The moment I laid my eyes on the list of entries for Metro Manila Film Festival, my heart leapt. The usual names were no where to be found. It’s not that I have been secretly wishing that they would no longer be included but my interest for this event had dwindled exponentially because of the same old films showcased during the holiday season. The last time I watched an MMFF film was Brilliante Mendoza’s Thy Womb four years ago.
The choice of entries for the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival drew both positive and negative reactions. The usual film fest names who had been excluded from this year’s roster spoke up with statements like “Christmas is not a time for indie films” and “What quality to you might not be quality to me.” Some defended the picks, which consists mostly of indie-films, telling the public to give the films a chance.
I am not sure if there are people in my social circles who lamented the film fest line up. All I see in my social media accounts are expressions of elation over the selection. “I am actually excited for MMFF2016,” one tweeted.
Out of the eight films, I was curious with two films – Saving Sally, a 10-year animation meets live action project directed by Avid Liongoren and Die Beautiful, a LGBT-themed comedy-drama which garnered international acclaim including a Best Lead Actor win for Paolo Ballesteros.
Saving Sally tells the story of a young aspiring comic-artist, Marty who harboring a secret love for his troubled gadget-inventing best friend, Sally.
The film is a visual delight – From the color scheme, to the textures and even the tiny details scattered throughout.(Noticing the name of the park where the two hangs out made my sister and I giggle.) The treatment of the material makes the characters fit well in the animated environment. It gives a feeling of pride and hope that the country can really produce films of this nature.
While the Saving Sally excels with the visuals, it falls short on the narrative. It is a typical story of young love – Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl but can’t tell her how he feels. Girl falls for another (and eventually gets heart broken). Boy remains loyal and helps girl. Girl finds out his feelings…Well, you know the drill.
It can be amusing at times. It can be charming. But that is just that.
In addition to a rather weak storyline, the movie may find it hard to connect to a wider audience because of the choice of language. While most characters sound ok speaking in English, it somehow lost the Pinoy-feel and felt too detached.
Overall it banks on the craftmanship. It isn’t bad. But I am not as floored as I hope to be.
Die Beautiful presents the various points of the life of Trisha Echevarria, a gay beauty queen who recently passed away. Prior to his death, he asked his bestfriend, Barbs to give him seven celebrity looks throughout his wake. The non linear format slowly unravels the experiences that made Trisha who she is before his demise. Similar to Saving Sally, the film echoes typical scenes from movies of the same theme. However, the treatment of the storyline allows the intensity to build up to the revelations in the film’s climax.
The best part of the film lies in the portrayal of Trish and Barbs played by Paolo Ballesteros and new comer Christian Bables respectively. Both took home acting accolades from the film fest’s awards night. Ballesteros exuded both self-confidence and fragility creating a character that you would root for. As the very loyal and supportive bestfriend, Bables shone especially in scenes where he expressed this quiet grief as he performed his promised task. Another thing worth mentioning is the undeniable chemistry between the two. Their tandem is a definition of “friendship goals”.
Die Beautiful is both heart-warming and gut wrenching and is definitely worth watching.
MMFF 2016 may have had its share of issues and controversies but the changes brought by its revamp or #reelvolution seem to be headed to a better direction. I look forward to better films in the next years.
The artworks are created using Clip Studio Paint and Adobe Photoshop CC. All artworks are created by Zai/The Eclectic Miss unless stated otherwise.