MMFF 2016 was such a breath of fresh air. The annual expo of Shake, Rattle & Roll, and Vic Sotto movies were replaced with low-budget, yet high-quality films. One would think that this would be a welcome change, but many people were against it. There were outcries for the film fest to go back to its old way because it was the holiday season, and as some said holidays were not for indie films. Indie filmmakers should just stick to Cinemalaya and similar film fests, as some said. Honestly, I think those people were just upset because they couldn’t cash in on their unimaginative movies.

Same Old, Same Old

The past MMFFs barely scratch the surface of how much mainstream films lack innovation. It seems like there are only a few types of films being made:

1. the predictable romantic-comedy that feature this year’s hot young celebrities;

2. the slapstick comedy movies that are borderline offensive;

3. the movies that focus on affairs and adultery that only seem to glorify the horrible act, and

4. the “scary” movies that are nothing but jump scares and not-so-special effects.

Finding a good film that deviates from these four types of films is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Stars Just Waiting To Shine

There’s an underutilization of talent here in the local film industry, which is a shame because when given the right material, the actors really shine. Actor John Lloyd Cruz, mostly known for his rom-com roles, has started making a name for himself in indie films, garnering awards and praise for his performance in Honor Thy Father. Comedians like Eugene Domingo and Pokwang are also branching out to more artsy projects. Both women were in highly-acclaimed independent films last year, with Ms. Domingo appearing in Die Beautiful and starring in Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: Forever is not Enough, and Ms. Pokwang starring in Mercury is Mine.  

There’s also a lack of support from both the industry and the audience. Recently, Moira Lang and Ed Cabangot, two pro-indie film members of the MMFF executive committee, got replaced with theater chain representatives and politicians. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Tim Orbos thinks this would balance the interests of the theater owners and producers in artistic demand and audience preference.

For the reason being, MMFF 2016 didn’t make as much money as the one in 2015. In fact, it made less than half of 2015’s PHP 1 billion in box office sales.

What Comes Next?

Now that there are two less pro-indie members of the MMFF executive committee, it’s likely that the MMFF will return to its old cash cows. The saddest part in all of this is that the committee didn’t even give the more indie MMFF a second chance. Of course you can’t expect the public to immediately agree with the changes, especially since they’ve been fed tripe for the past MMFFs. People need time to adjust and realize the artistic merit in independent films. 

The stagnation of the mainstream film industry has to end. Now more than ever, we must stand behind indie filmmakers and support them in their craft. Luckily, Ms. Moira Lang and Mr. Ed Cabagnot will continue to fight for indie films. He says, “Moira (Lang) and myself shall continue to monitor the evolution of the festival from the outside and make sure that this year’s edition shall build on last year’s revolutionary changes.”

Despite all the setbacks, we have to keep positive. The public got a glimpse of what Filipino talent can really do. We just have to keep supporting local indie artists, so the media bigwigs see that they can be just as popular as their mainstream films. We can change the landscape of Filipino cinema, but we have to take an active role in it.

So what happens now for MMFF 2017? We’ll just have to find out together. Like our page to get updates on our adventures!