It got some resistance and criticism from “the establishment,” but for the most part, the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival was both a breath of fresh air and a shot in the arm.
Gone were the predictable and tired sequels (Shake, Rattle and Roll, Mano Po, Enteng Kabisote) and formula films. The indies dominated—and for the first time, I knew people who enthusiastically made it a point to watch every single film on the roster.
I got to see three: Saving Sally, Seklusyon and Sunday Beauty Queen.
All were very good. Avid Liongoren’s Saving Sally was sweet and clever and I had a soft spot for the geeky Easter eggs and the comic book publisher, Toto (Peejo Pilar). He of the eye patch and the red suit, who said he hadn’t cried that much “since Optimus Prime died.” It must be such a great feeling to have finally wrapped up a 10-year project, get it shown at the biggest local film festival, and have the outcome get a mostly positive reception.
Seklusyon was well shot and scored and it reminded me I wasn’t the only one who got spooked by religious statues as a child (Erik Matti tapped right into that). It was just the right length and did play into a lot of fears and things that lurk in the dark corners of our imagination.
Sunday Beauty Queen told a very simple story that was capable of being both melancholic and uplifting. Friends kept sharing pictures of meeting the cast (actually documentary subjects) after the late screenings. Chuck Gutierrez’ editing was spot on. Director Baby Ruth Villarama is on a trajectory.
The biggest downside to this whole thing was the dog slaughter done in the name of Oro. A lot of people were upset about it but apparently you can’t even grieve properly online anymore without being criticized for it. The loss of life of the likes of children and dogs hit the hardest because they are innocents. Lizza Nakpil put it best: “Loving one’s dog—or any dog for that matter—does not make one weak, corrupt, callous, or unpatriotic.”
It seems making a stand on anything is controversial these days—even Meryl Streep’s speech at the recent Golden Globes took some hits. She said, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.” Much of her speech was focused on Trump and an America with Trump at the helm—though it can applied anywhere. As expected, she was told her speech should not have been political and or that she was out of touch.
In other news, La La Land opens today. Happy New Year again. We’ve made it through 2016—here’s hoping for a year of fulfilling stories and more thoughtful indies in the cinemas.