A look back at some of the most iconic movies from the MMFF

Published December 21, 2021, 11:10 AM

by John Legaspi

You either love them or you don’t

Twitter may have a short allowance for characters per tweet but it surely doesn’t lack things to talk about. To further explore a topic, Twitter users have used the thread to connect more information, concepts, and updates that are related to their previous tweets. And back in December 2017, one thread gained viral status as it talks about the yearly demonstration of Philippine cinema during the holiday season, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

With millions of audiences heading to malls to celebrate Christmas, getting Filipinos to the cinemas wasn’t the problem then. The issue for many critics and cinephiles lies in the quality of the film being presented to the Filipino audience. They believe that viewers should be immersed to a more diverse lineup of Filipino films that are masterfully crafted with a goal that goes beyond just entertainment, which the Twitter thread also stands for.

“Using the ‘masa’ as the excuse to produce subpar films is a disservice to the Filipino audience. We all deserve better films,” Twitter user @staennis tweeted. “The MMFF has so many things going for it: government subsidy and wide audience reach. This is supposed to be the chance for [the] industry’s top dogs to present what we, as a people, can produce. Bears repeating, over and over again, that it has devolved into a cash cow. Nothing more.”

In the past years, genres like comedies and rom-coms have been dominating the festival’s roster. In 2016, a different set was introduced featuring a documentary, a live-action-animation combo film, an LGBT flick, and a sociopolitical movie. But that was short-lived, especially with its gross ticket sales going from a billion (2015) to a few million (2016).

Before we enter a new cinematic season with the MMFF this year, let’s take a retrospective look at some of the best Filipino films that have been presented at the festival, proving that the MMFF has a significant “role and place in the cultural landscape” and if it is seen as just a holiday money-making machine, it would be a wasted opportunity in enriching the way Filipinos see local movies and in supporting the people behind them.

Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?’ (1976)

A period drama directed by Eddie Romero, “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?” centers its story on the life of an indio named Kulas and his adventures meeting people and discovering his true identity.

‘Insiang’ (1976)

Viewers are taken to the slums of Tondo, Manila in Lino Brocka’s “Insiang.” The film adaptation of a teleplay presents Insiang, a victim of sexual assault and betrayal, going on her way to seek revenge.

‘Burlesk Queen’ (1977)

A story of an assistant turned star of the night, Celso Ad. Castillo’s “Burlesk Queen” presents a risque view and “tackles women’s agency using burlesque.”

Himala’ (1982)

Set in a believed to be a cursed town of Cupang, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” presents Elsa, a girl who witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary, and became the town’s faith healer.

‘Magic Temple’ (1996)

This fantasy-adventure film by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes depicts a quest of three boys as they try to save the world of Samadhi from the evil forces of Ravenal.

Muro-Ami’ (1999)

Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s film dives deep into the world of 150 muro-ami divers and their illegal fishing practices, from coral destruction to child labor.

‘Markova: Comfort Gay’ (2001)

Loosely on the life of Walter Dempster Jr., Gil M. Portes’ biographical film follows the life of Markova, the last surviving Filipino “comfort gay” during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

Tanging Yaman’ (2001)

Laurice Guillen brings a story about three siblings distanced both physically and emotionally and uncovers familial drama and love with “Tanging Yaman.”

Dekada ‘70’ (2002)

Hailed from the pages the novel of the same name by Lualhati Bautista, Chito S. Roño’s “Dekada ‘70” presents a family story during the time of the Marcos regime.

Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo‘ (2006)

Jose Javier Reyes creates a motion picture about the modern Filipino relationship, how lovers that are total opposites work together in their married life, with family intrusions on the side.

‘RPG: Metanoia’ (2010)

Luis C. Suárez’s “RPG Metanoia” is the first full-length Philippine animated movie presented in 3D at the MMFF, and presents a story where a virtual game collides with the real world.

‘Thy Womb’ (2012)

Directed by Brillante Medoza, “Thy Womb” gives a glimpse of the life of a Tausug midwife, who, after helping in many childbirth, doesn’t have any children of her own.

‘Saving Sally’ (2016)

Filled with great visual effects but doesn’t fall short on the story, Avid Liongoren’s debut film merges live-action and animation styles and creates artful images depicting themes such as escapism and physical abuse.

‘Die Beautiful’ (2016)

Jun Lana presents the story of Trisha, a trans woman who died during her crowning moment in a pageant. Throughout the duration of her wake, she transforms into different gay icons with the help of her friends as details of her life come to light.

Seklusyon’ (2016)

Just when you think you’re safe in the house of the Lord, Erik Matti brings new thrills far more horrifying than just jump scares courtesy of an unlikely antagonist in “Seklusyon.”

‘Sunday Beauty Queen’ (2016)

Baby Ruth Villarama’s documentary follows the lives of Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong and their annual beauty pageant.

Ang Larawan’ (2017)

Adapted from iconic stage plays, Loy Arcenas’ musical film presents two sisters in the 1940s trying to sell their father’s masterpiece to save their mansion in Manila.

‘Rainbow’s Sunset’ (2018)

A different coming out story is played in Joel Lamangan’s “Rainbow Sunset” with an 84-year-old man owning his gay narrative to take care of his cancer-stricken lover.

‘Fan Girl ‘(2020)

To stan or not to stan, that is a question Antoinette Jadaone uncovers in the movie “Fan Girl,” where an obsessed teenage girl discovers the good and the bad about her idol.

‘Magikland’ (2020)

Wrapping this list is Christian Acuña’s fantasy film “Magikland,” where four kids are transported to the magical world of an online game and are destined to save the magic kingdom.