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MMFF 2016: The Rise of Filipino Indie Films

With a history dating as far back as 1897, the Philippine film industry is considered to be one of the oldest in Southeast Asia.


The Philippines – being a nation that loves entertainment, quickly embraced this new art form during the 30s. Realism brought on by the second world war became popular during the 40s with tales of heroism and bravery. After only 20 years of being recognized as a medium for art, the 50s became the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema due to significant improvement in cinematic techniques all throughout the 60s. It became a different story during the 70s and 80s where film suffered a steady decline but this brought on a new genre of independent films, all the way to the 90s. From a record high of 200 films a year, we have come down to a meager to 56 in 2006, and 30 in 2007.

With new forms of entertainment provided for by technology and the Internet, the Philippine film industry is dying. As bleak as it may seem, 2016 seems to be a promising year in the industry with the announcement of Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) entries. Considered as the underdogs of entertainment, indie films are now dominating mainstream media because of their unique take on story-telling, deep but relatable characters, and a fresh perspective in contrast to cookie-cutter, pa-cute movies.

The State of Indie Films in the Philippines

Indie or independent films have been floating around the movie industry since the 80s. Productions with little to no studio backing, these films are a refresher of today’s sensationalized media. With no big stars, no Derek Ramsey and his kabit, no Jadine, no Aldub, and almost no media exposure, these films rely only on skill, talent, and creativity which leaves only pure artistry.

However, when you say “indie films” most Filipinos would assume Coco Martin doing the do with another guy. Sadly, indie films don’t need to have sex scenes to be considered “trendy”. Take for example Baboy Halas, Wailings of the Forest by Bagane Fiola, Bem Di Lera, Janna Moya, Joel Geolamen, Mark Limbaga, Raphael Meting, and Willie Apa Jr. which follows the life of an indigenous family and their struggles to survive the changing environment, lifestyle, and customs of the Philippines. Another great example is Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno in 2012 which follows the tale of two teenage boys being hunted by a vigilante group. Though it did not rake in profits for the staff, it bagged two major prizes from the Venice International Film Festival which were enough to cover production costs.

The idea of indie films is not for fame or money but for a fresh perspective. If these two were the prime motivators for indie film makers, the art form would have died out a long time ago. For many indie productions, creating films was about expression, raising consciousness, creativity and perfecting the art. It’s about time that we break free from the norms and explore how creative we Filipinos can be using this medium.

MMFF Entries for 2016- A New Hope for the Filipino Film Industry

Change is coming. Even for the Philippine film industry, change is happening. The recent MMFF announcement of entries for this year caught many people off guard. In the past, many Filipinos get annoyed over the fact that for two weeks, you couldn’t watch Hollywood movies in theaters because of MMFF but this year, it’s different.

In contrast to previous years, the MMFF committee led by UP Professor Nick Tiongson chose a whole array of films based technical excellence, and not by star power. That means this year, LizQuen, JaDine, and AlDub will not be in the spotlight but actors, actresses, and directors that most Filipinos seldom hear on TV.


Here are the entries for #MMFF2016:

● Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverisNotEnough directed by Marlon Rivera starring Eugene Domingo, Jericho Rosales, Kean Cipriano, Khalil Ramos, and Cai Cortez.
● Die Beautiful by Jun Robles Lana with cast Paolo Ballesteros, Joel Torre, Gladys Reyes, Luis Alandy, Albie Casiño, and Iza Calzado.
● Kabisera directed by Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido starring Ms. Nora Aunor , Ricky Davao, JC De Vera,Luis Alandy, Jason Abalos, and RJ Agustin.
● Oro by Alvin Yapan with cast Irma Adlawan, Mercedes Cabral, and Joem Bascom
● Saving Sally directed by Avid Liongoren starring Rhian Ramos and Enzo Marcos.
● Seklusyon by Erik Matti starred by Rhed Bustamante, Phoebe Walker, Elora Espano, Neil Ryan Sese, Ronnie Alonte, Lou Veloso, Dominique Roque, John Vic De Guzman, and JR Versales
● Sunday Beauty Queen by Babyruth Villarama Gutierrez with Hazel Perdido, Cherrie Mae Bretana, Mylyn Jacobo, Leo Selomenio, and Rudelyn Acosta.
● Vince & Kath & James directed by Ted Boborol starring Julia Barretto, Joshua Garcia, and Ronnie Alonte.

Although there are a few mainstream actors, these are definitely a new take to the boring, repetitive, rom-coms from Star Cinema, Regal Films, or some other big-time studio. But many veteran journalists are not sure if it would make the “Box Office Cut” that many big films can secure because of cast popularity. The MMFF needs to earn millions in order to help beneficiaries such as the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Movie Workers Welfare Fund (Mowelfund), and the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) to name a few.

Though many are skeptical, the new MMFF committee certainly did a great job in choosing this year’s film entries.

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