MMFF 2019 final four entries complete line-up announced, Culion vs Mindanao possibly up for Best Picture

Highly pressured to surpass last year’s all-time high box office record of more than 1.0 billion ticket sales, this year’s edition of Metro Manila Film Festival just announced the final four entries that complete the annual holiday festival of commercially viable films. MMFF will run until January 7, 2020.
Completing the Magic 8 are 5) CULION (Alvin Yapan) starring Iza Calzado, Meryll Soriano, Jasmine Curtis, Joem Bascon, Nico Locco, Mike Liwag; 6) MINDANAO (by Duterte enabler Brillante Mendoza – ed) starring Judy Ann Santos and Allen Dizon, 7) WRITE ABOUT LOVE (Crisanto Aquino) starring Rocco Nacino, Miles Ocampo;  and 8) 3POL TROBOL, HULI KA BALBON (Rodel Nacianceno) starring Coco Martin, Ai-Ai Delas Alas, and Jennylyn Mercado
Mindanao, Juday, and Brillante

Duterte enabler (ed) Brillante Mendoza‘s Mindanao was recently screened at the Busan International Film Festival to a rousing early acclaim. Screen Daily gave it a glittering review, “This is not a film which leaves any emotional button unpushed. The film’s main asset is the presence of actress Judy Ann Santos, who is luminous in the role of the mother, Saima. Santos’ considerable star power domestically and elsewhere should boost the film’s commercial prospects. That said, international audiences may struggle to unpick the picture’s message, and may find the rather overbearing use of terminal cancer in a four-year-old as a device a tad manipulative.”
Culion, the return of the historical epic period drama
A period drama from the comebacking Alvin Yapan, which is also executive produced by its lead actress Iza Calzado, has quite made a buzz in the past week. Expect more about this film very soon.
First four

It can be recalled that the MMFF selection committee revealed its first four entries last July, including 1)  Miracle in Cell #7, a family drama directed by Nuel Naval and starring Aga Muhlach and Bela Padilla (originally, Nadine Lustre who backed out recently due to medical reasons), 2) Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity, a family comedy directed by Linnet Zurbano and starring Vic Sotto and Maine Mendoza, 3) The Mall, The Merrier (aka Momalland), a fantasy movie directed by Barry Gonzales and starring Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis, and 4) Sunod (which replaced the Kris Aquino-starrer Kampon) a film directed by Carlo Ledesma starring Carmina Villaroel and Mylene Dizon. These entries are purportedly selected based on the submitted scripts. The final four entries are chosen based on the finished product. Also, in July, a “second MMFF” was proposed by MMFF Executive Committee Member Senator and the president’s ongoing aide (ed) Bong Go. It has been announced today that MMFF Summer Edition will take place starting 2020. 
Notable exclusions

ISA PANG BAHAGHARI (Joel Lamangan) starring Nora Aunor, Phillip Salvador, and Michael De Mesa failed to make the cut, which is quite a shocker as this has been hyped since its inception. 
Eclipsing artistry

Originally, Metro Manila Film Festival was a 9-day film event to commemorate the third year of Martial Law. The Augusto Buenaventura-megged/Joseph Estrada-starrer Diligin Mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa won the first ever festival Best Picture. MMFF is also said to have ignited more the film rivalry between Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos, which reached its tipping point when the former won the singular Best Performer award at the 1978 MMFF edition for Eddie Garcia’s Atsay.
Through the years, the MMFF has earned the ire of critics and cineastes for being just another platform for big commercial films to lord over the audiences and box office, thereby eclipsing the artistic and creative merits of more deserved submissions.   It should be noted and cannot be denied that MMFF also ushered in the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema when films like Lupita Concio’s Minsa’y isang Gamu-Gamo, Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon, Lino Brocka’s Insiang were produced and submitted to the 1976 MMFF edition, sweeping all the awards.
However, in 1983, on its 9th edition, MMFF started getting controversial for their decisions when Lino Brocka (“Hot Property”) lost the Best Director award to Willy Millan “Bago Kumalat ang Kamandag.” And it was further degraded, when the quartet of thespians from Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s seminal classic film Karnal, including Phillip Salvador, Vic Silayan, Charito Solis, and Cecille Castillo received zero-wins.
MMFF has always been marred by controversies, if not completely disgraces. While a surprise upset is sometimes a welcome retuning (Baldo Marro winning both Best Actor and Best Director for Patrolman in 1988), it also stirred a defeating thought when the selected entries could not even be half-digested to merit a default victory (all four major awards were deemed unbestowable among the 1994 finalists).  On the other hand, as “open-mindedness” was given a slight chance to arrest the pressure and clamor that previous “basura” editions had garnered, an “indie-only” week was given to the very well-reviewed 2016 edition. However, the abysmally low-turnout was deemed attributable to this sudden “audacity” which prompted the next year’s edition to return to its traditional “qualification.”
From Nora, Brocka, to Vice Ganda

Vice Ganda movies have already been synonymous to MMFF top-grossing comedy, regardless of their dubious artistry. This year, the “unkabogable” star, is bannering yet another surefire comic-hit with the fantasy movie The Mall, The Merrier to be directed by Barry Gonzales (Fangirl Fanboy, Fantastica). The Showtime main host will team up with co-host, Anne Curtis.
Back in the day, MMFF means you either are rooting for a Nora movie or a Brocka-directed melodrama. Both legendary in their respective cinematic departments, Aunor and Brocka had fielded numerous entries through the years. But as Brocka passed in 1991, and Aunor in the twilight of her box-office career – MMFF has not, unfortunately, become a free-for-all ball, not just for the stars, but mostly in essence a competition among studio film producers. While independent film productions, once in a while, would make the cut – it is curious to state that supposedly even a laissez-faire like MMFF could not afford in their mandate to protect them to play the fair game. 

Published by Dale Bacar

DALE BACAR is a Manila-based blogger who also dabbles a bit into photography during his free time. An online freelancer by trade, Dale travels where there is internet connection so he can work and play (mostly with his imaginary friends) at the same time. He studied Film & Audio-Visual Communication at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

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