It has been an unusually emotional week in Philippine show business as both pillars and icons of the movie industry wore their hearts on their sleeve, in reaction to the controversial turnout of finalists for the 42nd the Metro Manila Film Festival.
As everyone knows by now, festival stalwarts had been rejected in favor of an all-independent film lineup beginning Christmas Day, igniting what has conveniently been simplified as a mainstream vs. indie situation.
I say that objectively from both the position of a journalist who has covered the MMFF for a little over two decades, and as part of the moviegoing public. What took place was not a competition between David and Goliath, for this is an ironic and easy way out of masking what in truth was a pretentious decision.
But before I explain why, let me first clarify that I am a supporter, admirer and believer of the independent Filipino filmmaker and community. Neither do I have any doubts that there are excellent stories, portrayals and executions among the eight finalists–perhaps even in all of them–and as such wish each of them the best come December. But like I said, this issue is not a case of mainstream vs. indies, thus compelling me to bring up the following points.
The all-indie lineup of finalists is a pretentious decision because of the way its selection was “justified.” Weeding out the main points of the committee from several preachy explanations, they said the choices were based on their search for “quality”—i.e. entries that “have something to say” and “were carefully made.” In effect, they imposed a blanket statement that none of the mainstream movies fielded in the festival possessed any such value, and somehow, by claiming they are “aware of the risk” of leaving out mainstream movies this year, automatically generalized that past MMFF entries were also of poor quality. [It is also worthwhile to note that at least two of the unexpected rejects have noted indie directors at the helm, with the younger one disillusioned by the fact that his movie—made in the same mindset as his peers—did not make the cut because of two liabilities: a big budget and big stars].
Secondly, in insisting that the impetus for the selection is to “educate the Filipino moviegoer” [the far more pretentious version of which is to bring to an end the "dumbing down of the public”], is far from being noble, but condescending to the Filipino people.
Now this is where value for tradition—what I believe to be a Filipino trait that is still firmly in place—inevitably comes in at the risk of being accused of subjectivism. This is also where being part of the movie going public comes into play to refute the so-called dumbing down of the Filipino audience with light and feel-good movies at the MMFF.
Outside the showbiz circle, a top executive, a lawyer friend and partner at a big-time firm, my mommy group from our gated community, and other acquaintances and chums whom I know to be well-educated, well-traveled, and with sophisticated tastes have said to me, they look forward to the “usual fare” of MMFF movies they grew up with.
“Hindi naman ako na-bobo diba?” quipped one of them, her point being, whether upper class, middle class, or the masses, the MMFF has inculcated in Filipinos a plain and simple “feel-good” experience at the movies during the holidays—whether or not the movie “has something to say.”
And while I personally admit that there have been many an MMFF entry that I never even planned on watching based on preference, the long lines at the box office year in and year out have never made me think the masses are getting the opposite of quality. Because most of the time, I also see them coming out of the cinema with their faces flushed with delight from scenes they had just seen. Who am I—or anyone for that matter—to say they have been dumbed down? They have simply been entertained, and at Christmastime when they want to be entertained, perhaps more than be educated.
Because really, taking all these objectively, yet another justification of the choices opens this pretentious decision to question. The one which goes, “If we went by the safe, and tried and tested formula, then [w[we didn’t]nstitute change.” Was change the only point then?
From this vantage point too, perhaps those who relegate the sentiments of the pillars and icons of the industry to be purely emotional will be forced to think again. Perhaps these very personalities who have entertained generations of Filipinos, Christmas after Christmas, are neither out for profit alone at this crossroads, nor are they a bunch of sore losers. Perhaps what they say—based on their storied experiences and careers in entertainment—should have been considered in the first place.
COCO MARTIN, actor, The Super Parental Guardians, showing on November 30.
“Hindi ako nakapag salita nung nalaman kong hindi kami kasali. Kasi kahit hindi ako gumawa ng pelikula ng isang buong taon basta isang lang sa MMFF, tuwang tuwa na yung mga fans at yung mga bata.
“Dumaan din ako ng pagkabata na looking forward sa mga pelikula sa MMFF. Nung maging artista ako at nasali sa Feng Shui, sa Beauty And The Bestie, at nasali ako sa parade [o[of stars] Roxas Boulevard, napakasaya ng feeling na nakikita mo ang tao at may Pamasko ka sa kanila. Yun yung purpose namin.
