MMFF 2016 boldly touted to be "renaissance in Philippine cinema"

The MMFF 2016 entries are (L-R, top row) Vince and Kath and James, Die Beautiful, Seklusyon, Kabisera, as well as (L-R, bottom row) Sunday Beauty Queen, Babae sa Septic Tank 2, Oro, and Saving Sally.



For the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, moviegoers can look forward to choosing from a documentary film, a  horror movie, a light romance comedy, a love story with 2D animation, two comedy movies, and two drama films.

The eight films competing in the 42nd edition of MMFF are: Baby Ruth Villarama’s Sunday Beauty Queen, Erik Matti’s Seklusyon, Ted Boborol’s Vince & Kath & James, Avid Liongoren’s Saving Sally...

Jun Robles Lana’s Die Beautiful, Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 #ForeverIsNotEnough, Alvin Yapan’s Oro, as well as Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido’s Kabisera.

To communicate why these films were chosen, the Selection Committee provided glowing descriptions of the 8 Official Entries during its November 18 press conference in Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City.

Selection Committee member Alfred “Krip” Yuson went as far as saying that MMFF 2016's lineup would contribute to “a renaissance in Philippine cinema.”

The writer-poet, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, is part of the group that chose this year’s entries.

The Selection Committee of eight members is chaired by Dr. Nicanor Tiongson (author, Manunuri member and former MTRCB Chair) together with Vice-Chair Joy Belmonte (Quezon City vice-mayor).

The other committee members are: Ping Medina (award-winning actor), Lawrence Fajardo (writer/ director/ film editor), Mae Paner (actor/film director/ political activist), Atty. Trixie Angeles (conservationist/ legal counsel for the National Commission on Culture and the Arts), Alan Allanigue (station manager of DZRB Radyo ng Bayan), and Crispina Belen (veteran entertainment columnist).

Here’s what you need to know about the Magic 8, chosen from among 27 submissions this year, in the words of the Selection Committee.

(Read: PEP SCOOP: One movie disqualified from MMFF 2016)

(To stay updated about the latest news about the MMFF, visit http://www.pep.ph/guide/mmff)


Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2 #ForeverIsNotEnough

Director: Marlon Rivera
Cast:
Eugene Domingo, Jericho Rosales
Production company:
Martinez Rivera Films and Quantum

Where the original film satirized the sensationalistic tendencies of the indie film and the dishonesty of directors who make films for foreign festivals, this sequel launches a pointed but hilarious commentary on the pretensions and machinations that characterize the mainstream movie industry and its stars and superstars in our day.

An indie filmmaker writes a very personal script about his own deteriorating marriage and hopes superstar Ms. Eugene Domingo will consider starring in it. But when he and his assistants comes to see her in a spa, Ms. Domingo suggests “slight changes” in the script, so she can live out her own fantasies (as a beautiful young girl, in love with a handsome young boy half her age). With a mangled script, the director storms out of the spa. But Ms. Domingo goes on and makes the movie in her mind anyway.

While this comedy may be seen as a film reflecting on itself or a self-reflexive film, it is nonetheless a film that will appeal as well to all moviegoing Filipinos who will profit from and enjoy seeing through the falsities and frivolities of the mainstream movies they have been watching for decades.

With wit that sparkles in carefully-crafted dialogue and acting that shines way above the common place, this comedy tickles both the mind and the funnybone.


Sunday Beauty Queen

Director: Baby Ruth Villarama
Cast:
Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong
Production company:
Voyage Studios Tuko Film, Buchi Boy Entertainment, Artikulo Unos Productions presentation of a Voyage Studios production, in association with Tokyo Docs

For the longest time, Filipinos have equated film with feature or narrative films, or films that tell a story, to the exclusion of other film forms, like animation, the experimental film, and the documentary. In contrast to the feature film, the documentary presents and interprets actualities, meaning real people, places, and events. But it has as much power as a feature film to move audiences. There is only one documentary in the festival and it is precious for being a well-researched, well-crafted, insightful and engaging documentary on Overseas Filipino Workers.

In Hong Kong, Filipina domestic helpers spend hours of back-breaking work, serving families and individuals, both kind and unkind. They suffer loneliness, accept low pay and inhuman working conditions, and are forever insecure about their jobs. But on Sunday, nothing but nothing can stop them from organizing, joining or watching the beauty contests which have become occasions for entertainment, socialization, fund-raising for a loan fund, and racial solidarity. In these contests, the working girls are magically and suddenly transformed into beauty queens.

Shot intermittently over a period of four years, the film unfolds in its own unhurried pace, like the lives of the main characters it focuses on. With a hand-held camera, it follows the characters as they walk to the supermarket, cook in a cramped kitchen, talk to relatives in the Philippines over the cell phone, walk the dog and bring the kid to school, or feed a senior employer. By the end of the film, the characters have bared their souls to us and we have opened our hearts to them.


Vince & Kath & James

Director: Ted Boborol
Cast:
Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia, Maris Racal, Ronnie Alonte
Production company:
Star Cinema

This light romance comedy successfully reinvents the teen movie with its fresh approach and fluid narrative, bolstered by a directorial style that is fresh and clean, indeed, admirably adept at executing the script’s rhythmic structure of twists and turns with perfect pitch.

