The problem with MMFF

It never changes, I mean the annual Tagalog movie filmfest or known as the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival). Films deemed superior to most of the other entries have been losing theaters to what theater operators think are more profitable. Did you hear Joel Lamangan’s acceptance speech at the Gabi ng Parangal on Dec. 27 last year at the Theatre at Solaire in which he begged theater owners to restore the film to their screens because Rainbow’s Sunset had won most of the awards and the audience might want to watch it?

It’s a pity to see and hear a well-decorated filmmaker appeal to theater owners to come to their senses and screen his film. But that is the Metro Manila Film Festival. It’s all about money and never about encouraging filmmakers to do exceptional films the country might be proud of, eventually.

The problem with MMFF
"Rainbow's Sunset" Joel Lamangan begs theater owners to restore his film to their screens 
Yet, the local movie industry has apparently accepted this as the festival’s norm, and they continue to join with nary a protest. And when the reality sets in, meaning the entries fail to entice the general audience to patronize their work they would lament the situation, particularly after their films are pulled out of the screens a day after it opened. They’d say, “It should be given a chance.”

Film is first a business proposition. While it’s true that it is also an art form, films intended for public consumption are considered more as audience driven. Art films (in local scenario includes those made by Kidlat Tahimik) don’t need a large-scale audience as they cater to the most esoteric of audiences.

Already, the annual Metro Manila Film Festival’s purpose since the Marcos regime took it from its originator, the City of Manila as an adjunct to the annual Araw ng Maynila celebration in June, has been clear. And that is to make money to bankroll the likes of MOWELFUND and other government projects including flood control.

So, it is unfathomable why certain producers continue to insist on producing entries that aren’t box-office friendly.

It is also not the fault of the producers. The selection committee of the annual MMFF should have been briefed from the beginning of what the filmfest want to achieve, and ergo should choose films that will sync with the MMDA’s goal.

When the committee deliberated on the last four entries (finished films) between Brillante Mendoza’s Alpha, The Right To Kill and Joven Tan’s Otlum, the members used the box-office results a previous Mendoza film in the festival as an case in point to finally give the vote to Otlum. The committee’s final decision didn’t sit well with one of the members as he was arguing for Mendoza’s film. On hindsight, I think the choice of the committee was correct as Otlum is doing better than most other films in the festival.

The two frontrunners at the box office – Fantastica and Jack Em Popoy – may not have shades of outstanding imagination to compete among the supposedly more inventive entries, but it has the elements to pull in the audience to the theaters that will pay their way to the screenings.

It is the Christmas season, and everyone is yelping it is for children. Vic Sotto, Coco Martin, and Vice Ganda know this and they are definite in their feelings that they had to make something for them for the annual festival. And guess what, they are winning the audience and they are not carping.

Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes. But in the case of the annual MMFF, it should be a variety of genres, and not about subjects. That’s what the Executive Committee and eventually Selection Committee should adopt for the next festival in December. Perhaps we would hear less grumbling from producers whose films would be on the to-be-pulled-out list of theater operators. 

Excellent  craftsmanship of Las Piñas Lantern Makers 

Residents of Las Piñas watched the parade of giant colorful lanterns made of recycled materials as part of this year’s celebration of the 13th Las Piñas Parol Festival recently. Sen. Cynthia A. Villar and representatives from the local government joined the spectators as giant lanterns made by local residents were paraded on the city grounds.

“A Filipino Christmas is not complete without a traditional parol hanging outside our homes. I am truly amazed by the creativity of the Las Piñeros as they continue to come up with unique and creative designs that make Christmas in our city truly alive and colorful,” Senator Villar said.

The festival was launched by Senator Villar 13 years ago to revive the city’s parol-making industry. Villar helped organize the “Samahang Magpaparol ng Las Pinas” and later on set up the Las Pinas Parol Center which has since served as the training area for lantern makers. This year, the lanterns built by Las Piñeros were used to adorn the façade of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, one of the popular landmarks in Metro Manila.  

 “I am proud to say that our unique design ingenuity has caught to eye of both local and international markets as seen by the increasing demand of our parols” Villar added.

Apart from the usual raw materials such as bamboo, parol makers also used recycled materials such as plastic, straw, pet bottles, cartons, cans, and shells like tahong and tulya, and indigenous materials like coconut husk, dried leaves, feathers and shells in their finished products.

For this year, 18 parol makers submitted their striking lantern designs, which have been on display at the Villar SIPAG grounds since Dec. 1. 

Lighting of the lanterns and judging was done on Dec. 5.  Participants in this year’s lantern-making competition included Fercival Santos, Andrew Flores, Alicia Benicio, Bryan Flores, Luzviminda Gallardo, Girlie Santos, Merlito Menchero, Rogelio Apuli, Toefanes Bernal, Whelma Apuli, Leah Esguerra, Dolores Alifaro, Alma Tacsiat, Josefa Advincula, Glenda Mendoza, Francis Hernandez and Elena Casas.

Parol maker Merlito Menchero took home the first prize pot of P20,000; while second prize of P15,000 was given to Rogelio Apuli and Dolores Alifaro took home the third prize award of P10,000.

The colorful festival also featured a street dance competition participated in by elementary school students from the various Las Piñas schools. CAA Elementary School, CAA Elementary Annex and Gatchalian Elem. School won the grand prize of P50,000 cash. Almanza Elementary School Annex and  Pilar Village Elementary School garnered the second prize of P30,000 cash  and Manuyo Elementary School Daniel Fajardo, Ilaya and  Las Pinas Central got the third prize of P20.000 cash. The rest of participants received a subsidy of P40,000 for their costumes, props and other equipment.

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Topics: Metro Manila Film Festival , Joel Lamangan , Kidlat Tahimik , Brillante Mendoza , Joven Tan , Vic Sotto , Coco Martin , Vice Ganda
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