MANILA - Change has come to the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. This year promises to serve up something different for local moviegoers as entries starring popular comedians Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto have been excluded from the so-called "Magic 8" for the first time in years.
Headlining this year's batch of entries is Jun Robles Lana's "Die Beautiful," which earned rave reviews following its international premiere at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival.
With lead actor Paolo Ballesteros winning Best Actor for his role as a transgender woman whose dying wish is to be dressed as Katy Perry for her funeral in the film, "Die Beautiful" would appear to have instantly become a favorite to nab a few accolades come awards night.
The film is produced by October Train Films and The Idea First Company, which have uploaded the full trailer for the film on Facebook. "Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman, suddenly dies while being crowned in a beauty pageant," a synopsis for the film read. "Her last wish was to be presented as a different celebrity on each night of her wake, but her conservative father wants to bury her as a man."
"Trisha's friends are left with no choice but to steal her body and hold the wake in a secret location. And as Trisha is transformed to look like different celebrities, they also look back at the colorful and extraordinary life that she has led - being a son, a sister, a mother, a friend, a lover, a wife, and ultimately, a queen."
Another interesting entry is "Saving Sally" from director Avid Liongoren. The film, which took a decade to make, uses a comic-book-stylised narrative and carefully crafted visuals to tell of Marty (Enzo Marcos), an aspiring comic book artist, and his attempts to save the woman he loves, a brilliant young inventor named Sally (Rhian Ramos), from her physically abusive parents.
Cartoonish demons, visual metaphors, and other silly puns such as Sally's boyfriend being a literal dick ensure that "Saving Sally" would be one of the more eye-candy offerings from the pack, helping satiate a need from local moviegoers cynical about the quality of past MMFF entries.
Below are the other films that made this year's cut:
"Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: Forever is Not Enough"
A sequel to the comedy box-office hit "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank," Eugene Domingo's newest film will provide the comic relief for those looking for a good laugh with their family this Christmas season, considering the bleak and serious tones of some the other entries.
Domingo, much like in the first film, will be playing herself in this one that takes aim at the tropes that plague the country's local romantic comedy genre. Peppered with the same absurdity and exaggerated tricks that made the first one so popular, "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2" will tell the story of Domingo as she tries to help a young director craft a film about a couple's crumbling marriage, and their journey to Baguio in an attempt to rekindle their romance.
"Sunday Beauty Queen"
This entry from female director Baby Ruth Villarama has been described by Variety as "an engaging documentary on Filipina overseas workers' self-empowerment through beauty pageants."
The film made its world premiere in the Wide Angle documentary competition at the 21st Busan International Film Festival. It follows a Hong Kong-based house maid named Cherry as she prepares for a beauty contest with other Filipina OFWs.
Dubbed as the "Miss Philippines Tourism Hong Kong," the pageant is held in the middle of Hong Kong's Central Station. It serves as a space for Cherry and her friends to "dream of something else and forget their identities as immigrant workers."
"Vince & Kath & James"
The lone entry from Star Cinema, this teen romance film, directed by Ted Boborol ("Be My Lady"), is topbilled by young stars such as Julia Barretto, Maris Racal, Joshua Garcia and Ronnie Alonte. It is an adaptation of an online series, which went viral, that told the story of two lovestruck teens, Vince and Kath, through text messages.
Not much is known about Erik Matti's newest entry which stars Ronnie Alonte, Rhed Bustamante, Phoebe Walker, Elora Espano, Neil Ryan Sese, Lou Veloso, Dominique Roque, John Vic De Guzman, and JR Versales. But one can expect a well-crafted follow-up from the acclaimed director, who stole the spotlight last year with "Honor Thy Father."
As with "Seklusyon," not much is known about Arturo San Agustin and Real Florido's entry as well. But the film, whose trailer has yet to be released, does mark the return of screen icon Nora Aunor to the annual film festival. She stars with Ricky Davao, JC De Vera, Jason Abalos, Victor Neri and RJ Agustin.
Details about Alvin Yapan's "Oro," which stars Joem Bascon, are not yet available.