I am not optimistic about Filipino films. It has been more than a century when we have started making movies, thanks to the influence of the Americans who brought with them to the islands the concept of making and showing movies on makeshift movie theaters even before the second world war, which by that time, the stranglehold of Hollywood movies on the Filipino audience had been absolute, and Filipino-made movies wrestled with those slick English-language motion pictures at the box offices along Avenida Rizal. Tagalog movies then were screened in theaters on Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo (Globe, Dalisay, Boulevard) and in some theaters on Claro M Recto (then known as Azcarraga).
With some aggressive local leaders, like Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas, a festival of Tagalog movies was created, at that time, to coincide with the celebration called “Araw ng Maynila” in which theater owners that normally screened only English-language films were required to show local movies. Eventually, Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino became what is now known as the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) held during Christmas Day and lasts until several days after the New Year of the following year.
The idea worked for the local film community that has been in constant struggle for bigger box office receipts on ordinary days.
Other film festivals followed suit but they weren’t as big as the MMFF.
On Aug. 16 to 22, and to coincide with Linggo ng Wika, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) under its new Chairman Liza Diño-Seguerra, is holding another Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. This isn’t like the MMFF in terms of scope. The films here, 10-12, are pre-screened some even had been featured in other festivals here and abroad but never had the chance to have a wide release commercially. Some had even won accolades in festivals abroad but not many Filipinos are aware of these films.
“The idea of this festival,” says Diño-Seguerra, “is to bring these films closer to more Filipinos so that they will know what the local filmmakers have been doing and some even making the Philippines proud of them in festivals abroad.”
What a noble purpose, really. But my mischievous self asks, “Will these new festival attract Filipinos to the theaters nationwide and watch the films the festival is showing?”
I don’t really know, but with Globe being one of the supporters of the festival, there could be some buzz. Still, can the buzz translate to box-office receipts?
Let’s find out some of the films the festival is highlighting.
Horror meets hugot in Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B, a tale of a manananggal in a different angle.
Jewel is a mysterious woman who lives alone in the city. Her secret led her to settle into a lonely existence. That is, until she meets Nico, a broken-hearted, down-and-out guy who also feels unloved like she does.
Jewel is torn between wanting to love him and wanting to save him from herself. The film premiered in 2016.
Ryza Cenon and Martin Del Rosario star in the film by Prime Cruz. The film earned praises as the story strips off a familiar Philippine mythical character of its monstrosity. The controlled way of humanizing a manananggal is what it different from films of the same subject..
Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B is produced by The Ideafirst Company Inc. with Executive Producers Jun Lana and Perci Intalan.
The Cinema One Originals’ selection Hamog, and Cinema One and Salida Productions’ horror movie Salvage join 10 other.
Ralston Jover’s Hamog (Haze) tells real-life scenarios of four street children who cannot help but resort to the routine of crime to survive daily life. Two unexpected events soon occur that will challenge and push the kids to make tough choices.
It is the only local film so far that competed in two International Federation of Film Producers Associations or FIAPF A-list film festivals and won in both. It earned the Outstanding Artistic Achievement award for Ralston at the 19th Shanghai International Film Festival, and the Silver St. George Best Actress Award for lead female actor Therese Malvar in Moscow International Film Festival. Aside from the FIAPF recognitions, the film also won the Russian Critics Choice Award for Best Film.
Therese’s performance also earned her the New York Asian Film Festival’s Rising Star award. Joining her in the cast are Zaijan Jaranilla, Sam Quitania, Bor Lentejas, OJ Mariano, Anna Luna, Mike Liwag, Lou Veloso and Kyline Alcantara.
Meanwhile, the found footage film Salvage stars Jessy Mendiola and JC de Vera in a thrilling story of a news team in search of clues. A series of killings has occurred in a remote and haunted province believed to be due to supernatural attacks.
The Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s movie was cited for Best Film Editing in last year’s Young Critics Circle.
The movie also received positive reviews from film directors.
Bar Boys marks the return of the youth genre in Philippine cinema.
The film, written and directed by young filmmaker Kip Oebanda, tells the story of a barkada (composed of Rocco Nacino, Carlo Aquino, Enzo Pineda and Kean Cipriano) whose friendship is challenged when three of them go to law school and one gets left behind. The bigger trial, however, lies ahead. They try to stick together through insurmountable readings, nerve-wracking graded recitations and irresistible temptations. Their families, relationships and convictions are brought to the breaking point as their prepare for the most difficult test: passing the bar exam.
Anna Luna and Odette Khan are also in the cast
Oebanda got the idea for the film when he watched a local horror film with a lawyer-character, and his movie companion quipped that law school is the ultimate horror film.
“It’s really a love story because friendship is a form of love,” says the director.
These are just among the films that will be screened during the festival. To find out the other titles, you have to download the PistaApp to your mobiles, tablets or laptops from Google Play or iTunes.