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The Unbearable Lightness of Being MMFF 2017

Make no mistake about it, when we talk about the local film Industry, the emphasis is on the word Industry. From the gaffers of the production crew to the cinema attendants, and even the movie writers, there’s a long, winding road populated by a multitude and myriad of people who depend on the success of the industry’s product - movies, for their subsistence and livelihood. We may think of the people representing the industry as the more visible ‘artistas’, directors, producers and cinema owners; but the industry's network of interconnected individuals runs deep and long.


With so much at stake riding on the success of the films that make it to the MMFF final list, is it any wonder that torrid discussions revolve around the potential box office takes of these films - influencing the selection process, no less. Just the other day, I read a lengthy FB post about how there is a growing trend of production people and actors of stage plays not being paid for their work, with the producers citing poor sales as the excuse for being cash strapped.

Rightly, the one who posted was saying that the sales of a production should have no bearing on said payments, as the work that had been the basis for the contracts entered into had been accomplished. That this may also be a scenario blighting the film industry is not farfetched. 


And so we the 'intelligent' audience, the supposedly more discriminating moviegoers, often bemoan the quality of the films exhibited during the MMFF. We cite 2016 as a banner year, thanks to the indie veneer of the films exhibited. But the inescapable truth is that while there may have been more critically acclaimed films last year, the ultimate 'judge' - the box office, fell short of previous MMFF iterations. 

Hence, this year's 'one step forward, two steps backwards' scenario; and we have the return of formulaic, big studio productions dominating the entries. No doubt, these films - the Vice Ganda, Vic Sotto, and Coco Martin movies - will rule the box office sales during the early days of the Festival. And they deserve to, as the general moviegoing public obviously seek out these films - whether family-oriented, broad comedy, horror, superhero/action or a combination of the above - and they are smartly calibrated to appeal to the broad spectrum audience. To think formula means less effort or less work is to be naive.


Rather, we should be ready to fully support those films that we feel will advance and mature the filmmaking of our industry. Deadma Walking comes from a Palanca award winning screenplay; and having seen it, I can say it has enough crossover appeal to figure impressively when the box office rankings are posted. Based on Nick Joaquin's Portrait of an Artist as Filipino, the musical Larawan faces more of an uphill struggle. A period drama set to music, I can imagine so many nodding their heads, admiring the commitment of the producers to persevere and create a film of such artistic ambition - but will they get off their Christmas armchairs and troop to watch the film?

We know for a fact that after 'x' number of days, the theater owners don their 'It's a business' hats and in the quest for maximizing revenues, start adding the screens showing the more popular films at their multiplexes. At which point it becomes a litany of 'I wanted to watch it, but it wasn't showing anymore!' So trust me, if you want to see a balance of more artistic endeavors mixed with the more commercial films, don't just play lip service, go out and watch these films we love to champion from the sidelines. The MMFF can be 'our's' as well; but we have to claim it.