[OPINION] Let’s Talk About MMFF 2015

Maybe some of you have not heard about this yet, but our Congress approved a motion to abolish all MMFF committees due to alleged irregularities a couple of days back. The buzz over MMFF 2015 the matter has been pretty quiet outside of certain online circles, and local news outlets – dominated, as they have been, by “larger” issues at hand – haven’t been touching on the matter.

Some of us have been saying this for years already. Some of us used to complain, but ended up getting worn down from screaming our opinions into the wind. Then there are those of us who have no idea what the fuss is about. Regardless of where you’re coming from, I’ve got one thing to say: we’re finally acknowledging the Metro Manila Film Festival as the obsolete institution that it is. While that’s a good thing, we need to seriously think about WHY we let shit like this go on in the first place.

For the casual moviegoer, the MMFF is that annoying creature that – in the spirit of “patriotism” and “celebrating the best of Philippine cinema” – dominates our malls during Christmas break, interfering with the releases of fourth quarter international hits and killing the few good local movies that it was showcasing without so much as a by-your-leave. It’s one thing to have to spend the majority of our year battling the crowds, hoping that the latest “Pinoy blockbuster” isn’t going to knock movies of worth from the running before we can find the time to watch them: they just HAVE to do it on a larger scale during the holidays.

As if they weren’t already rolling in money to begin with.

So remember what could have happened to THIS movie?
So remember what could have happened to THIS movie?

We groan and moan and gnash our teeth as we look at our choices, expressing derision over the usual “romantic” offers (Yet Another Movie About Infidelity™, Probably Starring Derek Ramsey), making fun of the Fifty Shades of Ugly Crying that occur in those tired, telenovena-esque dramas on the list, joking about how you know there’s a disturbance in the Force when there’s no Shake, Rattle and Roll, clicking our tongues when we hear about that One Good Movie in the lot that was shafted after a week or less in the cinemas…

… And that’s as far as we go. Our lack of faith in Philippine film has left us jaded, so much so that many of us resort to being surprised when something good “actually” emerges from the rabble rather than get angry at the fact that the rabble exists in the first place. We have far more faith, it seems, in the worst that Hollywood has to offer, simply because it didn’t come from our studios. This isn’t “colonial mentality.” It’s just a sad reflection of the truth as we’ve come to know it. Good things worth watching happen so rarely that – when they do – we often miss it. In fact, sometimes it’s so bad that even AFTER several trusted sources tell us to go and watch something, we just don’t bother anymore.

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To keep a situation like this from happening, we need to start to believe in our movies again. We need to be ready to bite the bullet and try our movies out. Beyond “wasting” a couple of hundred bucks and a handful of hours of one day in your entire life, what’s the worst that could happen?

Erik Matti's "Honor Thy Father" was one of the unfortunate casualties of the mess that is MMFF 2015. Thankfully, a very supportive base of fans and critical voices from within the industry turned SOME things around for its production team.
Erik Matti’s “Honor Thy Father” was one of the unfortunate casualties of the mess that is MMFF 2015. Thankfully, a very supportive base of fans and critical voices from within the industry turned SOME things around for its production team.

Here’s another thing to consider. Inasmuch as it might be fun to get your daily dose of ego-boosting thoughts by assuming that rest of the audience is the problem because they keep endorsing shitty films, sit the heck down, son, and don’t say nothing until you’ve only got nice things to say. This isn’t about “everyone else”. This is about you, as viewer, making the express decision to watch something for yourself. Fuck everyone else. Besides, the problem of audience is a hell lot larger than you and me combined, because one of the driving cultural forces behind what sells to a particular demographic has a lot to do with a peoples’ perception on art and culture. That, in turn, has a lot to do with education.

Let’s do some simple arithmetic. The average school day in our country starts at 7:30 AM and ends at 4:30 PM, with 1-2 hours’ allowance for things like recess and lunch break. That leaves our teachers about 6-7 hours to fill our heads with all sorts of ideas. Easily 50% of our opinions and experiences weren’t formed by the lessons at hand: they were formed by the kinds of people that our teachers were.

Think about it now. What did your teachers have to say about the world? What sort of wisdom did they impart on you? Was there any space for culture, the Big H that is Humanities? Or was it all written off as “useless” because it won’t make you money?

Conversely, imagine what it must be like to NOT go to school because it’s a “waste of time” or “too expensive.” The subtext there assumes that education – you know, the shit that kinda-sorta determines whether you’ll have a job in the future or not, and that’s just ONE of its many possible benefits – is useless. That, in turn, assumes that being smart doesn’t help anybody when you could get results “now na,” as they say.

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Now that we’ve talked a bit about that, here’s another question you might be asking yourself: what kind of film gets shafted during MMFF?

Spoilers: the smart ones.

OH THE HUMANITY!
OH THE HUMANITY!

We can’t shift the inclinations of our culture nor change our traditions in a day, but we CAN remember that our decisions as citizens are a hell lot more important than they might initially seem. Take, for example, reading candidate platforms whenever it’s election season and ultimately exercising your right to vote. You probably WON’T see a candidate that’ll say “I am going to change the Metro Manila Film Festival”, but you MIGHT see ones that will talk about their plans for educational programs, academic systems, culture, and art. If you’re thinking about a candidate who’s got nothing to say whatsoever about any of those, you should probably be worried.

On another note, outside of taking more leaps of faith with Filipino movies and being more discerning about our participation in the political sphere of our lives, we might also want to consider contributing to everyone’s level of awareness on the issues that are affecting our industry. Write about the good movies more, talk about areas that movies in general can improve on, share posts from other people, spread the good word in casual conversations. Get angry when foul play happens instead of writing it off, ask the hard questions, seek to inform and do discourse instead of passing judgment. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that at this point, if you can’t yet bring yourself to start watching our movies again, the least you could do is show that you care by widening the reach of the people who do.

Whether we’re going to see a new and improved MMFF in 2016 or not is beside the point, for the time to take note, nod, and go right on by has passed. If it happens, let’s rejoice and be hella loud about it. If it doesn’t, let’s be just as loud about our disapproval.

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Pam Punzalan
Pam Punzalan
29, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, teaches, writes, reads, flails, smokes, occasionally drinks, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of Girls Got Game, over at http://girlsgotgame.org/!
Pam Punzalan

Pam Punzalan

29, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, teaches, writes, reads, flails, smokes, occasionally drinks, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of Girls Got Game, over at http://girlsgotgame.org/!

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