THE heavenly scent of popcorn permeated the air as my grandmother and I bought movie tickets in a mall one cold December evening. Amidst throngs of moviegoers and patrons of the Metro Manila Film Festival, we trudged our way through—I excited to see the much-talked about film and she driven by absolute adoration for the “Superstar.” Yes, one could say we were practically giddy for Thomasian director Brilliante Mendoza’s Thy Womb starring Nora Aunor!

I felt my hopes sunk, though, when I saw the cinema occupied by only a handful of people. Most of them were senior citizens like my grandmother, and the rest were adults most probably middle-aged. The number of people was so miniscule that by the time the movie ended, it felt like were almost freezing to death due to the undisturbed flow of the air conditioners inside the cinema.

As if to prove this further, my grandmother stood up and headed towards the center aisle. With a smirk on her face, she began pointing and counting the number of people present in the cinema, earning smiles and chuckles from several individuals. Initially, I was pretty much embarrassed by what I thought was an unnecessary move.

“More or less than thirty people,” she announced as she took her seat. Effectively, that changed my disposition.

I honestly do not know if I am missing anything here. For years, I have been hearing people rant and complain about the quality of locally-produced films. And I could not agree more! We are faced with the same concepts and storylines over and over again—save for some minimal alterations here and there. So when Mendoza’s internationally-acclaimed masterpiece was finally brought to local screening, I was expecting immense support and wide patronage from his fellowmen.

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Evidently, my expectations were proven wrong.

Among the MMFF’s eight official entries, Thy Womb placed last, earning only a little over P900, 000 on its first-day gross. Due to poor screening performance, numerous movie theaters nationwide began to pull out Mendoza’s film, prompting the multi-awarded director to plead in national television for Filipinos to support the movie.

In contrast, the idiotic Sisterakas garnered a whopping P39, 000,000 on its first day of showing alone. I do not want to delve further into finding out how such an atrocity could even be produced.

I asked the opinion of several of my friends regarding the demise of Thy Womb. It was, according to them, probably due to the fact that Filipinos prefer comedies and family-oriented movies during the Christmas season.

So why did Shake, Rattle, and Roll 14 as well as One More Try—which also won Best Picture—make it as two of the top grossers of the film festival? Are gory horror movies and sex melodramas family-oriented?

It’s absolutely depressing when people demand for change but cannot apply it to themselves. We desire higher standards when it comes to local films, but we almost always fail to show the slightest support whenever a remarkable work of art like Mendoza’s Thy Womb manages to break through the monotony of clichés and recycled storylines.

Is there hope left for the local film industry? Yes, profitably speaking. But in the context of quality and cultural significance, we still have a lot to work on.

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