Focus on Philippine cinema: Fantasy action-adventure starring actor-politician tops Metro Manila Film Festival
James Cameron’s Avatar, Chris Weitz’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, and Roland Emmerich’s 2012 may be the movies currently at the top of most box office charts the world over. But one place where Sam Worthington, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Robert Downey Jr., and John Cusack don’t stand a chance is the capital of the Philippines, which is currently hosting the 2009–10 Metro Manila Film Festival.
For a couple of weeks – more specifically, from Dec. 25 to Jan. 8 – only the seven movies in competition at the festival, all Philippine productions with (relatively speaking) sizable budgets and (supposedly) popular appeal, are being screened at movie houses in Manila’s metropolitan area.
Announced on Dec. 28 – a mere three days into the festival, so as to generate more box office buzz – Metro Manila’s big winner turned out to be Mac Alejandre’s Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), a special-effects-laden mix of action, adventure, and European-inspired legends. Filipino politician (Senator) Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. stars in the title role. (See full list of Metro Manila Film Festival winners further below.)
The Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter meets Excalibur
A remake of star/director Fernando Poe Jr.’s 1980 Philippine cinema classic – itself based on Carlos J. Caparas’ decades-old comics – Ang Panday features plenty of visual effects à la most Hollywood movies (albeit more modestly conceived, under the supervision of Rico Gutierrez), flying monsters à la the Harry Potter movies, medieval fortresses à la The Lord of the Rings movies, and a magic sword à la the one found in John Boorman’s Excalibur and Walt Disney’s The Sword in the Stone.
Besides its Best Picture win, Ang Panday earned Ramon Revilla Jr. the Best Actor award, while veteran Phillip Salvador, who had played the Blacksmith in the 2005 TV series Panday, was named Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the evil wizard Lizardo.
Of note: Since a movie’s box office represents about 50 percent of its award-worthiness, it should be no surprise that Ang Panday was chosen Best Film. With revenues estimated at more than P20 million (approx. $430,000)*, Revilla Jr.’s star vehicle led the Metro Manila Film Festival’s box office in its first three days.
* Jan. 4 update: As found in the Manila Bulletin, Ang Panday remains the 2009–10 Metro Manila Film Festival’s top grosser, with P80.8 million ($1.75 million) up to Jan. 2.
Latest Mano Po entry is another festival favorite
Other Metro Manila Film Festival winners include Best Director Joel Lamangan, Best Actress Sharon Cuneta, Best Supporting Actress Heart Evangelista, and Best Screenwriter Roy Iglesias – all for the drama Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love, the latest installment in the Mano Po [“Your Hand, Please”] franchise.
In this entry, Cuneta plays a half-Chinese, half-Filipino rags-to-billions widow who is intent on retrieving the affections of estranged daughter Evangelista.
Strangely, this Best Director and Best Screenplay winner not only failed to be named Best Picture but it also failed to be selected as Metro Manila’s 2nd Best Picture or even 3rd Best Picture. (See further below.)
Vampire hit + Manny Pacquiao bomb
For the record, the Metro Manila Film Festival’s box office runners-up (up to Jan. 2) are the following:
- Tony Y. Reyes’ vampire comedy Ang Darling Kong Aswang, starring popular comedian Vic Sotto and Cristine Reyes (as far as we can tell, no relation to the filmmaker) as a sort of female version of Robert Pattinson’s Twilight/New Moon character. Ang Darling Kong Aswang has collected P76 million ($1.7 million).
- Laurice Guillen’s I Love You, Goodbye, with P69.8 million ($1.5 million). Featuring heartbreak, death, and lots of attitude, this romantic melodrama chronicles the emotional travails of Lizelle (Angelica Panganiban), a young woman who becomes involved with a wealthy surgeon (Gabby Concepcion) whose daughter (Kim Chiu) hates her. If that weren’t all, the obnoxious youngster is having an affair with her would-be stepmother’s former lover (Derek Ramsey).
Of the festival’s seven films, the one box office disaster has been boxer Manny Pacquiao’s fantasy flick Wapakman, which has grossed a paltry P2 million ($43,000).
‘Creatively bankrupt’ franchises
Even though the Metro Manila Film Festival’s stars and titles may be familiar to Filipino audiences, not everyone has been pleased with the selections.
“Creatively bankrupt film franchises, aging box office kings without heir apparent and an awards[-]giving body made superfluous by box office receipts – this is what awaits moviegoers at the 35th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF),” griped the Manila Times’ Rome Jorge.
Jorge adds that the popular Shake, Rattle & Roll film series is on its 11th installment since its launch in 1984, Mano Po: A Mother’s Tale is on its sixth since 2002, while the current remake of Ang Panday “is no less than the ninth since its first showing in 1981 [December 1980, as per several online sources].”
He goes on: The Metro Manila festival “is organized and adjudged by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – a government agency tasked with engineering infrastructure with no artistic credentials.”
As found in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Metro Manila Film Festival’s criteria for the Best Picture award are the following:
“Artistry, creativity and technical excellence, innovation and global appeal, 40 percent; box office earnings in the first three days (Dec. 25–27), 50 percent; and Filipino, cultural and/or historical value, 10 percent.”
See below this year’s list of winners.
Metro Manila Film Festival winners
Best Picture: Ang Panday.
2nd Best Picture: I Love You, Goodbye.
3rd Best Picture: Ang Darling Kong Aswang.
Best Director: Joel Lamangan, Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Actress: Sharon Cuneta, Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Actor: Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Ang Panday.
Best Supporting Actress: Heart Evangelista, Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Supporting Actor: Phillip Salvador, Ang Panday.
Best Screenwriter: Roy Iglesias, Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Original Story: Vanessa Valdez, Kriz Gazmen, Anna Karenina Ramos, I Love You, Goodbye.
Best Cinematography: Lee Briones-Meily, I Love You, Goodbye.
Best Film Editor: Manet Dayrit, I Love You, Goodbye.
Best Musical Score: Von De Guzman, Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Original Theme Song: “Ang Panday” by Ogie Alcasid, Ang Panday.
Best Production Design: Ang Panday.
Best Special Effects: Jay Santiago, Ang Panday.
Best Sound Recording: Mike Idioma, Ang Panday.
Best Make-Up: Noel Flores, Shake, Rattle and Roll XI.
Antonio Villegas Cultural Award: Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love.
Best Child Performer: Buboy Villar, Ang Panday.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dolphy.
“Metro Manila Film Festival” endnotes
Metro Manila Film Festival Facebook page.
Metro Manila Film Festival winners via TV Marathon.
Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. Ang Panday image: GMA Films | Imus Productions.
Kim Chiu, Derek Ramsey, Gabby Concepcion, and Angelica Panganiban I Love You, Goodbye image: Star Cinema.
“Metro Manila Film Festival: Tried-and-True Franchises & Reboots” last updated in March 2022.