What MMFF 2023 Is Teaching Us About Cinema Culture In The PH

What The Success Of MMFF 2023 Is Teaching Us About Cinema Culture in the Philippines

MMFF went off in 2023.

MMFF 2023 reached new heights of success thanks to the quality of the films in the lineup, and it tells us a little something or two about cinema culture in the Philippines.

Related: 4 Reasons Why ‘GomBurZa’ Should Not Be Missed At This Year’s MMFF

This year’s Metro Manila Film Festival saw much praise and success for its lineup of films. It’s so successful that the festival is extending its run up to January 14 after the public clamored for more time to get the chance to catch the movies.

Strong in numbers after the brunt of the pandemic and lockdowns, people flocked to the cinemas to watch and even celebrate the MMFF films. People have often criticized MMFF as an institution about being a “cash cow,” for prioritizing being commercial over artistry, and people’s perceptions about the lineup and general quality of the festival differ each year, but MMFF 2023 overall is generally being considered as a festival championing good, diverse films and stories. As such, there are a few things we’ve observed and learned about local cinema culture and why its giving people hope for Philippine cinema during this MMFF run—here’s a few of them.


MMFF 2023

Over the last year or two, we saw people make the most of their relatively newfound freedom after the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic—flocking to concerts, festivals, airports, cinemas, and gatherings—in an attempt to take back the time taken from them. The MMFF pretty consistently attracts a wide audience, with some fluctuations in numbers, but this year took the cake in sales. MMFF 2023 is currently the highest-grossing edition of the festival, having earned P1.069 billion in gross receipts as of January 7. There are moviegoers who watch a film multiple times, and moviegoers who are watching all of the films out of curiosity or interest.

The cinemas were filled with tears, tension, joy, and laughter, and social media was flooded with discussion of the films almost every day. From a purely anecdotal standpoint, it seems like there was no other MMFF in recent times that saw as many people want to flock to the cinemas and catch these films on the big screen and encourage others to do the same. While streaming is still vastly popular across the nation and the globe, there’s no denying that cinema and theatre culture is well alive and kicking.


Of course, over the years, the festival and its films are not without critique—which is not a bad thing. Whether on Letterboxd or social media, as is the usual, people have and share their own ratings and opinions about the film lineup and MMFF in general, good or bad. People, for instance, have talked about the absence of films featuring MMFF mainstays Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto, which sparked age-old discussion about how people perceive comedy as film in a local context. And while most discussions can devolve into counterproductive arguments, it’s important that we know there’s plenty of perspectives to consider and bring to light when it comes to filmmaking and the experience of cinema.


From a diverse set of movies that some people observed stray from the typical MMFF lineup to a barrage of positive reviews, praise for the MMFF is owed to the “quality of the films offered” and the “new audience,” according to MMFF chairman Atty. Don Artes. Standouts whether in recognition or virality include GomBurZa, Firefly, Mallari, and Rewind. The MMFF lineup this year will also be screened internationally at the Manila International Film Festival in California!

These milestones achieved by MMFF 2023 are owed to a multitude of factors, such as risks taken in storytelling and filmmaking, a changing audience, as well as social media word-of-mouth marketing (filmmakers Antoinette Jadaone and JP Habac delve into more on their recent podcast episode), but all come together to indicate that the landscape of MMFF and Philippine cinema is evolving, and more Filipino stories are being told better on the silver screen and appreciated.

Continue Reading: Here Are The 10 Movies Competing At The 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival