Metro Manila Film Fest should be renamed

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By now everyone should have known that a beautiful movie like Thy Womb was pulled out of nearly all the theaters because of low sales. Going through comments and debates regarding the commercialism that pervades our Philippine film industry, it alarms me to notice that a good number of Filipinos have forgotten what the word “festival” stood for. Many argue that the director should have known his target market (you serious?) and that this should be solely based on economics.

I had to endure the absence of Les Misérables in the theaters because of these money-related arguments? Let me just get my beef out of my system so that I can end the year in a positive note (with a review at Sarimanok.ph).

(Poster of Thy Womb from the official FB page, an internationally acclaimed film that embarrassingly flopped in the Philippines.)

On the argument that “the director should have known his target audience.” 
(Again, you serious??) This is a festival, not a marketing pitch. The goal of festivals, particularly art-related festivals, is TO EDUCATE, reflect culture and to elevate discourse. In a festival, making money should be secondary, not primary. Director Brillante Ma Mendoza did not complain about low sales, he complained about the pulling out of this entry when festivals should run everything until the event is over. By allowing the removal of Thy Womb in theaters we are telling the world that our culture is Enteng Kabisote.

On the argument that this should be solely based on economics 
If you argue about letting people’s wallets decide, well…my wallet wanted to spend on Les Misérables...was I given a choice in this matter? Philippine cinema has the entire year to showcase trash movies, but when you require a month-long government mandated banning of non-festival movies, you better make sure that it is a TRUE festival that reflects our country’s culture.

On the argument that the entertainment industry exists solely for fun and its goal is not to educate 
As a member of the Philippine entertainment/creative industry, this is insulting to me on so many levels I can’t even begin to imagine where to start. Artists are rarely taken seriously because people think we do things for fun and we are all just here to provide mindless entertainment. Let me give you an example of how it’s like: Whenever my parents introduce me to a friend, they always introduce me as the daughter who has a PhD. They never mention my day job so people immediately assume that I am jobless. If my dad weren’t the sweetest dad in the world, I would think that he is embarrassed that I make video games for a living (but I know he’s not like that). Our problem here is that it is difficult to explain to friends and family what we do because in the traditional Filipino eyes, working in the entertainment industry is not a real job.

And then you read comments that say we shouldn’t be out to educate but just provide mindless entertainment, which basically validates what everyone thinks of us. When you tell someone that you work in the entertainment industry, the first reaction is, “Wow, sarap naman ng buhay mo.” Not knowing that many of us stay awake and slave away for 20-24 hours for days on end, trying to perfect our craft so that we could provide you with values-driven entertainment that you will remember for as long as you can.

One thing most Filipinos should realize is this: MEDIA has such a profound impact on our daily living, our relationships, our culture, and the kind of discourses we produce. We have a huge social responsibility and it’s a responsibility many of us take seriously, hence the number of people that choose to go indie instead of mainstream.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate shallow movies (i.e. Twilight) because it is true what they say about shallow movies being wonderful means of escaping the stress of daily living. But if we are to improve our deplorable third world conditions, we can’t escape all the time. An annual film festival should allow us to reflect within ourselves so that we may find solutions. Movies like Enteng Kabisote should have no place in a true festival, not in the cultural sense. Just give us this month, please. Otherwise, give this event another title.

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