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The MMFF 2019 Guide: What to watch in PH cinemas at Christmas time



The most awaited film festival of the year, Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), starts today. Like aginaldo and simbang gabi, watching the official entries have become tradition to many Filipino families.

The MMFF is a celebration of Filipino talents, wherein by virtue of Metro Manila Commission Executive Order No. 86-09, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation Nos. 1459, 1485, 1533, 1533-A and 1647, it recognizes the role of the film industry in “providing artistic depictions of both this country’s stories and history.”

An Executive Committee, headed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman and composed of key members of the film industry, supervises the event.

For the 45th edition, the film fest follows the same tradition wherein from Dec. 25 until the first weekend of January in the following year, the cinemas will focus on Filipino films in which during the course of the festival, only films approved by the jurors of the MMFF are shown in movie theaters. No foreign movies are shown except in 3D theaters and IMAX theaters.

The Gabi ng Parangal is on Dec. 27 at the New Frontier Theater in Quezon City.



TITLE: “Mindanao”
PRODUCTION: Center Stage Production
DIRECTOR: Brillante Mendoza
LEAD STARS: Allen Dizon and Judy Ann Santos
GENRE: Drama/Animation
SYNOPSIS: Revolves around the story of a Muslim mother, Saima (Judy Ann Santos), of a cancer-stricken girl named Aisa and the wife of Malang (Allen Dizon), a combat medic deployed in a civil conflict near the island of Mindanao.

Saima lives with Aisa in a temporary home for children with cancer where she supports and waits for her daughter and husband, who face challenges of life and death every day. While Aisa battles her illness, Malang grapples with life-and-death situations in battle.


TITLE: “3Pol Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon!”
PRODUCTION: CCM Film Productions
DIRECTOR: Rodel Nacianceno (Coco Martin’s real name)
LEAD STARS: Coco Martin, Jennylyn Mercado, and Ai Ai delas Alas
GENRE: Action
SYNOPSIS: Officer Pol Balbon (Coco Martin) is blamed for the murder of the Executive Director of National Defense Agency. He tries to get near the Director’s daughter Trina (Jennylyn Mercado) to unearth her father’s unfinished mission before he died.


PRODUCTION: iOptions Ventures Corp.
DIRECTOR: Alvin Yapan
LEAD STARS: Iza Calzado, Meryll Soriano, and Jasmine Curtis-Smith
GENRE: Historical
SYNOPSIS: Set in the 1940s, Anna (Iza Calzado), Doris (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), and Ditas (Meryll Soriano) are three patients afflicted with Hansen’s Disease (or widely known as leprosy) who live in Culion at a time when the disease is practically a life sentence. No cure has been found yet, and no one is allowed to leave the island.

Anna never loses hope that a cure will be found, even when her baby is taken away from her. Doris believes in the myth that a beautiful diwata will heal the place. Ditas keeps attempting to kill herself, helpless against the onslaught of memories from the outside world.

Together the three friends try to negotiate a life of stigma that seesaws between hope and despair, redefining their roles as women, mother, friend, and human being. In the end, they prove that neither disease nor death can erase their humanity and their capacity to endure.


TITLE: “Write About Love”
DIRECTOR: Crisanto B. Aquino
SCREENWRITERS: Crisanto B. Aquino and Janyx Regalo
LEAD STARS: Rocco Nacino and Miles Ocampo
GENRE: Romance
SYNOPSIS: Young writing protégé, (Miles Ocampo) must work with and learn from older, more experienced and edgy screenwriter (Rocco Nacino).

A film within a film, the script that the two characters are trying to finish have Joem Bascon and Yeng Constantino playing “reel” roles.


TITLE: “Miracle In Cell No. 7”
PRODUCTION: Viva Communications, Inc.
DIRECTOR: Nuel Naval
SCREENWRITES: Mel Mendoza–del Rosario
LEAD STARS: Aga Muhlach and Bela Padilla
GENRE: Drama/Comedy
SYNOPSIS: Narrates the story of Joselito (Aga Muhlach), a mentally-ill man wrongfully charged with sexual assault and the murder of a little girl. In prison, he becomes friends with the other inmates and they form a plan to smuggle his young daughter (Xia Vigor) inside the cell. Years later, his daughter (Bela Padilla) becomes a lawyer determined to prove her father’s innocence.


TITLE: “M&M: The Mall The Merrier”
PRODUCTION: ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc. and Viva Films
DIRECTOR: Barry Gonzales
SCREENWRITERS: Alpha Habon, Jonathan Albano, and Daisy Cayanan
LEAD STARS: Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis
GENRE: Fantasy Comedy
SYNOPSIS: Dysfunctional siblings (Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis) inherit an old mall, with mysterious incidents happening there. They protect the mall from their evil aunt (Dimples Romana).


TITLE: “Sunod”
DIRECTOR: Carlo Ledesma
SCREENWRITER: Anton Santamaria
LEAD STAR: Carmina Villaroel
GENRE: Horror
SYNOPSIS: Olivia Sazon (Carmina Villaroel) is a mother desperate to find help for her terminally-ill daughter. However, as she takes on a demanding job at a call center in an old building in Manila, she begins to experience a series of strange events that creep into her personal life.


TITLE: “Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity”
PRODUCTION: APT Entertainment, Inc./M-Zet Production
DIRECTOR: Mike Tuviera
SCREENWRITERS: Aloy Adlawan, Michelle Ngu, Don Santella
LEAD STARS: Vic Sotto and Maine Mendoza
GENRE: Comedy
SYNOPSIS: Strategist Don Robert Fortun (Vic Sotto) assembles a crew of experts he dubs The Dons. They are magician Zulueta (Pokwang), wrestler Johnson (Jake Cuenca), car racer Kikong (Jelson Bay), and computer hacker Donna (Maine Mendoza).

The Dons, under the leadership of Don Robert, will pull-off the biggest plan to obtain the famed and heavily guarded Pearl of the Orient (Perlas Ng Silangan) from the hands of Don Robert’s scheming brother Benjamin “Benjie” Fortun (Jose Manalo) and to vindicate his name from a heinous crime he did not commit.

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