“Sa hirap ng buhay para sa Pilipino, laging yung Pasko ang pinaghahandaan nila, kaya kami ginandahan namin ang pelikula namin para sa kanila. Na-reject man kami may nagbukas na bago para sa amin at yun ay mapahaba pa ang Pasko para sa Pilipino sa maagang pagpapalabas ng pelikula namin.”
ROSELLE MONTEVERDE, producer, Mano Po 7: Chinoy, showing on December 14.
“Our intention to do Mano Po 7 is really to show it on Christmas Day because it’s been a tradition for families to watch, just like the movies of Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto for Enteng Kabisote.
“But we expected this might happen because of the scandal last year, so that this year, the committee wants to prove a point that a change has been made in the MMFF. But with all due respect, it seems that the change they made was just made for the sake of it – without diligently thinking about other things like tradition, or even economics.
“With regard to quality, I can proudly say that Mano Po is a multi-awarded film franchise, even outside the MMFF. And especially since we know people look forward to watching our film at Christmas time, we never sacrifice quality. We took pains in researching this modern story of the Chinoy family, and spared nothing in the technical aspect, and in putting together our cast of actors.
“All the same, we decided to show the movie before the MMFF because we still want to do our share in giving people that Christmas spirit from seeing Mano Po at the cinema.
“At the end of the day, I hope that what happened to the MMFF this year, I hope they were really thinking of what was best for the industry, and not just a change for the sake of change.”
VICE GANDA, actor, The Super Parental Guidance, showing on November 30.
“When we weren’t selected as a finalist to the MMFF, naiyak ako, na-sad ako. But when I got home and went on Twitter, I read all these posts from the public about our movie. Na pati sila nalungkot. Iyak ako nang iyak, this time out of the feeling na may maganda na pala akong naiambag sa buhay ng mga tao sa Pasko at bahagi na pala kami ng Pasko.
“I felt I was able to do something right, that I have done my purpose na magpasaya, magpangiti, magpahalakhak.
“I’m not offended by the fact that they keep raising quality as the reason for their choices. Quality is subjective, and para sa akin ang quality ay yung naibigay mo ay nagpasaya ng tao, na lumabas sila ng sinehan with their money’s worth. I know that lahat ng movies ko quality, and I will continue to field movies to the MMFF every year, whether mapili o hindi dahil yun ang purpose ko —na magpasaya.
“With all due respect to the committee, malaking kawalan sa manonood ang nangyari —hindi sa amin—kasi walang papanoorin ang mga bata at ang mga pamilya na inaabangan ang tradisyon na ito sa Kapaskuhan. Pero masaya pa rin ako na ngayon pa lang, sa pagpapalabas ng mga pelikulang hindi nasali, mapapahaba pa namin ang Pasko para sa Pilipino.”
VIC SOTTO, actor and producer, Enteng Kabisote 10 and The Abangers, showing November 30.
“I had mixed feelings about [n[not making the cut]una sa lahat for the first time magkakaroon ako ng normal na Christmas, but more than that, hindi naman puwedeng sabihing sama ng loob, kasi hindi para sa akin kungdi para sa mga bata. With all due respect sa mga namili ng pelikula, for the first time for so many years, panahon pa nila FPJ nila Dolphy, hindi nawawalan ng para sa bata.
“Naniniwala din ako sa salitang respto—respetado ko lahat ng panlasa ng tao. Nirerespeto ko ang panlasa ng naging screening committee, and I don’t have anything against them. Pero pag dumarating ang Pasko, mayroon tayong panlasang na nagkakaisa. Kahit sa noche buena—kailangan may spaghetti; pag naka-luwag may keso de bola; pag super luwag may lechon, di ba? Yon ang panlasa ng Pinoy pagdating ng Pasko at alam nating lahat na pagdating ng Pasko inaabangan itong mga pelikulang ito ng buong pamilya. Na yung bata, sa araw ng Pasko, once a year, siya yung nakakapili ng panonoorin kasi may aguinaldo siya.
“Ang masakit lang sa akin, hindi nila nirespeto ang panlasa ng manonood ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Pero nandayan na yan—sabi nila ang desisyon ay final at unanimous. Pero sana lang nirespeto ng komite yung panlasa ng Pinoy, yung keso de bola, pag pinalitan mo ng raclette, hindi lahat ng tao may gusto nun. Kidding aside, wag mo isubo sa amin ang hindi namin gustong kainin pag noche buena. Doon lang naman ako nalulungkot. Pero ngayon, mapapaaga ang Pasko.”