Focus on Philippine cinema: Popular fantasy action-adventure tops Metro Manila Film Festival
James Cameron’s Avatar, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, Chris Weitz’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 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, John Cusack, and Robert Downey Jr. don’t stand a chance is the capital of the Philippines, which is currently hosting the 2009/2010 Metro Manila Film Festival.
In the next 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 popular appeal, are being screened at movie houses in Manila’s metropolitan area.
This year’s big winner, announced on Dec. 28 – three days into the festival, so as to generate more box office buzz – is Mac Alejandre’s special-effects-laden action-adventure fantasy Ang Panday (“The Blacksmith”), starring Filipino politician (Senator) Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. in the title role. (See full list of Metro Manila Film Festival winners further below.)
Politician/movie star named Best Actor
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 Ring 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 represent 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 2009/2010 Metro Manila Film Festival’s top grosser, with P80.8 million ($1.75 million) up to Jan. 2.
Latest ‘Mano Po’ entry is another Metro Manila favorite
Other 2009/2010 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 sixth installment in the Mano Po franchise.
In this entry, Cuneta plays a rags-to-billions, half-Chinese, half-Filipino widow who is intent on retrieving the affection of estranged daughter Evangelista.
Strangely, Best Director and Best Screenplay winner Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love 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.
Vampire hit ‘Ang Darling’ + 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 ($1.65 million).
- Laurice Guillen’s romantic melodrama I Love You, Goodbye, starring Gabby Concepcion, Angelica Panganiban, Derek Ramsey, and Kim Chiu, with P69.8 million ($1.51 million).
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).
Some left unimpressed
Even though the actors and titles showcased at the Metro Manila Film Festival may be familiar to Filipino audiences, not everyone is impressed with the festival’s 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),” writes 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 [Dec. 1980, as per the IMDb].”
There’s more: 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.”
The 2009/2010 Metro Manila Film Festival runs until Jan. 8. See below this year’s list of winners.
See also: “2010/2011 Metro Manila Film Festival Controversies: Jennylyn Mercado Snub + Catholics vs. Father Jejemon Child Abuse Subplot.”
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.
Dubai Film Festival winners: Palestinian psycho-political drama & ‘Lola’
The winners at the 2009 edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which ran Dec. 9–16, were split into two sections: Arab and Asia-Africa cinema. The top narrative feature in each section was, respectively, Michel Khleifi’s Zindeeq and Brillante Mendoza’s Grandmother / Lola.
A Palestinian / British / United Arab Emirates co-production, Zindeeq (an approximate translation would be “Muslim hypocrite”) tells the story of a Palestinian filmmaker and European resident, “M” (Mohammad Bakri), who returns to Ramallah to film witness accounts of the 1948 expulsion of ethnic Arabs from what eventually became Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Going back and forth in time and inside/outside M’s head, Zindeeq also traces the one-letter-named filmmaker’s involvement in today’s issues, as his nephew has killed a man in Nazareth.
Grandsons & death connect two ‘lolas’
A French-Philippine co-production, Lola depicts the relationship between two elderly women (“lola” means “grandmother” in Tagalog) and their respective grandsons: one a murderer, the other his victim.
Anita Linda, a veteran with more than 300 film credits since the 1940s, and Rustica Carpio, another veteran whose film career dates back to the mid-1970s, play the two lolas.
The Best Arab Documentary was Zeina Daccache’s 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary, in which theater director turned filmmaker Daccache documents her staging of Lebanon’s first prison-set theatrical project, Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men – here featuring a cast of inmates and renamed 12 Angry Lebanese.
More Dubai winners: World’s largest garbage ‘village’ + female characters facing difficulties
The Dubai Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize went to Mai Iskander’s Garbage Dreams, about two teenagers earning a living in the trash trade in the largest garbage “village” in the world, located in the outskirts of Cairo.
In the Arab section, the Best Actor was Said Bey for The Man Who Sold the World, while Nisreen Faour was chosen Best Actress for her performance as a Palestinian immigrant in the United States in Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka.
In the Asia-Africa section, the Best Actor was Iran’s Hasan Pourshirazi for Mohammad Rasoulof’s dramatic fantasy The White Meadows, while South Africa’s Denise Newman was Best Actress for Shirley Adams, in which she plays an unemployed mother whose son (Keenan Arrison) has become paralyzed after being shot.
Metro Manila Film Festival website.
Dubai Film Festival website.
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.
Anita Linda Grandmother / Lola image: Swift Productions.
“Metro Manila Film Festival: Action-Fantasy Starring Actor-Politician Tops Controversial Fest” last updated in March 2018.