By Tonyo Cruz
Going by their Christmas Day bad behavior, the country’s biggest malls may no longer feature in their cinemas any or all of the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival film entries by today, Dec. 27, the third day of the festival.
Their apologists say that is all good and legal, because these malls are principally businesses and they have every right to choose which movies to screen in their cinemas.
Never mind that in previous years, these malls featured only MMFF entries. Now, all of a sudden, they hide behind “freedom” and “rights.” How pathetic.
What the Actors’ Guild, Concerned Artists, and Filipino indie movie champions have long wanted to impart is now a lesson given us by mall owners who control the most and largest screens in the country: It doesn’t end with producing good movies; they also have to struggle to get the movies on screen.
We all remember how mall owners sought to murder “Heneral Luna” again, right? They thought that we didn’t care about an indie film about a revolutionary hero. Wrong thought.
We saw the attempted murder of “Heneral Luna” by a rogue band of mall owners, and we raised a howl that was heard throughout the ages. The general would have been utterly proud of what we said and did, and by the fact that the movie that honored him became one of the iconic movies of 2015 and perhaps this decade.
And the attempted murders of good Filipino movies are about to happen again, with mall owners deciding for and on behalf of moviegoers even before they get to the takilyera.
As what many of us found out on Christmas Day, these “honest and hardworking entrepreneurs” chose to screen non-MMFF local and foreign films in many of their screens. If they showed any MMFF films at all, they already made the choice which of the eight entries were to “win” in the box office.
It is not impossible that the mall owners may have conspired with big local movie producers and big foreign film distributors in this boycott and sabotage of the MMFF. They do business together for most of the year. They have a stake in not “rocking the boat” – the boat that carried only big local movies of the worst kind and big foreign films whose budgets could smother the competition. It is the boat that transparently refuses – and opposes – the rise of new and better Filipino movies.
This repulsive attitude toward Filipino creators, artists and moviegoers wakes up the patriotism and common-sense of the public. It brings up the idea that it takes an entire nation to build a new and great movie industry. It is a herculean effort that includes visionary producers, outstanding artists, a supportive audience, and, finally, screens that welcome a changing movie-watching experience. The mall owners are evidently not doing their part and we are in the right to call them out for it.
These mall owners cannot credibly claim that any or all of the MMFF entries are not “commercially viable.” That’s the line of their friends: the big local movie producers. By not featuring any or all the MMFF entries, they alone or in cahoots with their friends, made that decision about the alleged lack of commercial viability. How can something they refused to show on screen “bomb at the box office”?
As what the “Heneral Luna” experience taught us, we have to summon the squad and make it a squad goal to win the battle for a good movie. In this case, make that right good movies.
Many are doing everything they can to promote all the MMFF entries, with some unleashing campaigns that rightly needle and denounce the mall owners for their outrageous behavior.
The worst that could happen is that most of the MMFF entries would be pulled out of the cinemas even before the MMFF awards night, and the mall owners and their friends proclaim the failure of the MMFF 2016 experiment.
Yes, the rogue ones would declare the likes of Super Parental Guardians, Enteng Kabisote, and Mano Po as the acme of Filipino movies and crown Rogue One as the ultimate victor. They would stop us from the change we seek, and defeat the dreamers and trailblazers in the Filipino film industry.
As in politics, the rogue ones depend on huge doses of love of mediocrity, public cynicism, apathy, and colonial mentality to swing this. It is easier for them because the entire system backs them up institutionally, financially, ideologically. Heck, they are part of the system! They’re a pillar of the ideological apparatus that imparts those same negative values and wrongfully brands them as Filipino.
Mae Paner a.k.a. Juana Change is right. In a Facebook post, she wrote about the sabotage and slander against MMFF: “When change is threatened, we get out of our comfort zones to save it.” The pleasant surprises of MMFF 2016 demand that we watch these Filipino movies. The rogue ones don’t want us to see them or view us as too stupid to patronize them? We must watch them.
Yes, watch “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2,” “Die Beautiful,” “Kabisera,” “Oro,” “Saving Sally,” “Seklusyon,” “Sunday Beauty Queen,” and “Vince&Kath&James.”
As the adage teaches us, wag tayong magpakain sa sistema. Let’s challenge the system by watching all the MMFF 2016 movies. Let it be an act of rebellion and subversion against the old rogue ones, and an expression of faith in the new bright future for our movies and for our country.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz and check out my blog tonyocruz.com