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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 25, 2016

Let's Take A Close Look At The Metro Manila Film Festival Through The Years

LET’S TAKE A look at how the annual local festival showing local films evolved through the years. It started in 1966 as the Manila Film Festival, initiated by then Mayor Antonio “Yeba” Villegas, shown from June 14 to Araw ng Maynila, June 24. Foreign films were not shown in Manila theaters, only local ones, to support the local film industry. This festival lasted for 9 years and produced acclaimed films like “Daigdig ng mga Api” (1966) with Robert Arevalo and Barbara Perez, directed by Gerry de Leon.

The next two years were dominated by Nepomuceno Production entries, “Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak” with Charito Solis in 1967 and the star-studded war flick, “Manila Open City” in 1968. Lino Brocka was first recognized in this festival with his entries, “Wanted Perfect Mother” in 1970 and “Cadena de Amor” in 1971 (which won most of the awards that year), both produced by Lea Productions.

In 1975, the Manila Filmfest was replaced by the Metropolitan Manila Filmfest. The 1976 filmfest proved to be one of the most memorable as it produced such great entries as Eddie Romero’s “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon”, Lino Brocka’s “Insiang”, Lupita Concio’s “Minsan Isang Gamo-Gamo”. But the topgrossers then were Erap Estrada’s “Arrest the Nurse Killer” and the reunion movie of Amalia Fuentes-Bobby Vasquez, “Pwede Ako, Pwede Ka Pa Ba?”

The 1977 filmfest is also unforgettable because Brocka challenged filmfest chairman Rolando Tinio into a fight after most of the awards were given to Celso Ad. Castillo’s “Burlesk Queen”. Brocka’s entry that year was “Inay” and Mike de Leon also had a great entry, “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising”. In 1978, only one acting award was given and this was the best performer award, which went to Nora Aunor for “Atsay”, which also won best picture. That was a banner year for Ate Guy since her other entry, “Jack n Jill of the Third Kind” with Dolphy, was the topgrosser.

There were controversial instances when awards in some categories, like in 1986, when the best picture, best story and screenplay awards were not given. Juror Tingting Cojuangco said “no one was deserving”. Only the 3rd best picture award was given, for “Halimaw sa Banga”. In 1994, the best picture, best director and screenplay awards were also not given. Jury chairman Alejandro Roces said “none of the entries was deserving”. One of the biggest upsets was in 1988, when Baldo Marro surprised everyone when he won best actor for “Patrolman”, which also won as best picture, beating Laurice Guillen’s “Magkano ang Iyong Dangal” and Chito Rono’s “Itanong Mo sa Buwan”.

In 2006, there was a big protest when the jurors changed the criteria for awarding the best picture award, stressing that “commercial appeal and success” is more important, so they gave the best picture prize to the topgrosser, “Enteng Kabisote 3”, and it was the only award that the film got, whereas second best picture “Kasal Kasali Kasalo” won most of the awards and eventually overtook “Enteng” in the box office returns.

Last year, the filmfest became controversial again after “Honor Thy Father” was disqualified for best picture and director Erik Matti called for an investigation. This led to a congressional hearing and the members of the committee managing the festival were changed.

The current members, as we all know by now, made a big change in their choices. They said they gave importance to quality and movies with bigger box office stars and greater box office appeal were rejected. Most of the films they chose as finalists are the so-called indie films with little known stars. Let’s see if the majority of local moviegoers would support their decision.

Another big change that was instituted is the decision to hold the awards night after the festival’s run has ended on January 7. Before, the awards night is held just a few days after the filmfest has started to make the winning entries more appealing to the public and help attract more viewers. This was very helpful then as the awards really helped the winners to attract more moviegoers. This year, the awards night will be held on January 8. Even if a film would win awards, their trophies can no longer be of help to attract prospective moviegoers.

But we noticed that in the last few years, awards no longer seem to help at all. As in the case of Robin Padilla’s “10,000 Hours” in 2013 and “Bonifacio, Unang Pangulo” in 2014. Both films won best picture awards but this didn’t help improve their income at the box office. Everyone is predicting that this December’s coming filmfest will be a flop at the box office. Here’s praying they’ll be proven wrong. Merry Christmas everyone!