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The Year Of Not Living Dangerously: A MMFF 2017 Lookback

With record-breaking sales for it's first three days, the 2017 MMFF is truly on its way to creating a banner year; revitalizing the Festival and earning the general public support that had eroded in 2016. It even decided to go very early with the Awards Night - possibly in the hope of jumpstarting the ticket sales of those films with more artistic weight and merit. Although honestly, if the theater owners will still have the final call; I don't see much happening from this scenario of an early Awards Night. While Larawan, Siargao and All Of You may have garnered the lion's share of the awards up for grabs, it's a sure bet that the troika of the Vice Ganda, Vic Sotto and Coco Martin films won't be having to look over their shoulders in terms of box office success - not by a long shot!

The plum Awards were Derek Ramsey for Best Actor (All Of You) and Joanna Ampil for Best Actress (Ang Larawan); for Best Supporting Actor and Actress - Edgar Allan Guzman for Deadma Walking, and Jasmine Curtis-Smith for Siargao. Siargao also earned Paul Soriano a Best Director nod. While Ang Larawan garnered the Best Picture award, Siargao earned 2nd Best Picture and All Of You is 3rd Best Picture. Best Picture in the Short Film category went to Anong Nangyari Kay Nicanor Dante?

With the bragging rights elicited by the record sales, it's a safe bet that while talk will center on Quality and bringing forward a new Golden Age of Philippine Cinema; the safer, conventional formula for selecting entries to the MMFF that we saw for 2017 will now be touted as the tested and surefire way for selecting. And moving forward, what does this really mean?

Well, to be frank, it means that while we can play lip service to Quality and Artistic Merit; it will be only after we've ensured that at least half of the entries are of a mainstream, commercially viable nature. That's really what happened this year, and given the fact the moviegoers came back in droves, it will be hard to argue with such success. As a result, the likes of Vice and Vice without the E (i.e. Vic!) can continue to consider the MMFF as their private domain, and you can bet your bottom peso that the two will have a yearly MMFF project for the next couple of years.

But it also gives a glimmer of hope to the intrepid who dream of and green light prestige projects such as Ang Larawan. To recoup their investments, the producers of Ang Larawan may have to rely on success overseas; but rest assured that their MMFF Awards will be the moral victory that they truly deserve. Joanna Ampil as Candida romping off with the Best Actress In a Lead Role award is a long overdue recognition for such a consummate actress - who can both sing and act. That she had to fly in from performing in Europe in a Best of Broadway revue for the Gabi ng Parangal just reinforces my statement that while in demand abroad and recognized for her singing and acting, other than Ang Larawan, she is so underutilized here in her own country.

For Paul Soriano, Siargao was his first attempt at directing a Romance; and thanks to the location, deft handling of the relationships, and winning performances from Jericho Rosales, Erich Gonzalez and the awarded Jasmine, the film has earned accolades. As for All of You, Derek Ramsey romps off with the Best Actor prize, and director Dan Villegas proves that after last year's English Only Please, he still has 'the Touch'.

When all the MMFF smoke clears, what will be interesting to note is if this year's Festival success will affect the viability of Filipino films for theater owners during other periods of the year. Hollywood (especially Disney) have grand designs on making overseas Sales an integral part of their film's profit potential. Personally, I don't believe it will change things much. The status quo of the big local studios being able to command screens for their releases will still hold true - after all, it was the releases of these big studios that paved the way for the stellar sales figures of this year's MMFF. Your Larawan-type projects will still depend on festivals such as the MMFF to rack up a decent number of screens, or end up being overlooked and 'underwatched'.