MMFF a 'marriage' of commercial and artistic interests – MMDA

MANILA, Philippines — The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is a balancing act for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

This is the defense of MMDA General Manager Thomas "Tim" Orbos from criticism against the MMDA after releasing the first 4 titles accepted in the film festival.

Critics alleged that the 4 films reflected the MMDA's supposed bias toward commercial over artistic interests. Three executive committee members of the metro-wide film festival, who resigned after the first half of the selection, cited this as their reason for leaving.

"The goal of the MMFF is to secure artistic excellence as well as to provide revenues so that we can provide, give them to the beneficiaries," Orbos said.

Orbos was referring to the beneficiaries who will receive a portion of the revenues of the film festival.

These beneficiaries include the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Film Academy of the Philippines, Motion Picture Anti-Film Piracy Council, Optical Media Board, and the Film Development Council of the Philippines.

"Kasi kapag laging sinasabi nila film fest they now look at papaanong Cannes, paano ang iba? Ito kasi minarry mo both eh, ng artistic atsaka commercial viability, so I have to do that," Orbos added.

(Because if what they always say is that the film fest has to be like Cannes, how about the other films? Here we try to marry both the artistic and commercial viability, so I have to do that.)

An effect of 2016?

According to Orbos, the MMDA revised the criteria for choosing films because of the 60% drop in revenue in 2016.

In 2015, when most of the films selected were criticized as being unartistic and running "shallow" plots, the MMFF earned at least P1 billion. In 2016, when artistic films played and were lauded for providing depth, the event just earned P373 million.

With this, Orbos asked the selection committee to ensure artistic and commercial interests are balanced this year, leading to the new criteria.

"I made sure na kayo na nagrerepresent ng commercial films magbigay kayo ng 4, ganoon din sa kabila (I asked that they give 4 commercial films and the same for artistic films)," he said. Although, he admitted that he cannot assure that the 4 films yet to be selected will be artistic films.

He added that they have not completely done away with the film festival's preference for more artistic films as the selection from last year actually challenged commercial film makers.

"May effect naman lahat eh, kaya nga sa akin kaunting tiwala lang sa sistema (There is an effect, just trust the system), we cannot always get what we want in a day," Orbos said. -

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.