Is MMFF 2019 the year that will blow our minds?
Christmas rolls around like clockwork in the Philippines. The first day is signaled by a change of music at the malls, the second comes around as decorations are set up. On the third day, light shows around Metro Manila are announced and the fourth means gifts of food start to make their way to office desks. And then on Christmas day, when the festivities are over and there’s still half a day left in the holiday, Filipinos make their way to the cinemas to catch something from the Metro Manila Film Fest.
And as we are at the cusp of MMFF 2019, we are naturally looking at this year’s lineup to see if we should even bother braving the traffic and malls on December 25. Could this season mark a change of pace, a new hope for Philippine cinema?
Here’s a little rundown of the MMFF 2019 contenders (and what we think):
Starring Iza Calzado, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Meryll Soriano
Culion is set in the 1940s, a time when the island of Culion in Palwan was a place referred to as a “leprosarium”—an area exclusively housing those with leprosy. The film follows Anna (Iza Calzado), Doris (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and Ditas (Meryll Soriano) as they go through the motions, issues and helplessness that comes with their disease. One stays hopeful, the other superstitious and the other flirting with the idea of killing herself.
Why you should watch it: The acting—and John Lloyd Cruz’s comeback to the big screen (even if it’s just for a cameo).
Starring Judy Ann Santos, Allen Dizon
In a juxtaposition against the folklore of Rajah Indarapatra and Rajah Sulayman, Mindanao tells the story of Saima (Judy Ann Santos) as she cares for her for her daughter, Aisa (Yuna Tangog), who has cancer. The two wait for the return of Saima’s husband and Aisa’s father, Malang (Allen Dizon), a soldier in the middle of a war.
Why you should watch it: It’s a Brillante Mendoza film—one that hasn’t been as well received internationally as his previous work. But maybe Mindanao will be better understood by Filipino audiences and our take of the film will be slightly less critical as it will, quite literally, hit closer to home.
Miracle in Cell No. 7
Starring Aga Muhlach, Bela Padilla, Xia Vigor, Joel Torre
In this remake of the original Korean film of the same name, Lito (Aga Muhlach) is wrongfully charged with the assault and murder of a little girl and is sentenced to death. In his jail cell, he makes friends with his fellow inmates and, together, they scheme to get Lito’s daughter inside.
Why you should watch it: Because the original film broke our hearts in 2013 and—when the love between a father and his daughter is this well presented—we’re willing to have our hearts broken (and our hopes heightened) yet again.
Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity
Starring Vic Sotto, Maine Mendoza
Vic Sotto and Maine Mendoza share the big screen in Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity, where Don Robert Fortun is released from prison after being wrongfully charged for a crime he didn’t commit. The first order of business? Taking revenge on the man who put him in jail in the first place: his brother, Don Benjie.
Why you should watch it: For laughs (and to catch references from Money Heist), I guess?
Starring Carmina Villarroel, Mylene Dizon
Struggling to pay her daughter’s medical bills, Olivia (Carmina Villaroel) takes a job as a call center agent in a shady business process outsourcing company in Sunod. There, she experiences a series of unexplained ghostly encounters.
Why you should watch it: Because yes, it is the only horror in the MMFF 2019 lineup, but it also looks like a film that will prove just how far we’ve come from the likes of Shake, Rattle & Roll.
The Mall, The Merrier
Starring Vice Ganda, Anne Curtis
Meet Moira (Vice Ganda) and Morisette (Anne Curtis), two opposing sisters fighting for the ownership of a mall. But when their Aunt Moody (Dimples Romana) comes into the picture, the siblings team up against their common enemy—while maneuvering fantasy elements released by a magical book.
Why you should watch it: Seriously don’t have an answer for this one, but go for it if you’re a fan of Anne or Vice and their brand of comedy.
Write About Love
Starring Miles Ocampo, Rocco Nacino
She (Miles Ocampo) is an aspiring writer that desperately wants to write a movie about love. He (Rocco Nacino) is a veteran scriptwriter, who can monotonously talk about the subject. The two are tasked to work together to write the next big blockbuster. Is it going to be a heartbreaker?
Why you should watch it: Because love is a theme that has been touched on so much, but it has never been told like this in the local scene. It has potential and its potential, we hope, will see fruition.
3pol Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon
Starring Coco Martin, Jennylyn Mercado, Ai-Ai delas Alas
In 3pol Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon, Coco Martin plays a cop who is out to prove his innocence after he was framed for the murder of his boss.
Why you should watch it: For laughs (of all kinds).
RELATED: What Is VCinema & Do We Care?
MMFF 2019 is, as previously said, coming in like clockwork. But will the results be as predictable, or are we in for a surprise?
The Metro Manila Film Fest 2019 will kick off on December 25 and will through to January 7 in cinemas nationwide.
Art Alexandra Lara