With the Filipino’s love for tradition, watching the annual Metro Manila Film Festival is just as much a part of their holiday celebration as partaking of jamon and quezo de bola at Noche Buena. In fact, the very children who had tailed after their parents in watching the movies of the late King of Philippine Movies Fernando Poe, Jr. and Comedy King Dolphy are the ones taking their own sons and daughters to the festival these past years.
It was therefore almost as shock to the system when their favorite Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) celebrities disappeared from the roster in 2016, when a mostly independently produced line-up of movies were selected as finalists. As such, the 2016 edition of the festival earned the lowest box office sales since 2009 with a figure of a little over P400 million. In comparison, the MMFF had enjoyed a total gross of P1 billion in the years 2013 to 2015.
This year, despite controversies that continue to hound MMFF with the return of more commercially viable movies to the big screen, the festival is definitely poised to regain its blockbuster performance. And, as they have done so in the past, they will surely have the darlings of the festival to thank, not only for a box office success, but also for making Filipinos across generations feel Christmas-y again with a glittering tradition reinstated.
And so, The Sunday Times Magazine sees through its annual commitment too, in bringing its readers a complete guide to Metro Manila Film Festival 2017’s “Magic 8.” All movies open tomorrow across the nation for an all-Filipino showing through January 7, 2018.
Producers: Quantum Flms, MJM Productions
Director: Dan Villegas
Starring: Jennylyn Mercado and Derek Ramsay with Solenn Heussaff, Rafael Rosell and Sam Milby. Also featuring Yayo Aguila, Hannah Ledesma, Nico Antonio, Kean Cipriano, Enzo Marco Via Antonio, Kelvin Yu, Kate Alejandrino and Milo Elmido
Synopsis: Derek Ramsay’s Gab and Jennylyn Mercado’s Gabby are a couple so in love that a serious commitment is clearly the next step in their relationship. But on their third year of being together, everything changes. A true sign of the times when people are marrying much later or not at all, Gab and Gabby encounter real-life situations that hinder the “natural progression” of a man and woman’s love into marriage.
By the way: The movie marks the return of the winning trio—Mercado, Ramsay and director Dan Villegas—to the festival. No one thought that their first MMFF outing in 2014, “English Only Please,” would be a hit but it swept the festival’s acting awards and delivered a blockbuster turn out.
Up against an elaborate period movie “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” starring Robin Padilla; a technically sophisticated horror by Erik Matti in “Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles;” and former MMFF blockbuster queen Kris Aquino’s “Feng Shui” sequel among others, English Only was the year’s sleeper hit because of a fresh albeit simple story line, delivered with unpretentious acting.
This year, the trio promise to bring a bolder and more mature big screen offering with All of You.
Producers: Culturtain Musicat Productions Inc.
Director: Loy Arcenas
Starring: Joanna Ampil, Rachel Alejandro, Paulo Avelino, Celeste Legaspi, Dulce, Nanette Inventor, Robert Arevalo, Nonie Buencamino, Menchu-Lauchengco-Yulo, Noel Trinidad, Leo Rialp, Bernardo Bernado, Jaime Fabregas, Aicelle Santos, Cris Villonco, Cara Manglapus, Jojit Lorenzo, Rayver Cruz, Ogie Alcasid and Zsa Zsa
Synopsis: Set in 1941 in Intramuros, Manila, the story of Larawan tells how two sisters, Candida and Paula—daughters of high-profile painter Don Lorenzo Marasigan—defiantly hold on to their father’s precious painting, and how their handsome boarder Tony Javier convinces them to change their minds and sell the artwork to an American.
By the way: To say that Ang Larawan is a labor of love, passion and patriotism is an understatement. Based on the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s classic play, “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,” the work of art was first adapted into a musical in 1997 by Celeste Legaspi and Girlie Rodies’ former production, Musical Theater Philippines. Since then, the thought of bringing the “passion project” on the big screen had been lingering.
The journey had not been easier either. After carefully selecting the cast, the team had to do a year’s worth of rehearsals before filming. Thereafter, they had to endure two year’s worth of postproduction, eight months of which was dedicated to subtitling the entire movie.
Producers: T-Rex Entertainment and OctoArts Films
Director: Julius Alfonso
Starring: Edgar Allan Guzman, Joross Gamboa, Bing Pimentel, Bobby Andrews, Candy Pangilinan, Dimples Romana, Eugene Domingo, Gerald Anderson, Jojit Lorenzo, Nico Antonio, Ricci Chan, Ruby Ruiz and Vin Abrenica, among others.
Synopsis: John (Joross Gamboa), a gay man who is terminally ill, fakes his own death to see how his friends will react and what they will say about him at his wake. With the help of his best friend, Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman), John sets up a grand “burol” and sits among the mourners, disguised as a woman, to find out if indeed he had been loved and valued by his family and friends.
By the way: While Deadma Walking’s plot may sound similar to the 2016 hit “Die Beautiful” that catapulted Paolo Ballesteros and Christian Bables to unimaginable popularity in MMFF 2016, there is an obvious difference between the two. Everything is faked in Deadma Walking—that is the main character’s passing and wake—while there is a real death in Die Beautiful.
The production further clarified that the story’s Palanca-award winning writer Eric Cabahug had been working on Deadma Walking since 2014, two years before Die Beautiful entered the consciousness of the Filipino audience.
Director: Rodel Nacianceno, also known as Coco Martin
Starring: Coco Martin, Jake Cuenca, Lito Lapid, Eddie Garcia, Michael de Mesa, Gloria Romero, Jaclyn Jose, Dimples Romana, Jeric Raval, Jaime Fabregas, Julio Diaz, Mariel de Leon, Kylie Versoza and Awara Briguela.
