But then again, what did I know? I’m just a moviegoer.

Manny Castaneda’s intriguing Facebook posts about the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival has been devoid of any sanity. His observations were short-sighted, prejudicial, and tasteless remarks against the industry where he belongs to. He conveniently disregarded the multi-faceted dimensions of Philippine cinema to conform to his own biases. His statements indirectly disenfranchised his comrades in the movie industry.

Manny failed to see that the audience dictated the MMFF 2016. Manny should cross-checked how our recent times have revolutionized the Philippine cinema. These changes have driven opportunities for small- and medium-funded production to thrive and eventually to compete head-to-head with the big film outlets. He must not discounted the fact that part of this local cinema evolution is also the growing number of moviegoers supporting and embracing the so-called “indie films”.

Reality check will help him understand that independent cinema, throughout the years, has steadily built a niche for its own. Its followers mostly belong to the “millennial generation”, which comprised a significant percentage of our population. Demographically speaking, this age group stormed cinema houses in the most recent screenings of the “indie movies”. Proof of which is the successful runs of the major film festivals prior to MMFF, such as the Cinemalaya, Cinema One, and QC Cinema.

Manny failed to realize that no one has the monopoly of the film industry, it is democratic in nature. Filmmaking is the product of our constitutional right on free speech. It is, therefore, imperative that filmmaking should be freed from any control or monopoly of a certain person or group. Manny’s statement asserting the authority of Mother Lily was a threat to the democratic space of the film industry. No one has the proprietorship of the Philippine cinema – it is a public domain, an open space for all possible ideas. As cornerstone of our democratic ideals, Philippine cinema always listens to the voice of the people. In the MMFF 2016, the people have spoken – they want reforms in our annual film festival.

Manny failed to appreciate that ‘mainstream/commercial’ and ‘indie’ have no difference at all. This has been the fault of many, not only Manny. Initially, the concept of stratification was done to differentiate the movies produced by major film studios and those produced by minor film players. The local cinema revolution made this distinction void since major film outlets now put capital in the production of these “indies”. Manny was wrong in calling MMFF entries as “indies” because it is clear that film categorization has ceased to exist.

(Author’s note: Attention, Senator Tito Sotto! The “good” senator filed a Senate resolution which proposes to establish a film festival exclusively for the independent films.)

Manny failed to acknowledge the positive repercussions of “indie” gate crashing. MMFF is not an exclusive party for certain group of filmmakers; it is a festivity open for all. In this sense, calling “indies” gate crashers was irrational. But, the term can work in favor of the proponents and supporters of “indies”. Film production does not belong anymore to the traditional “gate keepers”. Independent filmmakers barged in a territory of a formerly captive audience of commercial flicks so thematic issues are tackled, parochial concerns are amplified, and societal matters are brought closer to people’s attention. The power to set the narratives does not lie anymore to the corporate and usual trendsetters. Gate crashing has opened up the opportunity to democratize the process of storytelling – that includes highlighting the agenda that people need to talk about.

Photo credit to Wikipedia.