Stay In 2016
By Vitto Lardizabal
Change has indeed come. Well, for MMFF, that is.
This year’s entries are a dream come true for Filipino cineastes. The domination of well-crafted films in the largest film fest of the country was quite a high-spirited closing to an otherwise turbulent year that was 2016. Gone are the days of franchise movies that do nothing but give cheap laughs and easy escapism; never mind how it gives zero contribution to discourse of any form.
This change is, of course, met with a lot resistance from the people who were snubbed by the selection committee. But the MMFF committee did not revoke their position in placing quality films above commercial viability. Yes, stay pressed big production companies.
After the successful MMFF 2016, the enemies of change (as the new MTRCB board member, Mocha Uson call it) are back at work, this time in the form of Senator Tito Sotto. The senator, known for his plagiarism and lack of sensibility, filed a resolution calling for a separate festival for indie films to be held in May. His grounds is based on the lesser commercial success of this year’s MMFF that “did not generate funds for the beneficiaries.”
Furthermore, he called out the absence of GP-rated movies for the children. Because, apparently, he is ultimate protector of children’s Christmas, whatever that means. (And that is untrue, by the way, because this year’s Best Picture, Sunday Beauty Queen, is GP-rated.)
His concern for the children’s Christmas is highly doubtful, considering the fact that his brother (Enteng Kabisote star, Vic Sotto) is one of those who were directly affected by the reformat of MMFF this year. He quickly brushed off conflict of interest stating that Enteng Kabisote 10 still earned even without its inclusion in MMFF 2016.
But contrary to your statement, Sen. Sotto, this year’s MMFF saw a balance of profit gain. Unlike the previous film fests wherein big studio producers would get higher percentages earnings, this time even the smaller producers earned enough to create more movies.
From Philip Cheah of the Singapore FilmFestival, MMFF 2016 Jury: ”It was a good spread of films that was interesting to see. If the awards did help the winning films to extend their stay at the box office, then exhibitors should be encouraged to allow a longer period for word of mouth to build. ” — Sa actual gross ng festival, hindi naman target ng MMFF 2016 na higitan ang kita noong isang taon. Alam naman nating nagkaroon nga ng pagbabago at kasama roon ang demokratisasyon ng kita ng MMFF. Ibig sabihin, sa halip na mapunta ang malaking percentage ng earnings sa iilang malalaking kumpanya lamang, kumikita din ngayon ang mas nakararaming maliliit na producers– (dahil maliliit lang naman ang budget – kumpara sa dati- ng karamihang produksyon) – sapat para makagawa ulit ng makabuluhang pelikula. Kung di dahil sa filmfest malabong kumita ang mga maliliit na produksyon nang may masayang tubo/ profit pa. — SIMULA PA LANG ITO. There are a lot of lessons to be learned and things to improve. But it’s good that we have put value on quality over commercial viability. It is not anymore indie versus mainstream – because we know that both can come up with quality films. In the end, there is no price that we can put on audience education and development. Ang sarap makita ng mga reaksyon ng mga manonood sa social media at marinig sa iba’t ibang umpukan na sa matagal na panahon, ang pinag uusapan ay hindi kung sino ang sikat – kundi kung ano ang maganda, mahusay at nakaantig ng ating puso. Kahit sa gitna ng isyu sa ORO, prinsipyo ang pinag-uusapan hindi iskandalo. Sa huli’t huli, hindi mapapantayan ang mga palakpak pagkatapos ng magandang palabas at ang matinding kahilingan na panatilihin o ibalik sa sinehan ang mga magagandang pelikulang karapatdapat nating suportahan. MABUHAY ANG PELIKULANG PILIPINO! MARAMING SALAMAT SA INYONG LAHAT! ITULOY NATIN ANG MAGANDA AT MABUTING PAGBABAGO! #MMFF2016
Playing the “indie is not for Christmas” card is shamefully unfounded. Quality films can be shown today, next Christmas, or next year. There is no specific time where a film can be shown appropriately. And this indie vs. mainstream is starting to sound old. Mercedes Cabral said it best: “Indie or mainstream, it doesn’t matter, film is film.” Yes, a little louder for the people at the back.
