What are the wonderful movies of the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival?

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Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

Many Filipino traditions revolve around the Christmas season. Family get-togethers, carol singing, gift exchanges, and other traditions abound over the holiday season. Thanks to fiber home internet, we still get to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones anywhere in the world amidst the pandemic.

The annual Metro Manila Film Festival is another Christmas tradition that has become ingrained in Philippine culture over the years. Only Filipino films are shown in theaters from Christmas Day to the first week of January during the MMFF, making it one of the country’s most well-known celebrations of Filipino cinema. The 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival will take place from December 25 to January 7 in 2021. Last year’s event was conducted entirely online due to the outbreak. MMFF, on the other hand, will make a cinematic comeback this year.

Before we delve into the competing entries this year, let’s get to know more about the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Metro Manila Film Festival History

It began in the early months of 1966, when Mayor Antonio Villegas, the city mayor at the time, launched and established the event. During its inception, it was known as the Manila Film Festival or the Manila Tagalog Film Festival, but it was subsequently renamed to Metro Manila Film Festival under the Marcos dictatorship.

It is an annual film festival held in Metro Manila that celebrates and promotes various Filipino films over the course of 12 days. The approach is patriotic since it aids and promotes the country’s own cinema rather than allowing it to be overshadowed by foreign and Hollywood productions. Furthermore, international films are not eligible for entry into the festival, and foreign films are not permitted to be shown in theaters or movie houses throughout the event time. A parade of actors from participating films as well as non-participating actors who are being showcased and attending the festival are among the festival’s events or activities.

Early years

Despite the fact that it highlights Filipino film’s core, the festival’s first few years were not very fruitful. The earliest film submissions had titles in English, which contradicted the festival’s purpose. It was only reasonable, given that the festival’s organizers and those in charge of enabling the regulations and activities are still working to close the gaps in the first judgment.

Over time, each picture was modified and provided to ensure that all criteria were met until all film creators were able to fulfill the standards. The first MMFF took place in 1975, with the prize ceremony taking place at the Metropolitan Theater. It is one of the Philippines’ oldest theaters, however, the last time it was used for an awarding night was during the 25th MMFF festival in 1999.

The Philippine International Convention Center, Aliw Theater, SMX Convention Center, Meralco Theater, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, and KIA Theatre are now larger venues that can handle a better setup and a considerably larger crowd during the event. In comparison to the old yet historic Metropolitan Theater, the amenities are also more sophisticated.

The Metro Manila Film Festival is now in its 47th year. The Filipino film industry has continued to thrive and flourish for 47 years, from 1975. In reality, being one of the world’s low-tech nations, the Filipinos have worked harder to keep up with technological advancements such as CGI and other visual effects, which have been adopted by most countries to generate a higher quality movie that provides a meaningful experience for spectators.

The Gabi ng Parangal

The Gabi ng Parangal (literally, ‘Awards Night’) is the awards ceremony for films that have been selected to participate in the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Festival Awards Categories

Gabi ng Parangal recognizes the efforts behind the festival entries under the following categories:

  1. Best Picture: since 1975
  2. Best Director: since 1975
  3. Best Actor: since 1975
  4. Best Actress: since 1975
  5. Best Supporting Actor: since 1975
  6. Best Supporting Actress: since 1975
  7. Best Child Performer: since 1980 (except 2016)
  8. Best Screenplay: since 1975
  9. Best Original Story: 1975-2016
  10. Best Cinematography: since 1975
  11. Best Production Design: since 1986 (formerly named as “Best Art Direction” from 1976-1986)
  12. Best Editing: since 1975
  13. Best Visual Effects: 1990-2015
  14. Best Make-up Artist: 1990-2015
  15. Best Original Theme Song: since 1989
  16. Best Musical Score: since 1975
  17. Best Sound Engineering: since 1975 (also known as “Best Sound Recording”)
  18. Best Float: since 1992
  19. Most Gender-Sensitive Film: 2003-2013; 2019 onwards

Special awards

Special recognition during the Gabi ng Parangal may or may not be given annually. Annually, MMFF selects various entities to be awarded the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Awards, the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence, and the Special Jury Prize. Meanwhile, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Posthumous Award for Film Service and Excellence are not awarded annually.

Other awards

Aside from the aforementioned categories, MMFF also bestows the People’s Choice Awards, Children’s Choice Awards, and Star of the Night Awards.

Short film categories

A significant shift at the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) often goes unnoticed, but it is significant nonetheless. Since then, short films have been exhibited alongside the major section entries during the MMFF’s run. The category also has its own set of awards namely Best Short Film, Special Jury Prize, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

Criteria for Selection

The following are the criteria for being picked for the MMFF lineup: 40% creative excellence, 10% commercial appeal, 10% Filipino cultural sensibility, and 10% global appeal. The awards ceremony will take place on December 27.

Metro Manila Film Festival 2021 Movies

Last year’s event turned all-digital due to the pandemic. This year, though, the MMFF will return to the theatres just like it did in the past years. In November, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), organizer of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), announces this year’s lineup for the annual film festival that will return to cinemas on Christmas. The eight films selected for MMFF 2021 were picked from a pool of 19 submissions. The following are the eight official entries that will be shown at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 2021.

