ON ITS FORTY-NINTH EDITION, the Metro Manila Film Festival is gearing up for its bigger splash in local cinemas. Last year’s edition, while yielding “acceptable” box office figures, didn’t exactly draw the same sizable audience that used to flock to theaters. This year, MMFF hopes to bring in droves of cinemagoers by offering a more varied selection of films.
(There’s also this year’s “summer” edition of the fest, whose entries included standouts like About Us But Not About Us, which we discussed at length in a podcast episode.)
The usual genres are well-represented this year, from family dramas, horror-thrillers, to rom-coms. M.I.A. are the films typically associated with MMFF (haphazardly strewn-together comedies starring noontime show titans), which, I guess, is a welcome change. Instead, we get a handful of truth-based period films, including Pepe Diokno’s GomBurZa and Derick Cabrido’s Mallari.
Zig Dulay’s Firefly, a magic realist film set in Albay, sounds interesting, as does Jun Lana’s Becky & Badette, a comedy starring Marietta Subong (Pokwang) and Eugene Domingo. King Palisoc’s occult horror, Kampon is intriguing, too.
Speaking of horror, two titles initially pegged to have an MMFF release didn’t cut it. Mikhail Red’s folk-horror, Nokturno, and Shake, Rattle & Roll Extreme. Both omissions are worth noting. Deleter (also directed by Red) was one of MMFF’s top-grossers last year. Meanwhile, Shake, Rattle & Roll has been a mainstay in the fest, bringing in consistent box office performance; this makes Extreme the one of two SRR films not to premiere at the festival.
Here’s a look at the full list of MMFF 2023 entries.
A Family of Two
Family, Drama | 2023, dir. Nuel Naval
A Family of Two tells the story of a mother and a son, played by Sharon Cuneta and Alden Richards, respectively.
Becky & Badette
Comedy | 2023, dir. Jun Lana
A comedy about two best friends working as custodians in a corporate building. Starring Eugene Domingo and Marietta “Pokwang” Subong.
Broken Hearts Trip
Comedy, Drama | 2023, dir. Lemuel Lorca
Five brokenhearted LGBTQ individuals will be given a chance to heal in the most beautiful places, and there’s a million-peso prize at the end. Can they stay single and prove to everyone that their lives will still go on? Or will their hearts open up to loving once more?
Drama, Fantasy, Adventure | 2023, dir. Zig Dulay
The film follows a young boy’s search for the mythical island of fireflies described in his mother’s bedtime stories. Using the “clues” he believes his mother left behind in an old notebook, the boy makes the long journey to the magical island to wish her back to life.
Drama, History | 2023, dir. Pepe Diokno
A powerful and moving historical drama that tells the courageous story of three Filipino Catholic priests: Mariano Gomez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora.
Horror, Thriller | 2023, dir. King Palisoc
Kampon is a horror-thriller about a distraught couple who takes in a young child who harbors dark (demonic?) tidings. The film stars Beauty Gonzales and Derek Ramsay.
Horror, Thriller | 2023, dir. Derick Cabrido
Inspired by true events, Mallari tells the horrific story of Fr. Severino Mallari, a 19th century priest during the Spanish occupation and his descent into madness. The film recounts Father Mallari’s life and work as a parish priest in Pampanga, where he reportedly murdered 57 people to aid his ailing mother.
Fantasy, Action, Adventure | 2023, dir. Jason Paul Laxamana
A 20 year-old wimp that was raised in the U.S. will go on a journey in the Philippines after his Father died to search his mother only to discover a curse and evil forces destroying the town.
Drama, Romance | 2023, dir. Mae-Cruz Alviar
A family drama with “a touch of magical realism” that revolves around the idea of having dual timelines and realities. The film stars Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes.
When I Met You In Tokyo
Drama, Romance | 2023, dir. Conrado Peru, Rommel Penesa
Azon, a feisty and bubbly woman known for the generosity of her heart, meets Joey, a divorcee who still harbors the scars of his ex-wife’s infidelity in this romance-family drama tackling unconditional love, sacrifices and aging from the perspective of two elderly overseas Filipino workers in the winter of their lives.