A Paradigm Shift

Over the past few years, the Filipino film industry has been stuck in a ceaseless cycle of producing a passable movie, usually romantic or slapstick comedy in nature, then releasing it to the public in the hopes of being the highest-grossing film amongst local competition.

In other words, film producers are grounded by commercial viability. Upon the surmise that Filipinos do not want to be challenged while watching a movie, they create feel-good films that easily attract the Filipino mass audience.

However, 2016 sparked a paradigm shift in the Filipino film industry: out with the mainstream and in with the independent scene. This change was spearheaded by the new Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) executive committee which directed its objective towards the emphasis on artistic excellence andproduction of quality films.

Yet with change comes unfamiliarity, which is probably why MMFF 2016 earned significantly less this year — a meager PHP 373 million compared to last year’s PHP 1.02 billion. But having watched all but one of the eight entries though, I couldn’t help but agree with the MMFF board’s statement regarding its new benchmark for the festival: “You cannot put a price [on] something which the future generations of Filipinos will find priceless and ageless.”

The argument for commercial viability stands on the idea that Filipinos’ minds are only capable of ingesting a certain range of movie genres. Instead, we must establish the mindset that as the film industry presents us with a broader range of film choices, the Filipino audience also develops and broadens their understanding of movie craftsmanship.

The artistic revolution of last year’s MMFF is relevant because it provided a platform for film producers who think outside the box and create more meaningful films at the expense of commercial success; hopefully, this will leave a lasting influence on future films.

It encourages the creation of stories that are fresh, relevant, and insightful. From Die Beautiful’s enthralling story about the life and death of a transgender woman to Seklusyon’s hard-hitting message about false messiahs in our society, one cannot deny that we have taken our first step out of our bubble of escapism.

This is exactly why the recent MMFF came as a surprise to people. Of course, being stuck with the idealism of escapism and lucrativeness, one would expect another Vice Ganda film or an Enteng Kabisote movie, yet here we are with novel films that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also socially relevant and intellectually stimulating.

As we slowly shatter this cycle of mediocre blockbuster films, we are also slowly learning to take risks essential for this paradigm shift: for us patrons to challenge our minds, and for film producers to break the status quo that the industry has set.