Hits and misses in the Summer Metro Manila Film Festival

From left: Romnick Sarmenta, Jun Robles Lana and Elijah Canlas —PHOTO BY BOY VILLASANTA

In an earlier face-to-face interview with lawyer Josabeth “Joji” Alonso, chief operating officer of Quantum Films, she casually said that an official entry to the ongoing Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (SMMFF), “About Us But Not About Us,” wouldn’t make money.

To think that her office is a co-producer of the project. But then she said she was realistic about the fate of this type of film.

Joji was apprehensive but proud just the same of the experimental nature of the film, which has only two main characters, the same scenes with diverse nuances and emotional and intellectual intensity, and one location.

She labeled this type of film as a project “for the soul.”

The verdict of the viewing public on the film starring Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas has proven otherwise as we write. “About Us But Not About Us” isn’t only “for the soul” but for the “body” (heart and mind) as well.

The Jun Robles Lana-directed masterpiece about literature, writing and human relationships might not be a superhit, but it is making inroads in the direction and appreciation of such unconventional viewing fare as gay liaisons. It is also about an ambitious but untalented student in a writing class.

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Among the most-watched

This unique approach to filmmaking is among the most-watched entries in this year’s Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (SMMFF) (April 8-18).

On the fourth day of showing, it gained an even bigger audience at a Gateway cinema in Cubao, Quezon City, according to a ticket booth keeper. The daily box-office results of all eight entries fluctuate but, per the ticket booth keeper, “About Us But Not About Us” was way ahead on that day alongside “Here Comes the Groom.”

Early on, “Here Comes the Groom,” another co-production of Quantum Films, became the unofficial top-grosser, with insiders claiming that it earned P12 million on the second day.

Observers and critics have commented that the box-office performance of the 2023 Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (SMMFF) is dismal.

Yet the first three days of the festival were official holidays and most moviegoers were still away on vacation for an extended observance of the Holy Week. Lent is supposedly devoted to abstinence from worldly activities, including movie-watching, unlike during the festive Christmas season, when the annual Metro Manila Film Festival , the mother of this summer spinoff, is held.

Also, the Metro Manila Film Festival boasts the presence of perennial bankable stars such as Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto—although the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival saw the box-office supremacy of Nadine Lustre’s “Deleter.”

No guarantee

It’s safe to say, therefore, that superstars are no guarantee as the only moneymakers in the Metro Manila Film Festival or the Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (SMMFF).

“Here Comes the Groom” has underrated, if not lightweight, attractions as Enchong Dee, Keempee de Leon, and Kaladkaren, to cite only a few, but their ensemble has drawn queues to make it No. 1 at the box office.

Viva Communications Inc.’s “Yung Libro sa Napanood Ko” comes in as the second highest grosser, and “About Us But Not About Us” is in third place. Centerstage Productions’ (and Hong Kong International Film Festival Society’s) “Apag” follows closely.

Bela Padilla as auteur of the Viva entry isn’t your regular superstar, but she can lead the pack when her screen love interest is the Korean Yoo Min-Gon. The cast of “Apag,” except for Coco Martin or Lito Lapid, like Gladys Reyes, Mercedes Cabral, or even Jaclyn Jose (at this point in her career), is not made up of the usual box-office giants.

 Metro Manila Film Festival

Meanwhile, in the awards discussion, the winners in the acting department are not the overrated stars but the low-profile thespians: Gladys Reyes (best actress), Romnick Sarmenta (best actor), Kaladkaren and Keempee de Leon (best supporting actress and supporting actor, respectively).

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