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Full MMFF lineup includes films from canceled summer festival

THE 10 official full-length films that will be featured in the wholly digital version of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) have been named and will include the typical mix of fantasy, comedy, romance, and drama that the festival is known, as well as some of the official entries of the canceled Summer MMFF.

“This year is not like the other years because of the pandemic… but it’s not enough reason not to hold the MMFF,” Danilo Lim, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which organizes the MMFF, said in the vernacular in a Nov. 24 digital press conference.

“Christmas won’t be complete without the Metropolitan Manila Film Festival. The festival has long been part of the tradition: a time where families get together, watch, and enjoy,” he said of the importance of the festival.

And thus the move to digital using the Filipino streaming service Upstream and GMovies, both of which have also been used by another local film festival, the Quezon City International Film Festival or QCinema.

Earlier in the year, the film festival named the first four entries based script submissions, but because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) quarantine protocols in place which made it very difficult to produce films in a pandemic, three of those first entries had to back out: Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan, Praybeyt Benjamin 3, and The Exorcism of My Siszums.

Only fantasy film Magikland, directed by Christian Acuna and produced by Lore Reyes and the late Peque Gallaga, managed to finish production. The film, which took three years to make according to Mr. Reyes in the press conference, is meant to complete the film cycle which is made up of the two other fantasy films created by Mr. Gallaga and Mr. Reyes — Magic Temple (1996) and Magic Kingdom (1997).

“Bringing this film to life will hopefully be direk Peque’s legacy,” Mr. Acuna said in the same press conference.

Four official film entries from the canceled Summer MMFF — it was supposed to be held in April — made the cut and are now part of the Christmas MMFF. These are the family drama Coming Home by Adolfo Alix, Jr., about a sick OFW who comes home to his estranged family; an LGBT-themed drama, Isa Pang Bahaghari by Joel Lamangan, about a man coming home to his family and enlisting the help of his gay best friend so his family will accept him; horror film The Missing by Easy Ferrer, about a renovation gone wrong set in Saga, Japan; and a romantic drama, Tagpuan by McArthur Alejandre, about a the love story of an estranged husband and wife.

The Missing, according to Mr. Ferrer, presents a “different way of showing horror films” as it combines Filipino horror stereotypes with Japanese horror elements like those found in Ring (1998) and Ju-on: The Grudge (2002).

Noel Ferrer, the MMFF spokesperson, clarified that the films which were carried over from the Summer MMFF were not intended to replace the films that backed out and that the films were re-evaluated using the following criteria: artistic excellence (40%), commercial appeal (40%), Filipino cultural sensibility (10%), and global appeal (10%).

The other entries in the festival are: the biopic film Suarez: the Healing Priest about the life of Fr. Fernando Suarez, directed by Joven Tan; the comedy Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim by Topel Lee, a follow-up to the 2017 film Mang Kepweng; another comedy, Pakboys Takusa by Al Tantay, featuring a gang of middle-aged playboys; Boys’ Love film The Boy Foretold by the Stars by Dolly Dulu, about a high school student falling in love with a classmate who recently got his heart broken; and the drama Fangirl by Antoinette Jadaone, about a young fan forming a relationship with her idol.

Fangirl was described by film critics as Ms. Jadaone’s bravest film to date as the film revolves around the theme: “Don’t meet your heroes,” and how fans typically idealize their idols.

The MMFF, the country’s largest film festival, is organized by the MMDA and runs from Dec. 25 until the first week of January. During this period, only Filipino films are screened in theaters nationwide. Recent grosses of the festival have amounted to P1 billion. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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