Though the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) wrapped up two weeks ago, people are still talking about it. For the first time, the annual event screened mostly independently produced films with fresh, relevant stories.
It prompted big franchise films and MMFF regulars to show their supposed entries ahead of the officially chosen eight films. Even so, some of the official entries suffered from being pulled out of cinemas for lackluster ticket sales.
The youth weighs in on the experience that was the 2016 MMFF.
“I watched ‘Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2’ on the logic that any sequel in this year’s lineup must be really good. And it was. It left the central conflict of art versus commerce unresolved, a courageous move when the artist’s triumph would have been the obvious ending. Baby Ruth Villarama pulled a similarly ballsy decision with ‘Sunday Beauty Queen,’ winning the audience over with a light tone and genuine empathy rather than unleashing cinema pathos in its full devastation. Here, the mundane—a felt sash, a rollaway luggage—transformed into the iconic.” —Scott Chua, 18, Yale-NUS College Singapore
“In the past, theaters in the provinces showed only the MMFF entries that were box-office hits. We were really just consumers, making do with what the major film studios give us. But the screening process of the 2016 MMFF was radical.” —Lora Noreen Domingo, 17, Philippine High School for the Arts
“Although watching movies to momentarily escape from the world isn’t a bad idea, there are also films meant to convey messages and inspire thoughts. The 2016 MMFF pointed out inherent problems in Filipino society. I believe that, after seeing these situations in film, relevant discourse and action will soon follow.” —Michelle Lao, 18, University of the Philippines (UP) Manila
“I expected ‘Seklusyon’ to be a full-on horror movie, but it scared me on a religious level, making me doubt the Church more than the typical anxiety from a horror film. In that sense, I think the MMFF’s more artistic shift really improved the image of Filipino films. For some time now, the MMFF had shown movies with exaggerated acting and predictable plots. We had none of those in this one, so I believe that this was the best MMFF yet.” —Patricia Dy, 19, Ateneo de Manila University
“I’m overjoyed we prioritized films that Filipinos would benefit from, as opposed to the usual fare—because a movie house is more than just a black box with a big screen. It’s another classroom where we can learn from other people’s stories.” —Jude Macasinag, 17, Philippine High School for the Arts
“This year, I watched three MMFF movies and am still yearning to watch the rest. ‘Saving Sally’ had intriguing animation. ‘Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2’ was hilarious in its mockery of Filipino romantic movies. And then there’s ‘Die Beautiful,’ which broke free from tradition and tackled an elephant in the room of many Filipino households: the LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community. This MMFF appealed to the thoughts and emotions of its viewers until they cried, laughed, or screamed their hearts out. I wouldn’t mind spending money to watch movies like these every year.” —Kingsley Ceña, 18, Ateneo de Manila University
“If the incredibly long lines at TriNoma cinemas were any indication, I think it’s clear that Filipinos don’t want glorified sarsuela and moro-moro anymore. They want artistry, a solid story, good production values, and this MMFF delivered. ‘Saving Sally,’ my personal favorite, was anything but typical. The 10 years of animation experience by a small but talented team shone through beautiful landscapes and comical monsters. Visually, ‘Saving Sally’ is the most unique. But it also reminds us that, much as we want to, we aren’t always the ones who can save Sally from her own demons.” —Gabrielle Chungunco, 18, UP Diliman
“I was surprised that ‘Die Beautiful’ was produced by Regal Entertainment, a mainstream movie firm. It surprised me more that a lot of people were in the theater, considering it was the last full show. Overall, the film showcased what I think Philippine film festivals should be about: a reflection of how it is to be Filipino, and a voice for those who experience the pains and joys of their identity.” —Bea Constantino, 18, Ateneo de Manila University
“I watched ‘Kabisera’ and we were only about 10 people in the theater. The movie tackles extrajudicial killings and leaves you thinking that few people are compelled to do something about them. For ‘Die Beautiful,’ I was surprised to see a nearly full theater, mostly, I think, because people expected the typical comedic portrayal of gays in the country. What I guess they didn’t see coming were the humanized hardships and victories of the LGBT. With this, we realize that films and actors are representations of bigger truths in society. These are the stories we should invest in.” —Arielle Yu, 18, UP Manila
“I hope that big-time studios and indie filmmakers could work together to make films with families from all classes in mind. Stories can be meaningful without being purely intellectual, and they don’t have to be token blockbusters to appeal to the masses. I’m really happy with the shift to artistic films, and I hope this MMFF ushers in a new age of young creatives who will change Philippine cinema one film at a time.” —Meryl Ang, 21, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde