THRILLMAKER: MMFF pandemic edition 2.0

Published December 19, 2021, 7:13 AM

by Joee Guilas

Metro Manila Film Festival

The COVID-19 pandemic has somehow forced people to embrace new ways of doing what were once considered “normal” things. Such truth now rings true even in one of the Filipinos’ most awaited Christmas traditions, specifically, their annual movie viewing habit with the family, the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Owing to the still highly-uncertain COVID realities in 2020, the MMFF went fully virtual last year, which did not rake in the profits that producers initially envisioned for their entries. Mass reproduction and widespread piracy of the participating films spoiled last year’s movie fiesta and served as a disincentive to filmmakers.

Now that things are starting to get better, with the virus’ tapering number of cases finally bringing the country to a more lenient Alert Level 2 status and “re-opening” the economy is once again becoming a popular buzzword, the film festival will be making a comeback to the cinemas, regardless of the limited seating capacities still being imposed inside movie houses. Despite such a comeback, this year’s festival is still a redesign from the old model and is, thus, a second attempt to find a new normal for the activity.

This year’s edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival breaks its own traditions in two counts: first, it is the first time ever for the MMFF to hold its Parade of Stars on water; and second, this is also the first time that such parade happened five days earlier than its Dec. 24 launch.

MMFF Spokesperson Noel Ferrer explains why the organizers of this year’s festival ended up with a decision to hold a fluvial parade instead of its traditional Roxas Boulevard motorcade.

“Ang tubig ay buhay. Water symbolizes life and in our case it can also stand for the return of Filipino movies to cinemas,” he explains. However, aside from being symbolic, the decision to hold it on the Pasig River also serves a practical reason: The MMDA management recognizes how a land-based parade can potentially cause traffic, especially now that we are experiencing a holiday rush. Aggravating the traffic situation is also something that we’re trying to prevent.”

Instead of having to wait for Christmas Eve to see participating movie stars in person, the 2021 parade was calendared for Dec. 19 or almost a week before its usual schedule.

“Wala lang, ginawa lang naming talagang mas maaga para hindi ngarag, Gusto rin naming maiwasan yung kumpulan ng tao kaya mas maaga na lang ang parada para disimulado dami ng tao,” Ferrer adds.

This year’s parade featured ferry boats which served as floats carrying celebrities of official movie entries in this year’s film festival. In a statement, MMDA Chair Benhur Abalos says : “The fluvial parade showcases the ferry service and at the same time encourage the public to ride the agency-operated Pasig River Ferry’ Service, an alternative transportation across Metro Manila. Aside from this, he believes: The fluvial parade also highlights the ferry service and at the same time encourages the public to ride the agency-operated Pasig River Ferry Service, an alternative transportation across Metro Manila, sailing from Pinagbuhatan in Pasig to Intramuros in Manila.”

The parade started from Guadalupe Ferry Station and went straight eastbound to before C-5 Bagong Ilog Bridge. It took a U-turn, stop at the Pasig City side, and then straight to Makati Circuit which became the endpoint.

MMFF 2021 will showcase a diverse line-up of eight movies, ranging from social drama, horror, action, suspense, romance, to comedy horror starting Christmas Day until Jan. 8, 2022. Among the films to be featured are: A Hard Day (featuring Dingdong Dantes and John Arcilla); Big Night (starring Christian Bables); Huling Ulan sa Tag-Araw (Ken Chan and Rita Daniela); Huwag Kang Lalabas (starring Kim Chiu, Aiko Melendez and Beauty Gonzales); Kun Maupay Man-it Panahon (starring Ms. Charo Santos-Concio); Love At First Stream (Kaori Oinuma, Jeremiah Lisbo); Nelia (starring WinWyn Marquez and Raymond Bagatsing); and The Exorsis (featuring Toni and Alex Gonzaga).