Capping Off the Year With Great Local Movies: An MMFF 2016 Roundup

Big props to my aunt, I was able to see seven out of eight MMFF movies this 2016. I actually have a few things to say about the entries for the previous year’s most anticipated film festival but first, let me share my thoughts about the MMFF restructure.

#Reelvolution: Change Has Come to MMFF

2016 has been a year of change for the Filipino people and the MMFF took part in this country-wide revolution. I know this is a big leap for the MMFF crew, and so I take my hat off to the brave people behind the curtain who broke the annual tradition of parading commercial movies on the big screen.

MMFF: “December’s Most Awaited Family Affair?”

The only thing I didn’t like, though, was the fact that they didn’t include a family-friendly movie on the list. Yes,  I’m one with the MMFF committee in picking these micro-budget films. I have nothing against the lineup. In fact, I actually loved the movies and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them for the years to come.

Sadly, the event is, to quote the admin of the MMFF website,”December’s most awaited family affair.” If they claim the festival to be a family affair, where were the family-friendly films? Oddly enough, the 2016 MMFF  lineup made it impossible for kids to enjoy their movie experience. Oddly enough, the 2016 MMFF lineup deprived the Filipino families of what has become a family tradition during the Christmas season.

Let’s take my aunt’s situation as an example. During the previous years, she, her husband, and their three lovely daughters were able to watch almost all entries because most were either rated G or PG. This time, the only movies they have seen were Saving Sally and Vince and Kath and James.

Sure, Vince and Kath and James and Sunday Beauty Queen were rated G, but who would pick SBQ for the entire family? I can’t say much about Vince and Kath and James because I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a love story, not really something that brings a family closer together. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank and Oro were rated PG, but I doubt kids would take interest in those films.

When my friend and I watched Oro,  two mischievous little kids sat beside us and all they did during the entire screening was to repeat the lines of the actors and actresses (they were so cute I almost punched their daddy in the face). Apart from being noisy (and annoying), these poor kids even attempted to drink my iced tea while I was busy watching how the villains killed a dog in a controversial scene. The point is, although these movies were rated G and PG, kids as young as nine years old wouldn’t enjoy their movie experience if they couldn’t relate to the story. Even my 12-year-old cousin didn’t enjoy watching the movie.

My heart goes out to all the Filipino families who had a hard time choosing which films to watch this year because, let’s face it: most of the entries were not family-friendly.

Quality Over Quantity: The Battle Between Art and Entertainment

Personally, this restructuring thing that the MMFF peeps did was indeed a risky move but I think it’s worth it. Judging by how powerful and influential social media is these days, this #Reelvolution of MMFF could be our first real step toward our journey to an improving industry that produces high-caliber films.

As a MassComm graduate, I have always dreamed of the day when the masses would finally appreciate the beauty and quality of independent films. After all, art and entertainment do not always go hand in hand–an art film can be entertaining but an entertaining movie isn’t always a work of art. Sometimes, moviemakers create films not because they have an interesting story to share, but because they want to make money out of their blockbuster films.

When I first heard about the MMFF restructure, my first thought was “finally!” For me, it’s about time a film festival as big as the MMFF acknowledge the underdogs in the film industry. The mission of the organization, after all, is “to encourage the production of quality Filipino films,” not to produce crowd-pleasers that the masses a.k.a. poor Filipinos are bound to enjoy.

Welcome Change: A Message to Big Production Companies

If there are a few things that big production companies can learn from this year’s MMFF slate, these are: welcome change, fuck the formulas, and don’t be afraid to take risks. If you have seen Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2, you’ll know what I mean.

Now, if the MMFF would continue to stick with this #Reelvolution trend and choose to curate films based on quality (subjective as it may seem), the only way big franchise films (like Enteng Kabisote, Shake, Rattle, and Roll, Mano Po, and Vice Ganda films) can make it to the slate is to adapt the new (reclaimed?) face of Philippine cinema that focuses more on top-grade films and less on commercial garbage.

All in all, my MMFF 2016 experience was definitely one to remember. I have to say that there’s no better way to cap off a good year than to watch great local movies like the ones included in this festival. It was like binge-watching independent films at the Cinemalaya film fest. Only this time, I had to deal with annoying parents who had the guts to bring their kids inside the cinemas but did not have proper movie theater etiquette.

*Featured photo source: MMFF Website


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