The biggest showcase of Pinoy films
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2014 - 12:00am

Every year, people look forward to the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), the biggest showcase of Filipino films. Last year, there were eight films that vied for a share of the box-office and the awards, including the hotly-contested Best Picture.

The films included three comedies (Wenn Deramas’ Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy with Vice Ganda; Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel with Eugene Domingo and My Little Bossings with Ryzza Mae Dizon and Bimby Aquino Yap, who made his movie debut), a horror-suspense film (Pagpag, with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo), two action films (Boy Golden, starring ER Ejercito and KC Concepcion in her first action role and Robin Padilla’s 10,000 Hours); a religious-themed drama (Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir, starring Rocco Nacino); and a romance-musical (Kaleidoscope World, described as a “hip-hop dance film”).

Eugene said that regardless of how the box-office battle turned out for their movie, the most important thing is that more Filipinos came out to watch Pinoy films. Sam Milby, who also appeared in the movie, nodded in approval. Although Sam has only been in the Philippines for eight years, he believed that the MMFF was relevant as a showcase of the best local cinema has to offer. “It was the only time of the year that we have no choice but to watch Filipino movies,” said Sam. “So that made it relevant. It was one of the best award-giving bodies also.”

One of the best things about the annual festival, added Eugene, is that it has branched out to include student filmmakers (in the New Wave category) and independent films. It’s not always easy for indie films produced on shoestring budgets — with even less resources available for promotions — to find audience support. By focusing exclusively on local films for a certain period every year, the MMFF provided them that. “Maganda na nag-branch out sila. Meron na rin silang mga independent films, ‘yung hindi masyadong mainstream ang theme,” said Eugene.

It’s also relevant for producers and actors. Added Eugene, “As far as I’m concerned, as an actor, magandang venue siya, also for the producers, because we only see local films during the festival. And it doesn’t happen every time, just once a year. So I am thankful more people supported the MMFF.”

But while the larger goal was to ensure an audience for local films, it went hand-in-hand with making sure that the entries were quality films with something new to offer audiences. One director who took this responsibility very seriously is Pagpag director Frasco Mortiz. It was the first time of Kathryn and Daniel to do something in the horror-suspense genre.

For Pagpag, direk Frasco tried to experiment by meshing two styles of movie-making to give the audience something new to look forward to while still staying true to the essence of the MMFF, which was for familes who see the movies as bonding time during the holiday season. “Kahit maraming nagmamaliit sa mga local films natin dahil masyadong commercial, mas mahirap gumawa ng isang pelikula na siguradong papanoorin at tatangkilikin ng mga manonood. I tried to address that by mixing the creepiness of Asian horror and the shocks and scares of the Hollywood slasher movies. Medyo mahirap pero I believe we were able to merge the two styles. Medyo pigil lang ako sa gore and violence dahil we’re aiming for a PG rating and yung MMFF siyempre, pang family yung movie, so kahit barkada horror siya, may elements yung story na ang focus ay love for family.”

Eugene said that for their part — and especially since it was Kimmy Dora’s third film — the burden to bring something new to the table was heavier. The first Kimmy Dora movie was a screwball comedy; the second was a horror-comedy. The third film, they played around with the theme a bit by adopting a comic sci-fi touch. “So ibang flavor,” said Eugene. “That’s why we made sure na iba-iba ‘yung genre niya kahit pare-pareho silang comedy para pati kami, we won’t be bored.”

For years, the Filipino audience has looked forward to the annual festival, and last year was no different.

(Postscript: My Little Bossings is the MMFF biggest top grosser followed by Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy, Pagpag and Kimmy Dora. Robin’s 10,000 hours took home the most awards including Best Picture.)

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