Each year, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has featured eight local films in cinemas nationwide, with some notable movie franchises that been there for years, some even decades before most of us were born (shoutout to Shake, Rattle & Roll from the ’80s).
The festival itself, typically celebrated on Christmas day up to the New Year, isn’t necessarily one for film enthusiasts or film buffs to analyze. Instead, it has grown into a massive spectacle for families and friends to check out just for fun, with its usual lineup of star-studded movies that have dominated the selection for years.
Most film critics deem the festival as more targeted for commercial consumption, with proven story templates that are usually recycled and reimagined each year with new cast members and stunning location shoots–essentially far from how the earlier years of the festival brought together industry legends like Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Mike De Leon and Peque Gallaga competing for the Best Picture plum. This year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has partnered with Globe to bring 10 unique titles online for on-demand public viewing.
As cinemas are still closed because of the current pandemic, the festival will be hosted completely on digital on Upstream via GMovies for P250 each. And judging from the released lineup, we might need to start saving up to check out all these new stories and actors that are just now getting some well-deserved attention. And those that, this early, are already drawing flak from the movie-going public.
Here’s the full list of entries:
Fantasy, science fiction, and a whole lot of gaming is at the core of this film where four of the highest-scoring players of Magikland go on a crazy mission inside the game to save the word from an evil dictator. The fresh cast of new actors and actresses are transported in the game itself, where they’ll be tasked to fight with dangerous enemies face-to-face.
The Boy Foretold by the Stars
BL fans are rejoicing with this title as the first queer movie to come out in mainstream media–practically the most mainstream festival there is–and the story itself looks promising, too. The film follows a teenage boy getting an exciting prediction from a fortune teller, and falling in love with his classmate who he believes is his soulmate. The trailer presents some hard-hitting moments on acceptance, love, and the mischievous game of fate.
“Never meet your heroes.” Packed in a gritty trailer, this features a story of a fan sneaking in to spend some time with her idol (portrayed by Paulo Avelino), where she finds out that he’s not what she expects him to be. The snippets shown build up to a thrilling, “what happened” ride, leaving viewers uncomfortable and nervous to see what went on in the story.
Suarez: The Healing Priest
This film showcases the life of Fr. Fernando Suarez, who is known for his healing abilities as a Catholic priest. The trailer presented shows a lot of interesting points in Suarez’s life, including his first healing miracle at 16 years old, and disputes among priests and in the church itself regarding his faith and practices.
Isa Pang Bahaghari
The legend that is Nora Aunor makes a comeback to film with other veteran actors such as Philip Salvador and Michael De Mesa, and a star-studded cast to portray this story of coming home, and everything being entirely different. This looks to be a classic Filipino story of family and forgiveness that’s sure to bring in the tears—and are we even ready for it?
Is it even the MMFF without a stellar casted romance in the lineup? Tagpuan stars Iza Calzado, Shaina Magdayao and Alfred Vargas in another story of finding love in foreign land, but the trailer promises a unique, and almost melancholic, tone in the beloved Pinoy trope.
Did I watch the trailer on mute? Yes, I did. That’s because this horror looks pretty solid in the scare department as it’s set in the rural areas of Japan where a Filipino family is currently living. It’s a “haunted house” story that we’ve seen many times before, but its overall mysterious tone and creepy atmosphere sets it apart from any local horror titles we’ve seen in recent years.
Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim
Ah, the classic comedy-horror-fantasy sub-genre that Vhong Navarro has dominated with iconic characters and titles such as the Mang Kepweng franchise. With his magical bandana, he sets out to defeat evil spirits and monsters from all walks of life. While the first film didn’t necessarily score big on critics and the box office, let’s see how this sequel turns out.
Starring Jinggoy Estrada among other top actors in its roster, Coming Home‘s trailer only shows one particular scene where his character comes home in a wheelchair, and his children ignore him except for one. Although the trailer doesn’t show much in terms of the overall story, the scene’s message is clear: this one’s an emotional ride.
Pak Boys: Takusa
Well, there’s always one entry that’s a bit… questionable. This film follows four “pak boys,” if you catch the reference, who are notorious for cheating on their wives and hitting it off with the sexiest women around. It has the classic slapstick comedy Filipinos generally enjoy, and a plot line that’s interesting, to say the least. How will these four men redeem themselves? If you do so wish to catch this one, you might just find out if they ever do. The film has gained attention recently as the Internet has cried foul on the film’s controversial trope, calling it sexist and dated. The decision, of course, is yours to make.
For updates on the festival, follow https://upstream.ph/.
With additional text by Leo Balante