A "cinematic revolution."
This is what the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is undergoing this year. Among many other changes in the MMFF guidelines and criteria, the Selection Committee chose quality over commercial viability in choosing the official film entries.
Director Erik Matti, whose film Seklusyon made it as one of the eight official entries, is no stranger to the MMFF—and its controversies.
In 2015, he directed Honor Thy Father starring John Lloyd Cruz. This crime drama was one of the official entries to the 41st MMFF.
Being in a position where he is able to compare last year's entries to the current selection, the award-winning director says he is happy with the drastic changes this year.
"Natuwa ako. Pinakamalaking change talaga yung hindi na script ang na-submit kundi full film."
Direk Erik is referring to the revised guidelines wherein only finished films would be accepted as entries. (The Executive Committee later revised this to accommodate picture-lock versions of the film entries, allowing for enhancements after submission.)
"Malaking bagay yun na nakikita natin ang finished product. Maja-judge mo talaga depende sa criteria ng judges kung ano siya.
"Dati, madali lang mag-judge kasi titingnan mo lang ang artista at alam mo na yung tipo ng pelikula."
Much of the buzz surrounding the film fest this year has to do with the type of movies selected.
Various camps have voiced out their fears and concerns about the MMFF not generating the desired box office results, and whether Filipino moviegoers are indeed ready for something different from what they have been used to.
“Ngayon, nakita na natin yung eight entries. We may or may not agree with all of them, kung bakit na-leave out yung ibang commercial or mainstream movies. Ako, ang pakiusap ko ay sana mabigyan ng chance itong festival na ito to showcase different kinds of films to our audience," explains Direk Erik.
He goes on to talk about how audience development is just as important as the business aspect of the MMFF.
“Siyempre nandiyan na yung negosyo. Mas maraming makapanood ng iba’t ibang klaseng pelikula, siyempre mas maraming producers na maglalakas ng loob mag-produce, at maraming mailalabas na pelikula every year.”
“But at the same time, audience development rin. Hindi lang tayo stuck sa isang klase ng pelikula. Puwede rin naman tayong mag-enjoy sa iba’t ibang klaseng pelikula.”
Direk Erik regrets, though, that the official entries have already been prejudged by the public, with some having been labeled as “indie” and others, “commercial,” even if no one has really seen any of the films.
For instance, Seklusyon is a commercial horror film, but knowing that he was also behind Honor Thy Father, the viewing public may have the impression that Seklusyon is also an indie film.
“Medyo na-judge lang agad kasi ng marami right after lumabas [ang official entries]. May tinawag na indie, so paano kikita ‘yan?”
Amidst the doubts, Direk Erik remains hopeful that audiences will give this year’s entries a chance.
However, in terms of significantly changing the appreciation of movie audiences for these kinds of films, Direk Erik knows it can only happen after a few years.
“Yung mga ganito, it can only matter if it’s done for three or four years, kasi bago siya, e.
“Nung tinikman mo ang ampalaya, hindi mo naman nagustuhan agad, ‘di ba? Five times mo kinain saka mo sinabing masarap. Or nung tinikman mo yung spaghetti na hindi matamis, nanibago ka kasi sanay ka na matamis lagi ang spaghetti. Pero after a while, kinain mo nang kinain, magugustuhan mo rin yung hindi matamis. Kasi may iba rin siyang lasa.”
Direk Erik’s hope is that the industry will allow this change to happen.
“[Some are] thinking the MMFF can fail [this year] kasi hindi siya aabot sa P1.5 billion. But for any new thing to happen, sana payagan muna. Pero yung bansa natin, hindi ganun, e.
Pag nag-fail ito this year, next year, babalik din sa dati.”
“I just hope people give it a chance. In all the years na maraming sumali at hindi lahat nakakasali [sa MMFF], lahat naman nirespeto yung choice ng MMFF, ‘di ba? This year, a different choice, a different selection was made. I just hope everyone respects it also. Give it a chance,” Direk Erik concludes.
(To stay updated about the latest news about the MMFF, visit http://www.pep.ph/guide/mmff)