If Sotto’s pronouncements aren’t enough, he further questioned the “quality” of these films based on their film equipment. Sen. Sotto, you may have the grandest film equipment but if not used artistically, it still won’t be of “quality.”
How this person is still relevant today is still unknown. He should’ve stayed in 2016 where he belonged.
Director Baby Ruth Villarama said in her acceptance speech for Sunday Beauty Queen, “We can never go back to what was before. We can only move forward and design a new paradigm for the next generation of moviegoers.” Hell yeah, we’re not going back. Hear that, Sen. Sotto?
The Caste For Filipino Cinema
By Maurice Almadrones
The cinematic gospel according to Tito Sotto: At that time, a certain senator says about independent films: “Quality ba ‘yun? Hindi high-end equipment ang gamit. Hindi top quality ang video.” (“Is that quality? They aren’t using high-end equipment. The video isn’t top quality.”) The listeners are taken aback by his words. And thus, he passes from the midst of the shocked populace, bearing the legislation that he is proposing.
We had hoped that the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival which is still running due to popular demand would turn the tide on the caricature of the festival as being an exclusive venue for several movie “reincarnations” of the same themes, slapstick comedy, cinema “cash cows,” unbridled dominance of rival networks, and the constant focus on commercial viability. Contrary to the initiatives of its founders, the MMFF has become a sad excuse for creating box office hits devoid of social relevance, alternative media arts, and deeper narrative discourse.
We believed that the lineup of the current MMFF would be a game-changer for the coming seasons, fusing a selection of independent productions with those of the mainstream. It also provided a venue for the exhibition of the documentary and animation genres of film, and also gave a bigger chance for independent short films to be shown before the main features.
What could be better than to broaden the horizon of the MMFF rather than to constrict it to mainstream productions, right? After all, it will draw back a large part of the viewing public that has been estranged by the previous selections of the MMFF featuring the likes of Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto, and the several reincarnations or series of the same title and theme wherein they star in. What could be wrong if we open up the festival to other contenders who offer good, relevant, touching, challenging, inspiring, even comedic or satirical narratives, excellent cinematography, production design, and musical scoring at par with their mainstream counterparts? What is wrong with opening up a respectable festival, perhaps one of the most sought after events in the Philippine film festival calendar to films independent of the studio system or of the big rival networks?
Some people beg to differ. Some people perhaps have “good” reasons—“The MMFF should be our Christmas gift for children, the MMFF should entertain, and we should not rob the kids and our people this chance! Nothing should ever hold us back!”
[pull_quote]After all, knowledge and ultimately wisdom would be the primary goal of good story-telling, aren’t they? Isn’t that the best Christmas gift we could give our kids?[/pull_quote]
Let me pose some challenges to the premises posed by the senator, some mainstream MMFF “stars,” and their avid supporters.
First, if “the MMFF is for children,” shouldn’t we give them films that impart lessons that would ultimately inspire them and perhaps challenge them to look at the broader perspective of society and people? Should we deprive them of the quality of story-telling that each kid deserves and needs in order to guide them into the path of greater creativity and insight?
After all, knowledge and ultimately wisdom would be the primary goal of good story-telling, aren’t they? Isn’t that the best Christmas gift we could give our kids? Or are we just content in giving them a stale, rehashed version of the same story and characters littered with product placements that, I admit, may “wow” them at first but leave them with nothing but the vague memory of laughter.
“The MMFF should entertain.” If we go back to the beginning of cinema whether in France or in the United States, cinema was not invented for the purpose of entertainment but to document actualités (real-life occurrences) as was done by the Lumiere Brothers and Edison.
By 1888 inventor Thomas Edison and his assistant William Dickson began to focus on motion picture technology and developed the Kinetograph, a camera that recorded motion pictures on rolls of film, and the Kinetoscope, a machine with a peephole viewer that an individual looked through to see those films… Then, as now, there were a variety of ways to see films: Louis and August Lumiere traveled the world filming actualités (the earliest documentary films) and screening them for audiences in theaters they opened in European cities and in New York.
