Heartaches and Hopes for the Metro Manila Film Fest

They say that the Metro Manila Film Festival is the epitome of Philippine Cinema. They as in the big film outfits who think this is the only time of the year where they have a an equal playing field, the politicians and soon-to-be politicians who use the festival to bolster their name before the elections make headway. The MMFF as we all know is a sham. It is not the epitome of what Philippine Cinema can do but it is the showcase of how low some can get just to get a quick buck - isn't that the whole story of our nation since the dawn of time? From politics, to sports, to the kotong-cops and now even in film, it's all about me, me, me. It's all about selfishness and self-pleasure, of giving a big middle finger to society. It's pretty obvious that with all the countless sequels and re-sequels, horror films, kiddie-themed rip-offs by a certain politician, remakes of old films and combining different franchises together - the MMFF is just about money-making and nothing more. Yes, the effects may be better at times and yes, some are different from the comedy, romcoms we see 11 months a year but really? Is that it? Admittedly, even some local romcoms are easier to stomach than from what I have seen from the MMFF - at least they try to be creative. It's easy to see why some Filipinos adamantly don't want to watch even a single, local film even those who get raving reviews locally and internationally.

And yet, even with all this negativity, I still have hope for the Philippine film industry and the MMFF and you know why? Because the past 2 years or so, I have seen blockbuster films that would never have seen the light of day before like "Kimmy Dora", "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank", "Zombadings" and more. These are actual films who sold well that are daring and fresh. The Philippine film industry may be floundering but its actual films are not (they are actually getting better and better) and I think that a rebound will happen soon and if the MMFF won't change to adapt then it might be scrapped soon after.

So what does the MMFF need to do? I'm no expert but here are some of my suggestions plus observations:

First and the biggest no-brainer is to re-think the best movie criteria. Who wins a best movie award by being the best-selling film? They should totally scrap the "commercial success" criteria in scoring as it just makes no sense. Who judges a film's brilliance by it's selling power? Only us for sure.

Second are the board of judges. They should be publicize well for us to know if they are really worthy of being part of the jury. I must admit that even now, I have no inkling who the judges these year are. It tested my Google skills but I still failed. I only got as far as the New Wave Films judges and Butch Francisco's article from the Philippine Star and to quote him, "The composition of the board of judges is a cross-section of society. From the most learned to school dropouts, who probably are watching movies for the first time...or dropouts who are hopeless movie fans ('my screen idol can’t go wrong') to the learned who find local flicks yucky beneath their level...but thank heavens there is still a section there that understands film and literature.", of which clearly shows that a huge portion of MMFF judges are ignorant when it comes to film. Would you want a math teacher to grade your science thesis paper? This is the same case here or even worse. Judging a film is totally different from just watching it.

Third is the usage of the CEB (Cinema Evaluation Board) rating. It still baffles me why they let films no better than having a grade of "A" be included in the MMFF. Is it because that we will run out of entrants? Probably! But it is also a way to push film makers to make better, deserving films in a time where only local flicks are shown. Viewers are paying with their hard-earned cash and yet we see trash upon trash thrown at our faces. But the CEB should also make changes on their own. They gave "Segunda Mano" a grade of "A" of which the film totally sucked. They themselves should also make better judgements on their grading. Be more critical and defiant for you hold a big key on how our film industry is turning out and will turn out eventually - even bigger than the MMFF.

Fourth and final point is to give more time and effort on the New Wave Films. It's funny how half-baked this was. It was shown from December 17-21, 2011 and in only one theater in Manila (a theater who actually shows indie films all year round already). Talk about being unfair. Honestly, these are the films that need more attention than the mainstream category. This is where we will get our future directors, producers and more and yet how do we show them our support? By actually placing them with the likes of Ethan Hunt and on one measly stage - a sure loss for sure.

Films do define our culture, tastes and who we are as a nation and we must accept that the MMFF is also a big part of this industry. I still don't agree that the MMFF should have a monopoly every December or it feature local films only but I also see it as a big way to change the redundant nature of our mainstream film industry or the local film industry as a whole. It not only affects how we see our films but it also affects how the industry has shrunk and shrunk through the years. If you were one of the owners of a production company, what would you do? It's pretty obvious that you will limit your resources for the MMFF. If the MMFF becomes more critical of the quality of films it gets then hopefully the bigwigs themselves will be forced to be more inventive on what they give us annually on the Holidays. And us Filipinos get to trust local films once more then the industry will grow back to its golden age were hundreds upon hundreds of films were made and all kinds of genres were pushed.