Episode 182: A Metro Manila Film Fest That’s Actually Worth Watching (Part 1)


Last week, I talked about how Supergirl has improved a whole lot ever since moving to the CW. Having the show in the same network as the entire Arrow-verse erased a lot of the things I hated about the show and it’s now become a television program I actually can’t wait for! It’s a total 180-degree turnaround!

And this actually reminds me of another thing I’m actually surprised for because I’m also waiting for it intently: the annual Metro Manila Film Festival! Very early in the year, I wrote a piece lamenting how stupid the yearly Metro Manila Film Fest, also known as MMFF, has become. It became a way for local movie studios in the Philippines to take advantage of the lack of foreign movies and just pump out garbage to make tons of cash at the box office.



We would get that weird horror entry, never questioning why it’s being released during the Christmas season because it’s become a tradition. We would get a couple of comedy films that are geared to children and “children at heart” (ie. incredibly stupid slapstick humor that only a toddler would find entertaining) and they would compete on who would be the top-grossing film of the MMFF. There would be that one singular film that would be of high quality in terms of production, acting and everything but would be overshadowed by how much money the aforementioned comedy films were making. It’s become a practice in tediousness and I, among a lot of people, avoid the cinemas during the period.

The biggest reason why a lot of the movies are of questionable quality is because of the old criteria on how you can be included in the MMFF. The old criteria is broken down into the following categories: 10% went to Filipino Cultural and/or Historical Value or how it would connect to the Filipino identity and 40% to Story, Creativity, Writing Excellence, Innovativeness and Thematic Value, which is how good and original the story is and how it comes off on the big screen. Oh, and a whopping 50% to commercial viability!

The old criteria is so vomit-inducing because of that last item. 50% to commercial viability? That means that movie studios will just focus on pumping out something stupid that’s sure to make money! Have you noticed that the commercial viability item outweighs the 40% item, which is supposed to determine how good a movie is? With that kind of criteria, is it any wonder that previous year’s relied on tried and true formulaic stories, sequels upon sequels and big named stars? With the focus on commercial success over quality, we deserved films like Beauty and the Bestie and *shudder* My Little Bossings.

These are the kinds of films that sell during the Metro Manila Film Fest. They’re dumb, stupid and of low quality. If you enjoy them, that’s fine. I’m not against films that are dumb, stupid and of low quality. I can love me some dumb, stupid and low quality films myself. I love the Sharknado films and I’m not ashamed to admit it. When I watched the first Dumb and Dumber film and There’s Something about Mary, I laughed my butt off! They were funny… but would I ever consider them to be part of a prestigious film festival that’s supposed to elevate the cinematic experience and prove that there are still quality films being made today amidst the blockbusters that reign throughout the entire year? Not in the least!

I guess this is precisely why the new “management” of the Metro Manila Film Fest went on to revamp the criteria as well as how films can be entered. First, movie production houses cannot just submit scripts. This time around, they have to actually submit a completed film for screening and not just scripts. This is good as this would mean the film cannot be churned out in several months just to meet the December 25th opening of the MMFF. Also, this would also mean that even films that have competed in other film festivals wouldn’t be disqualified, the only reason why last year’s Honor Thy Father, probably the best film of that year, got disqualified from winning Best Picture.

But the biggest change starting this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival is the overall criteria for getting in. Gone is the utterly ridiculous 50% for commercial viability that is just there so that schlock like My Little Bossings can be included when there are no foreign films to compete against. The new criteria is now devoted to making sure the entries are of actual quality! 40% is devoted to Story, Audience Appeal and Overall Impact. This is essentially how well the film is presented to the audience. 40% goes to Cinematic Attributes and Technical Excellence. This are the things you may not fully appreciate as an audience but is important to film making. This is where writing, directing, acting, cinematography, editing and other technical aspects go. 10% is for Filipino Sensibility, which just means how well the film reflects the Filipino life.

The final 10% is for Global Appeal. This is how well the film can be understood and suit the tastes of a global audience. This may seem in direct conflict with the other 10% category, Filipino Sensibility. But, actuality, it shouldn’t be. It’s much like watching something like My Neighbor Totoro. The film relies heavily of the Japanese setting but it never really gets in the way of telling a fantastic story of how two kids encounter Totoro. We may not fully comprehend the Japanese spirituality being told in the film but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the tale because of how appealing My Neighbor Totoro is presented.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen My Neighbor Totoro, you owe it to yourself to do so!

Because of this change in criteria and rules, it does seem like this year’s batch of films entered into this year’s MMFF are of *gasp* significant quality! It actually looks like the people who made these films poured their heart and soul into making them as good as they can possibly be! Sure, there are still a lot of films that I’m not interested in. Vince & Kath & James looks okay but nothing extremely special. Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2 looks like it has good ideas as it’s attempting to satirize mainstream films of the Philippines but nothing I would really care for. Die Beautiful looks like a high quality film and it already won the Audience Award and Best Actor award at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival.

However, the film I’m really looking forward to is Saving Sally. This is the movie that really piqued my interest because it looks stunning. It actually has a unique visual style that sets it apart from, not only every local film ever produced, but a lot of foreign, high-budget films! Saving Sally is the film that convinced me that this year’s Metro Manila Film Fest is going to be the best one in years! And I’m actually going to watch it!

And, after years of avoid the cinemas during the Christmas season because of the Metro Manila Film Festival, I find myself actually looking forward to going to see a movie during the MMFF. I think a lot of people are also going to because the movies are not just focused on making a quick buck. The movies that are in it actually make it look like a legitimate film festival.

Of course, not everyone is happy about this change of focus on quality. I’ll go talk more about it next time!


What do you think of this year’s batch of films in the Metro Manila Film Festival? Let me know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “Episode 182: A Metro Manila Film Fest That’s Actually Worth Watching (Part 1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s