A blog by Jacqueline Tabora

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The 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival became a big topic last year due to the change in selection criteria of the films to be screened during the December festive holiday season. The usual contenders that annually join the festival did not make the cut, thus have to be shown in cinemas a month earlier.

I think this is the first time that I am so engrossed in watching all the films chosen for the annual MMFF event, simply because I could not predict what they are about just by the title, or by the trailers. The changes in selection criteria also gave the MMFF 2016 films a buzz since they vie for cinema screening against the mainstream movies that are more preferred by the moviegoing audience.


So, here are the movies that I have seen:

Die Beautiful




The movie chronicles the life and surprising death of Patrick, more known as Trisha. Born in a conservative family whose father disagrees with his being gay, Patrick chose to leave home, be openly gay and pursue joining gay beau-cons (beauty contests) as Trisha Echeverria together with his gay friends and forever BFF, Barbs.

This is a modern-day story of one gay character told in a combination of flashback-to-present-to-flashback storytelling. One may think that it is a stereotype movie, or even something not worth seeing in the big screen, but what I liked about this movie is its balance of drama and humor. The movie did not dwell too much on heavy scenes; much more, it did not go overboard on showing something funny. The comedic timing of the characters, especially by the lead star Paolo Ballesteros is so on point and did not appear to be a try-hard on being comedic.


Another thing that I can give my thumbs-up to is to the performance of the supporting actor, Christian Bables who played Barbs, Patrick/Trisha's best friend since high school. His performance is so natural that I even thought that he is a gay in real life. Bables' performance throughout the movie, for me, is so vital that an alternative version of the movie based on Barbs' storytelling can be made. The acting is so relatable and realistic that you can feel his loyalty, his sincerity to be the "ulirang BFF" until the end, his love for his best friend and his undying support for Trisha's struggles and antics. Add up the natural and BFF-chemistry between Paolo Ballesteros and Christian Bables, this film is a sure win in the hearts of gays and gay-loving moviegoers.


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Seklusyon



The movie is about the final steps of the journey to priesthood, prophecy, the belief of God and the devil.


This movie challenged my understanding and embedded notion on religion and faith. There are some powerful dialogues (I can't remember the exact words, but I refuse to paraphrase) that can be subject to analysis and dissection, and there are scenes that depict the common practice of faith and healing (although it can be a subject of Christian scrutiny) in real life.


I find the storytelling unconventional, but I can say that the story itself is still digestible. Kudos to the child actress Rhed Bustamante, whose portrayal of the "chosen prophet" was so amazing that it made me question how she immersed herself in such a role. Thumbs up to actors Neil Ryan Sese and Phoebe Walker for their effective portrayal of each of their roles despite limitation in dialogues and character interaction.

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EDIT 01/04/2017


Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2




The story revolves around a director meeting up with her chosen lead star to discuss the script about an independent film the former has written. The meeting faced a down-slope when the lead star "suggests" revisions and additions to the story and script, which the director directly opposes to.

I thought the movie was kind of boring because of its slow pacing at the beginning as well as the minimal change in setting (95% of the scenes were shot in a spa farm). The shining moment for me though was the sauna scene, which hands down, was won by Eugene Domingo. I was balled over by her "big and loud" acting, but it is sufficient enough as her character requires such. The story delves on the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking, particularly the script, the wants of the director, the demands of the lead actors as well as the strategy to market the film.


The story touches on the difference in opinion when it comes to making a film: is it made for the sake of art or for the sake of profit? For the accolades or for entertainment value? For the convenience of the actor or for well-acclaimed acting prowess? It is under the comedy genre, but the message underneath the funny dialogues bites aptly enough as the battle between mainstream and indie movie is hot and on the surface at the moment.


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Saving Sally





An ordinary story of the stranger-turned-best-friend/secret admirer who does not have guts to admit his feeling until he was caught.

Just like how it billed itself in its promotional poster, the movie showed a very typical love story of a guy who secretly romantically loves his female friend but is not brave enough to profess to her. The story maybe not the best part of this movie because of its plainness, but the visual will get you hooked. The movie did not rely on actual locations or settings, but on CGI screens to create real-life-but-fictional-combined-with-fantasy settings. The human characters are occasionally transformed into caricature versions of themselves, while the extras are more or less in their "monster" forms throughout the movie.


Why called "Saving Sally"? Basically, because Sally needs to be saved from the "monsters" in her life. Ninety-five percent of the film is in English, but since the lines and accent are comprehensible, there'll be no "nosebleed" moments within the 93 minutes of screening.



Aww, I learned that the MMFF screening was extended for one more week, Unfortunately, I don't have enough money to see the others. :/


I'll leave this as this then.

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