Synopsis: Coco Martin is Flavio 3rd—the grandson of the original Panday. His life will turn upside down when he realizes that his bloodline is destined to save humanity from Panday’s immortal evil nemesis Lizardo (Jake Cuenca). He will then have to scour different worlds to be able to gain the trust of the mythical power of the legendary sword, meeting various characters along the way that will help him become the rightful heir to the revered name Ang Panday.
By the way: Ang Panday sees the progression of Coco Martin’s career in show business, as he not only played the titular role, but also directed and produced the reboot of Fernando Poe Jr.’s classic. With a rumored P100-million budget, Martin promises the best effects, the most power-packed action moves and a story that will delight children of all ages.
Gandarrapido: The Revenger Squad
Director: Joyce Bernal
Starring: Vice Ganda, Daniel Padilla and Pia Wurtzbach with Ejay Falcon, Loisa Andalio, RK Bagatsing and Karla Estrada, among others.
Synopsis: The Revengers Squad revolves around make-up and rags reseller Emy (Vice Ganda) who, despite his faulty memory, never forgets to guard his younger brother Chino (Daniel Padilla) from harm. Their normal lives turn upside down when Emy remembers they are a family of superheroes—Emy as Gandarra and Chino as Rappido. When eccentric character Kweenie (Pia Wurtzbach) further enters the scene, as well as their evil nemesis, all hell breaks loose.
By the way: The comedy is Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach’s first major role on the big screen. While she had starred in the movies “All My Life” and “All About Love” before focusing on pageantry, the beauty queen admitted that doing “The Revengers” felt like her first acting project all over again.
All the same, Wurtzbach’s co-stars and director had nothing but praises for her, commending her willingness to learn, a good sense of humor and humility despite being one of the most beautiful women in the universe.
Meant to Beh
Director: Christ Martinez
Starring: Vic Sotto, Dawn Zulueta, JC Santos, Daniel Matsunaga, Sue Ramirez, Gabbi Garcia, Ruru Madrid and Baby Baste.
Synopsis: The movie centers on middle-aged couple Antonio and Andrea Balatbat who try to raise their three children in a perfect family setup, despite the fact that they were forced into a fixed marriage. Just like any couple, the Balatbats have their spats, especially given their very different personalities. As disagreements pile up, their marriage begins to fall apart, leaving a gap for new potential partners to step in. This is when their children swear to do whatever it takes to make their parents fall in love with each other and stay together.
By the way: The entry is Vic Sotto and Dawn Zulueta’s reunion project since starring in the comedy sitcom “OK Ka Fairy Ko.” Similarly, the hit ‘90s TV show was also the last comedy that dramatic actress Zulueta tackled.
“This movie is something that allows me to show the public another side of me, and for them to see that I am capable of doing other things and other talents. Hindi lang lagi sa drama,” she told The Manila Times Entertainment in an earlier interview.
Director: Ian Loreños
Starring: Jane Oineza, Jameson Blake, Maris Racal and Jon Lucas with Raymart Santiago, Joey Marquez, Jerald Napoles, Betong Sumaya, Myrtle Sarrosa, Miho Nishida, Beverly Salviejo, Fiona Yang and Kelvin Miranda.
Synopsis: Haunted Forest revolves around the estranged relationship of Aris (Raymart Santiago), a policeman and his daughter, Nica (Jane Oineza). Their differences only get worse when Aris is reassigned to the province, which Nica detests. Once there, they find a mysterious forest, which will change their lives forever.
By the way: The horror flick that is part of Regal’s 60-year legacy is considered the biggest challenge for the careers of its lead teen stars—Jane Oineza, Jameson Blake, Maris Racal and Jon Lucas. Backed with their individual achievements in recent years, the young actors say, “Bring it on!”
These teen stars are in fact backed with acting recognitions very early in their careers. Oineza is a recipient of a 2013 New York Festivals finalist certificate and was nominated at the 41st International Emmy Awards for a “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episode in 2012. Meanwhile, in 2016, Racal earned praise for her notable supporting role in “Vince and Kath and James;” while “It’s Showtime” Hashtags members, Blake and Lucas, have notable acting experiences in “Just the Way You Are” and “2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten.”
Director: Paul Soriano
Synopsis: Fresh from a public outburst and on the verge of quitting his band, 32-year old high-profile musician Diego Punzalan (Rosales) takes a trip to his province of Siargao to take a break from the public eye and rethink his career. There, he meets 29-year old Laura Molina (Gonzales), a perky but sassy fashion and beauty vlogger who had just been dumped by her longtime boyfriend.
Meanwhile, returning to his hometown also means going back to Abi Williams (Curtis), his former Fil-Australian flame. As such, in the secluded yet picturesque surf town, the unlikely triangle of Diego, Laura, and Abi find themselves returning to their past decisions and mistakes while uncertain about the future that lies ahead.
By the way: Siargao is director-producer Paul Soriano’s first MMFF entry.
Considered a complete diversion from Soriano’s preference for biographies “Kid Kulafu (2015), “Thelma” 2011 and serious topics “Dukot” (2016), “A Journey Home” (2009), Siargao further sees the director in his first light romantic-drama and travel-themed work.
Soriano earlier told The Manila Times Entertainment that he is happy to finally make it to the annual festival after three failed attempts.
“Most, if not all, of the films I’ve done in the past, my audiences are very niche. It would be nice to see the cinema more than 50 percent full,” Soriano admitted.