It all boils down to economics.
Last year’s much-commended selection of entries for the Metro Manila Film Festival apparently did not translate into enough revenue. The eight films —with themes revolving around gut issues for many Filipinos and which were made by more respected and less commercially oriented filmmakers—grossed just half a million pesos, much lower than the P1 billion earned from the year before.
Expressing her dismay, the producer of one of the bigger film outfits said last year’s lineup deprived Filipino families of traditional joys when, in the holiday season, they spent their hard-earned bonuses on light movies that made them feel good and laugh out loud.
It now appears she was proven right.
Four of the eight movies to be shown at Christmastime were announced this week—and the titles reek of the same tried-and-tested formula: Big names, trite plots, predictable feel-good endings and historical box-office success.
The other four will be announced in November.
We also now hear of the resignation of three members of the executive committee—screenwriter Ricky Lee, former UP dean Rolando Tolentino ad journalist and documentary producer Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala—for the victory of commerce over art in the selection process.
They said however they had wanted to resign before the first four entries were announced, because some of their colleagues insisted that only big film studios can produce blockbusters.
“We stand committed to seek reforms in the Filipino film industry. We remain steadfast believing in a Metro Manila Film Festival that can once more be a celebration of the finest of Filipino artistry. The Filipino audience deserves no less.”
What we seem to get, however, is what we think we deserve. Unfortunately, filmmakers and producers seem bent on stunting the Filipino viewer’s preferences. How can most moviegoers decide they want this form over the other when they are presented with very few options, with none designed to make them think about what they want and do not want?
It’s true that films are forms of entertainment, but they do not have to be mindless. In the end, what we see on the screen are a reflection of what we are or what we aspire to be. And we do aspire to be a nation that is deliberate, conscientious, and not in any way haphazard or held hostage by profit. There is a way to produce better films and influence viewers to demand quality in what they see.
Unfortunately, the people in charge of the festival seem to believe the festival is just that—noise and merrymaking, and not much substance or opportunities to think.