(photo credit: @mmffofficial IG account)
Today, December 25, 2016, is not only Christmas Day, but it is also the first day of the much-anticipated "rebirth" of the Metro Manila Film Festival, now on its 42nd year. For the first time in so many years, there are no big commercial mainstream movies chosen to participate in it.
Previous sure shots, like Vic Sotto's "Enteng Kabisote" franchise, Regal Films' "Mano Po" franchise, blockbuster Vice Ganda films, are all out of contention this year. Instead, the committee had chosen eight films in competition with smaller budgets and casts of lesser box-office clout, with more daring themes and independent ideals.
I was very excited when the announcement came out. However, because of prior travel plans, so I won't be able to catch any one of them until I come back to town in January. The film adjudged Best Picture would be my first priority upon coming home from my trip.
Anyhow, below is the list of my initial rankings of the eight participating films based solely on their trailers. I just noted that the Cinema Evaluation Board gave five of them a rating of A, and these were for the last five films on my list! Thou certainly should not judge films based on trailers alone.
Go watch all the films you can. The success of the festival this year is crucial. These brave selections of quality over commercialism may never happen again if the movie going public will not support these choices.
8. Sunday Beauty Queen (Baby Ruth Villarama)
There are no known actors in this documentary about OFW domestic helpers in Hongkong preparing for Miss Philippines Tourism Hong Kong. This must be the hardest to sell among all of these entries. However, I am giving this the benefit of the doubt, since the buzz from the entertainment press online is very very positive.
7. Vince & Kath & James (Ted Boborol)
I am not really into teen rom-coms, particularly those adapted from an online series turned book. The trailer shows Guy 1 being the bridge for Guy2 to get the girl, whom Guy 1 also digs himself. The plot is as old as "Cyrano de Bergerac", only this time they use text messaging to woo the girl, instead of poetry.
6. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 (Marlon Rivera)
This film is the only known quantity in this festival. A hilarious satire about local movie industry, the first "Babae" was one of those rare indie films which eventually became a mainstream hit as well. Eugene Domingo is back playing the brutally frank, "feeling entitled" star actress Romina. Being known may work for it (people know it is going to be fun), or against it (less curiosity factor than others).
5. Saving Sally (Avid Liongoren)
An aspiring comic book artist Marty attempts to save the woman he loves from her less than ideal life. The trailer suggests that the main language of this film is English, and that is quite pleasantly surprising. There are some pretty nifty animated scenes and effects, which was probably responsible for the 10 years that went into the making of this film. Rhian Ramos looks lovely and cool in the titular role of Sally.
4. Die Beautiful (Jun Lana)
A transgender woman has a dying wish is to be presented as a different celebrity on each night of her wake. The subject matter may not exactly be my cup of tea. My interest to watch this film is largely to see what made Paolo Ballesteros win Best Actor in the Tokyo International Film Festival. I think his winning all-out performance is quite obvious in this trailer alone.
3. Oro (Alvin Yapan)
A mining community faces crisis when an armed group attempts to shut down their operations. It should be interesting to peek into the lifestyle of a community of rural gold miners. Irma Adlawan obviously gives a passionate performance as the community's dedicated leader and defender.
2. Kabisera (Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido)
A mother fights back to keep her family together after a series of crises. Of course Nora Aunor is the lead star, and that is enough encouragement for me to watch this film. The trailer does not reveal too much about the central conflict, and that is good. Aunor and Ricky Davao do not really look believable like a married couple in this trailer, but watching the rest of the film may disprove that minor quibble.
1. Seklusyon (Erik Matti)
Back in the 1940s, it was a practice to send deacons to a holy fortress seven days before they become ordained as priests, in order to keep the devil away from them. The quality of the cinematography and production design of this film looks head and shoulders above the rest. Those horror special effects look really creepy, with that accompanying music. Child actress Rhed Bustamante looks like she gave a sublimely intriguing performance as the miracle healer Anghela Sta. Ana.