While it features and may be intended for millennials, it should appeal to all generations. Strong points include highly believable characters that conduct a modern take on the Cyrano de Bergerac love triangle, this time through texting and online engagement.

The ensemble acting is excellent, in particular on the part of the lead characters. Dialogue is natural and credible, spiked with hugot lines that rachet up the kilig factor. No false notes reduce the delightful experience of sharing in young love that settles for nothing less than the proper equation and entitlement.


Kabisera

Director: Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido
Cast:
Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao, JC de Vera, Jason Abalos, Victor Neri, Perla Bautista, Ces Quesada, RJ Agustin, Ronwaldo Martin, and Kiko Matos
Production company: Silver Story Entertainment and Fire Starters Manila Production Co.

This socio-political drama unfolds as a quietly powerful and gripping story of a tightly-knit family coming to grips with abusive elements of Philippine society, specifically the hooded perpetrators of extra-judicial killings.

Taking issue with human rights violations doesn’t only serve the film as fine advocacy for its relevant and timely choice of theme, but also subtly reveals various other concerns imbedded in the thread of conflicts.

A sure, steady directorial hand, conscientious script and effective cinematography are matched by the lead actors’ faultless performances.

This taut and tragic drama will disturb viewers with its stark chronology of what confronts us daily in an often oppressive urban milieu, with the final imagery delivering a subtle footnote to our awareness of the proper place of vaunted justice in our society.


Oro (Gold)

Director: Alvin Yapan
Cast:
Irma Adlawan, Joem Bascon, Mercedes Cabral, Sandino Martin, Sue Prado, Arrian Labios, Biboy Ramirez, Cedrick Juan, Ronald Regala, Timothy Castillo, Acey Aguilar, Sunshine Teodoro                                                                                                              
Production company: Feliz Film Productions


A remote mining community finds its traditional way of life suddenly imperilled when it faces depredations at the hands of an armed group that misrepresents government authority.

Rural idyll is shattered, as are the modest plans and dreams of simple people. One saving grace is the resolute leadership provided by their barangay captain, a lady who has served her constituency for decades.

But her courage and moral ascendancy are not enough to prevent tragic consequences in this characteristic conflict when “small people” suffer the greed of others who rule by the gun.

Socio-political oppression can only turn a corner towards the saving grace of a mythopoetic ending.


Saving Sally

Director: Avid Liongoren
Cast:
Rhian Ramos, TJ Trinidad, Enzo Marcos
Production company:
Rocketsheep Studio

There is much going for this multi-genre film mounted by a small team of young animators who engaged in a ten-year effort to come up with an atypical youthful love story replete with child-like fantasy elements as applied through 2D animation.

Chivalry among the youth is manifested as a realistic element that also lightens up the urban setting, apart from adding to the innovative sources of delight.

While the dialogue is mostly in English, especially among the lead characters who are engaged in graphic design, comic books and video games, it faithfully represents a demographic among our Westernized youth that are beholden to a global outlook and contemporary inclinations as well as creative pursuits.

Frolicsome play wins the day for these youths that we can’t help but cheer on.


Die Beautiful

Director: Jun Robles Lana
Cast:
Paolo Ballesteros, Luis Alandy, Gladys Reyes, Albie Casino, Lou Veloso, Inah De Belen
Production company:
The IdeaFirst Company

This heartwarming gay film deftly combines comedy and drama to chronicle the glamor, gloom, and glory of one transgender’s short, short life.

After being verbally and physically abused by his father for years, Patrick is finally thrown out of the house for being gay. But as one door closes, many others open. Patrick transforms into the ravishing transgender Trisha, his long-time dream. Refusing to be bitter about her rejection and a gang rape in high school, she becomes a loving mother to an adopted daughter, a devoted partner to her lover, and a loyal confidante to her gay sisters. She also wins a beauty contest. Through her gay sisters’ machinations, she even gets her final bucket wish list.

Under the masterful direction of Jun Robles Lana, the film engages with its crisp and witty beki dialogue, the quiet and nuanced performances of Trisha and Barbie which reveal character rather than stereotype, and the marvellous transformation of Trisha’s face from Britney Spears to Julia Roberts, Beyonce, and Angelina Jolie. Here the gay man is no longer the object of derision but a cause for celebration.


Seklusyon

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Director: Erik Matti
Cast:
Dominic Roque, Ronnie Alonte (of Hashtag), Neil Ryan Sese, Lou Veloso, Elora Espano, Phoebe Walker
Production company:
Reality Entertainment

A horror film as intelligent as this has not been seen in a long, long time. Rising  above the tried and tested tricks of engendering terror in the audiences, this Erik Matti masterpiece fearlessly delves into the difference and conflict between religion and spirituality, and raises questions about the sincerity of those that claim to preach the word of God.

A week before they are ordained, four candidates for the priesthood spend time in an old retreat house, to examine their consciences and the purity of their religious intentions. All the candidates must face the gravest sins of their past, which comes back to them in grotesque physical forms.

Shot with amber filter that bathes every scene in a surreal light, the film is notable for deftly manipulating and shifting sizes and angles of shots and movements of the camera in order to make palpable the confusion and horror felt by each character. The visualization of the monsters of past since as tiyanak-like creatures to examine their inner selves, as the film shocks the audience with its own reflection in the cinematic mirror.




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