1. A Hard Day

This film is a local remake of the 2014 South Korean film of the same name, directed by Law Fajardo. The story revolves around a detective named Villon (Dingdong Dantes) who accidentally kills a man. On the day of his mother’s funeral, he tries to bury the body in her coffin. However, when he gets into a fight with a fellow cop, further issues develop (John Arcilla). This action film was supposed to premiere at the first Summer MMFF in 2020, however, it was canceled due to the pandemic.

2. Big Night

Jun Robles Lana’s illustrious career includes films like Kalel 15, Die Beautiful, and Bwakaw, all of which include a social critique. Big Night, his most recent picture, aims to achieve the same. Dharna (Christian Bables), a homosexual beautician, has recently learned that he is on a municipal drug watch list in this submission for the 2021 MMFF. Dharna, perplexed as to why he’s on the list and fearful for his safety, embarks on a mission to find out why he’s on it. The all-star ensemble includes Eugene Domingo, Janice De Belen, and John Arcilla in this comic perspective on the drug war.

3. Huling Ulan Sa Tag-araw

RitKen fans are ecstatic because the RitKen love pair are starring in their first film. This romantic comedy, starring Rita Daniela and Ken Chan, is about a sultry dancer who falls in love with her closest friend, who happens to be studying to be a priest. The RitKen duo is looking to bring their chemistry to the big screen after a few successful TV shows together.

4. Huwag Kang Lalabas

This year’s MMFF wouldn’t be complete without a horror film, and this one promises to deliver. Huwag Kang Lalabas is a horror trilogy directed by Adolf Alix Jr. It is unique in that it is a trilogy. The film is divided into three parts, each of which tells a different story about creepy animals and things that go bump in the night. Kim Chiu, Jameson Blake, Beauty Gonzalez, and Aiko Melendez are among the cast members.

5. Kung Maupay Man It Panahon

Kun Maupay Man It Panahon (Whether the Weather is Fine) is the festival’s awards favorite. The story follows Miguel (Daniel Padilla), a young guy who is trying to live and adjust in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. In the aftermath of the devastation, he seeks his girlfriend Andrea (MNL48’s Francinne Rifol) and mother Norma (Charo Santos-Concio) and must decide whether to rebuild their life in Tacloban or flee to safer skies.

Carlo Francisco Manatad’s latest film has been selected to compete in a number of major film festivals, including the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland and the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada. It has also received a few accolades, including best director at the London East Asia Film Festival for Carlo Francisco Manatad.

6. Love At First Stream

Love At First Stream takes place in a future where everything has gone digital. Vilma is a rising streamer on the lookout for her big break. Tupe, with whom she vlogs, assists her. Then there’s Megumi, the girl next door who enlists Gino’s help in her quest for stardom on the internet. Each of these people will pursue love and friendships online in order to escape their daily lives in the film. The single submission from Star Cinema for the 2021 MMFF is expected to make a big splash. That’s not without cause.

First and foremost, it is directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, a major motion picture director. Second, it’s Kaori Oinuma and Jeremiah Lisbo’s first collaboration. Originally, Rhys Miguel was cast in the film, but he stepped out due to personal issues, and Jeremiah was cast in his stead. Daniela Stranner and Anthony Jennings, two up-and-coming performers, also feature in the film. Finally, this is Kumu’s first work with Star Cinema. The movie will be heavily influenced by the streaming service. The fact that many of its co-stars were recruited from Kumu demonstrates this.

7. Nelia

This suspense thriller comes from director Lester Dimaranan. Winwyn Marquez, a former beauty queen turned actress, plays the main woman in the film. She is a nurse who believes that strange things are going on in the hospital where she works. Her search for the truth behind the mysteries will take her to some very dark places. Raymond Bagatsing plays a doctor in the film.

8. The Exorsis

The Exorsis is the final submission for the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival. For the second time since Mary, Marry Me in 2018, Toni and Alex Gonzaga will be in the same movie again in this horror-comedy and spoof of The Exorcist. Toni and Alex portray sisters who have a troubled relationship in the film. When Alex’s character is possessed by a demon, however, they must put their differences aside. Fifth Solomon is the director of the film. Under the working title The Exorcism Of My Siszums, it was also in contention to be a part of MMFF 2020.

Check Out MMFF 2021 Short Films with Streamtech!

Supporting Filipino films has never been easier as Metro Manila Film Festival continues to celebrate creative Filipino storytelling by partnering with Meta (the new name of the Facebook company). The MMFF jury will choose a winner whose work goes beyond mere entertainment and demonstrates creative excellence.

The short films premiering on 25 December on their respective creator’s pages are Let It Simmer by Erwan Heussaf on www.facebook.com/featrmedia; Kandado by Pio Balbuena on www.facebook.com/PioBalbuena; Dito Ka Lang by Beverly Cumla on www.facebook.com/BCumla; Then and Now by Discover Mnl on www.facebook.com/DiscoverMNL; Pepe sa Lockdown by Rayn Brizuela on www.facebook.com/myPGAG.

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