How will the Metro film festival set in April fare?

Cast of “Apag” led by Lito Lapid, Jaclyn Jose, Gina Pareño and Coco Martin. —PHOTO COURTESY OF BRILLANTE MA. MENDOZA

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the government agency that organizes the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in December, has no qualms about green-lighting the staging of the event this summer.

With health protocols eased as coronavirus cases decline, the first Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (SMMFF) has been scheduled for April 8-18 by the MMDA, in cooperation with the Cinema Exhibitors Association of the Philippines. Only Filipino film entries to the festival will be shown in all cinemas nationwide during the period.

The maiden edition of the SMMFF was to have been held on April 11-20, 2020, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea was proposed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, then a member of the MMFF executive committee, to encourage local filmmakers to make more movies, and was designed, projected, assessed, and implemented by the MMDA. 

And then the health crisis occurred. The event was nipped in the bud and moved to a later date, but questions arose:  How can a summer film festival be mounted in the rainy season, or even in the fourth quarter when the regular MMFF should be in full swing?

The succeeding two years were not yet conducive to holding the SMMFF, whether online (not ideal for commercial showing as moviegoers were not yet used to digital screening) or off (the coronavirus was still raging and assemblies or big gatherings such as film festivals were not encouraged).

Official entries

For this year’s SMMFF, actress and industry leader Boots Anson Roa and MMFF chair Don Artes have announced the eight official entries: 

  • “Apag,” starring Coco Martin, Lito Lapid, Jaclyn Jose, Gladys Reyes, Gina Pareño and Joseph Marco. Directed by Brillante Ma. Mendoza. From Centerstage Production.
  • “About Us but Not About Us,” starring Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas. Directed by Jun Robles Lana. From Octoberian Films, The Ideafirst Co, and Quantum Films.
  • “Kahit Maputi na Ang Buhok Ko: The Music of Rey Valera,” starring RK Bagatsing, Meg Imperial, Gelli de Belen, Ariel Rivera and Christopher de Leon. Directed by Joven Tan. From Saranggola Media Production.
  • “Unravel: A Swiss Side Love Story,” starring Gerald Anderson and Kylie Padilla. Directed by RC de los Reyes. From Mavx Productions.
  • “Yung Libro Sa Napanood Ko,” starring Bela Padilla and Yoo Min-gon. Directed by Bela Padilla. From Viva Communications Inc.
  • “Love You Long Time,” starring Carlo Aquino and Eisel Serrano. Directed by JP Habac. From Studio Three Sixty Inc.
  • “Here Comes the Groom,” starring Enchong Dee, Miles Ocampo, Eugene Domingo, Maris Racall, Awra Briguella, Xilhouette and KaladKaren. Directed by Christopher Martinez. From Quantum Films, Cineko Productions and Brightlight Productions.
  • “Single Bells,” starring Angeline Quinto, Aljur Abrenica and Alex Gonzaga. Directed by Fifth Solomon. From TinCan Productions.

The films were selected based on the MMFF criteria of artistic excellence (40%), commercial appeal (40%), Filipino cultural sensibility (10%) and global appeal (10%).

How will the audience receive the films in the initial SMMFF? What films will enjoy box-office returns or critical acclaim?

‘Content matters’

Unlike the regular MMFF where films are shown during the yearend holidays and whole families including children want to celebrate Christmas by watching movies, what would compel them to shell out their precious pesos in theaters in the summer, and in these austere times?

Film-industry analysts or simple folk for whom cinema is mere entertainment would note that there’s no Vice Ganda or Vic Sotto in the cast lineups. 

But wait! Remember that the blockbuster in the 2022 MMFF was “Deleter,” a technofantasy that featured only Nadine Lustre—who has had her share of flops in the past—and a host of newbies. Directed by the maverick Mikhail Red, it toppled the likes of Vice Ganda and even Joey de Leon.

An all-star cast of good thespians (no superstars) in the drama “Family Matters” was also a factor in the good earnings of the project, which was also critically acclaimed.

These eclectic SMMFF entries must have some attractions. “Content matters,” as entertainment journalist Will Provinio would assert. 

Or dare we say that the selection in the pilot SMMFF is akin to the choices of Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino stalwart Nicanor G. Tiongson as selection committee chair in the 2016 MMFF, where well-meaning, well-crafted, and mostly indie productions made money at the tills?

Let’s hope for the best for these entries to the summer film gig.

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