It was also used in scientific research by both inventors. Perhaps it would be noteworthy that the first films that came to the Philippines were a host of actualities and scientific films. The profound Filipino film historian Nick Deocampo in his essay “Hispanic Influences on Tagalog Cinema” describes the first film-showing in the islands by Spanish businessman Señor Francisco Pertierra, who went on to show the first motion pictures on January 1, 1897 at no. 12, Interior, Escolta.
The point is, cinema isn’t exclusively an entertainment medium and the entertainment aspect should not become its canon. Cinema is a medium of communication open to all narratives, and so must it remain, even for the MMFF, since it does say “film festival” and not “entertainment film festival.”
So what if we show independent films in the MMFF? Do the critics of indie even know what the term means, or do they just play around with a stereotype as if it were fact? (We seriously believe that in a way, stereotypes for independent and mainstream films abound and at times ring true, however I have also seen some exceptions that make the stereotypes ring false most of the time, just to be clear.)
We have heard it over and over again from these people, and from those who copy their insight in the comments sections of online newspaper articles, and social media threads on the topic: “Indie is too serious, boring, and heavy, it shouldn’t be shown in the MMFF.”
Let’s set definitions straight, indie films mean only one thing, they are independent films produced by independent filmmakers, meaning that they are free from the large studios or network system that produce mainstream films such as Star Cinema under ABS-CBN and APT Entertainment, Inc. which is a partner of GMA Network. Indie should not be mistaken for its stereotype since we also have appealing, interesting, entertaining, “kilig-inducing” independent films. Let’s bury that stereotype with the past year.
Lastly, let us go back to the quote from the senator:
[pull_quote]“Quality ba ‘yun? Hindi high-end equipment ang gamit. Hindi top quality ang video.” (“Is that quality? They aren’t using high-end equipment. The video isn’t top quality.”)[/pull_quote]
I would not have written this long essay and would have just limited ourselves to contradicting these opinions that are already burned out or spoiled on social media, if it were not for the statement above.
I am happy and proud to disagree with Senator Sotto that having high-end equipment is equal to producing a quality film. Having quality video does not mean that the film is automatically classified as top-rate.
Being a film student has taught me one thing, but being a struggling student filmmaker taught me another lesson, that productions entail different factors that guarantee quality whether it be the script, the cinematography, the acting, or production design to name a few. One may have the latest high-end equipment, but if one, some, or all of the other elements do not make up for the quality one wishes to achieve, then you fail at achieving a quality production.
I am hurt (since a film student usually becomes an independent filmmaker in his formative years), that some people, in the guise of providing a venue for all types of films, are actually trying to segregate and even discriminate independent films and pit it as a threat to mainstream films. Indie is not to be segregated, it is not a disease, but it is part of a whole array of film genres. It is not a threat, with the machinations, network, fan base, and marketing strategies of mainstream. Unless mainstream films remain complacent with its status and narrative quality, then indie, if provoked may prove to be of advantage.
Question is, since the mainstream industry produces more films annually, how many of those really have quality, and how many of those that make it to the MMFF really leave a mark? How many of those current rehashed and reincarnated “quality” (in short, mainstream) films have made a mark in positively influencing our youth?
I am hurt, Senator Sotto, that some of us struggle financially, mentally, emotionally, physically, just to provide the quality films that people deserve, which you bluntly equate with entertainment, commercial, and equipment value. Our families hurt too, our friends, our supporters who try to chip in and stretch their time, talent, and finances just so we could produce our independent films for school, or for the theaters. It’s easy for those in the mainstream to give birth to an idea, to fund, and to produce, but for us, it is quite a struggle and a labor of love, (profit aside, sometimes, success aside) and yet we love what we are able to do.
Sorry if we’re not enough for you, Vic Sotto, Vice Ganda, Ogie Diaz, and for some big malls, and that our efforts may seem well-worthy of being quelled by what you view as what the Filipino film industry should be.
However, I wish you’d study the potential of mainstream and independent productions coexisting more in the MMFF then by dismissing indie altogether into its own festival. Mind you that we have several of that already. Also, I keep on asking if there is anything in the mandate of the MMFF that indicates its exclusivity to mainstream films, if not, why treat it as if mainstream owns it?
Kudos to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, by the way—you put our trust and hope back into the industry even further by opening up to a variety of films this season. We hope that the festival board remains steadfast in the narrow but straight path that it took.
Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer