I didn’t watch it then but I do remember how much people were saying it was a really fantastic film. And people showered it with a lot of love because the story was interesting, it was really well acted and it really looked like the people behind the film poured a lot of blood and tears to make Jose Rizal, not just a good Filipino film, but a great film, period.
I’m actually fascinated that all the talk about the Jose Rizal film was still a very vivid memory even as I got older. Which is why I remembered it when they showed it to us in high school. If I were going to review the film, I would say it was incredibly well made. It did make him too much like Jesus, there was a even a scene where he went through a Last Temptation of Christ-like phase in the film! But, otherwise, it was pretty good and well made.
Jose Rizal was a film made and designed for the MMFF. Why? Because the reason why the festival was created was to promote the creation of quality local films! And Jose Rizal does seem to fit the definition of a quality film. But films like Jose Rizal are not the norm these days. No, most films that are screened during the MMFF period, when no other films, both local and foreign, don’t seem to come close to matching the quality of Jose Rizal.
This year, the most financially successful film in the MMFF is My Bebe Love, starring Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards. For foreigners, you probably have no idea who they are… but you may know them as AlDub, the “love team” that took the country by storm since July. Think about that for a moment: AlDub has only been culturally significant for 6 months! They managed to write, shoot and release a “quality” film in that amount of time. Oh, sorry, it had to be less because the producers of My Bebe Love had to realize they had to capitalize on the AlDub’s success now before they became old news!
My Bebe Love does not try to do anything culturally significant for Filipino films. This does not exude quality. I’m sure fans of the AlDub phenomenon love it to bits. But, in all honesty, it’s super bland, unfunny and just trying to capitalize on the couple’s fame. I know… because I had to watch it! I have a couple of friends that love AlDub so I accompanied her to a screening of the film. I really tried to take off my cynical view of the couple but the movie is just bad! And you know what? My friends, who are huge fans of AlDub, hated it as well!
Now, I’m not saying this year’s MMFF is a total bust. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Honor Thy Father. It looks like the most interesting film as well and seems to be the most well made one. The film has been getting praise from a lot of reviewers and it was even good enough to be screened during the Toronto Film Festival this year! This proved to be a big mistake as it was disqualified from winning the Best Picture Award due to being shown before the MMFF! So, in other words, the most critically acclaimed film of this year’s MMFF didn’t win due to a technicality!
So, while the Metro Manila Film Festival is a commercial success, I would have to say it’s a failure at the same time. The MMFF should be concentrating on featuring high quality films and not focusing on box office returns. That’s why it was created in the first place! I do hope we’re not so far gone that we won’t see another film like Jose Rizal.
Well, there was Heneral Luna…
That was a good film! And it didn’t need to be in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival!
Thankfully, the Metro Manila Film Festival is ending because it is the new year. And, next week, I’ll be talking about why I’m excited for 2016! See you then!
Do you think the Metro Manila Film Festival is still a good idea? Let me know in the comments section below!