STORIES with emotional and sentimental depth—or “hugot,” as Filipinos like to call it—as well as lighter mainstream fare are among the 10 films ushering in the lunar new year in the latest edition of the Chinese Spring Film Festival.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the annual festival will have screenings at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong until Feb. 7. It will tour the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ Cinematheque branches in Baguio, Iloilo, Davao and Zamboanga this month.
The mainstream fare includes the comedies “Lost in Thailand” (2012), “Full Circle” (2012), and the romcom “Say Yes” (2013), which also goes by the title “101 Proposals,” based on the Japanese TV series that inspired the film.
A survey by festival organizers reveals Manila audiences prefer lighter films, said Sidney Christopher Bata, director of Ateneo de Manila University’s Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies.
“But for Chinese, Japanese and Korean movies, the way of doing films isn’t really like that,” he explained. “The happy ending is very Hollywood.”
Romantic comedies, said Bata, is a particular hit among Filipinos. “They really want ’yung mga hugot and the movie ‘Say Yes,’ for example, has all that.”
But this is the Chinese Spring Film Festival, after all, so the rest of the lineup delivers a variety of themes to further the tradition of presenting films that help promote Chinese language, culture and heritage.
There’s the award-winning “Coming Home” by auteur Zhang Yimou; “Angel Vera,” a tale based on real events about the Peking opera; action film “Qiu Xi”; family drama “Wild Horse”; the love story “At That Summer”; period dramas “Back to 1942” and “East Wind Rain,” the latter starring “X-Men: Days of Future Past” actress Fan Bingbing.
“When you don’t show them (audiences) what they want, they would never go and see other things,” Bata said of how the festival had adapted to changing tastes and viewing habits.
“We’re trying to give different flavors, and one of these days people would [eventually] go for the ones that are more artistically done.”
People research online about films before heading over to the cinemas, or they could just as easily stay home and watch movies via web streaming, he noted.
“When you look at other film festivals, they try to bring in popular films, because the Filipino audience with Internet [access] knows which films sold well and which ones appeal to their tastes.”
Another adjustment has been to present works with elements viewers can recall or have an attachment to, such as the period film with the Asian superstar Fan who recently appeared in a Hollywood superhero blockbuster.
“When you connect it,” said Bata, “then people would go [see the film] and feel good afterward.”