A fan’s nightmare and a battle of magic bandanas

A look at two of the 2020 MMFF entries

THIS year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) — which will be held online because of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic — is proving to be one of the most diverse installments of the country’s largest film festival owing to the variety of genres of the 10 movies which will be screened starting Dec. 25.

Here is a look at two of the entries — a so-called anti-rom-com and a horror movie.

One of the more anticipated films in the lineup is Antoinette Jadaone’s Fangirl, a film that tackles fan culture and how it might not be wise to meet your idols.

The movie tells the story of Jane (played by Charlie Dizon), an ardent fan of Paulo Avelino (who plays himself), who manages to smuggle herself to his home by riding in the back of his pickup truck. She ends up in an unfamiliar house with an unfamiliar Paulo Avelino, an actor she thought she knew from head to toe.

“Fan culture is very interesting when we watch our idols on screen. We don’t usually have a line between reality and fiction. So for us, what we see from them — playing characters on screen — is what we consider as their real selves off-cam,” Ms. Jadaone, director of the film, said in a Dec. 7 press conference held over Zoom.

She called the film a “cautionary tale” and an “anti-rom-com,” though she did say that she didn’t want to spoil things by saying too much about the film.

Ms. Jadaone, best known for her romantic films That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) and Never Not Love You (2018), has embarked on what film critics said was her most daring feature yet, with Asian Movie Pulse calling it “an intriguing piece of cinematic work,” while the Hollywood Reporter called it “a bold look at fandom.”

Fangirl is definitely not a PG film as the Hollywood Reporter mentioned “male frontal nudity” in its review of the film, which had its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in November.

Then there are the sexual advances made by 32-year-old Avelino towards the underaged fan (Charlie Dizon is 24 but plays a 16-year-old). This, Ms. Jadaone said, is because “filmmakers and artists must be able to tackle not just topics that are being talked about but also topics that we are scared to talk about.”

“So in Fangirl, this won’t just tackle issues on celebrity culture and idolatry, it will also tackle issues we are afraid to discuss with people,” she said, before adding that she made sure that the risque scenes were shot with respect and taste and she constantly asked Ms. Dizon if she was okay shooting the scenes.

A completely different MMFF entry is horror-fantasy-comedy film Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim, directed by Topel Lee with the titular character being played by Vhong Navarro.

The film is a sequel to the 2017 film Mang Kepweng Returns, and follows Mang Kepweng, a local albularyo (folk healer) whose red polka dot bandana grants him powers to heal all kinds of sickness. Drunk on his success, Mang Kepweng starts to take his powers for granted and eventually starts to lose them.

Meanwhile, a supervillain named Maximus (Joross Gamboa) has gotten a hold of the black bandana, the counterpart of the red bandana, and uses it to sow terror. Mang Kepweng and his friends then try to re-power the bandana and save the world.

It should be noted that the original film was a remake of the 1979 film Mang Kepweng, top billed by comedian Chiquito (real name: Augusto Valdes Pangan Jr.), which itself was based on Al Magat’s comic strip series which ran from the 1970s through the 1980s.

Mr. Navarro said in a press conference on Dec. 8 via Zoom that Mang Kepweng: Ang Lihim ng Bandanang Itim is a family film meant to “entertain people” this Christmas season, something that is sorely missed as the pandemic is still ongoing.

This year’s MMFF will be screening completely online from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7 via Filipino streaming service Upstream.ph. Each ticket is priced at P250 and the movie must be viewed within 24 hours once a film ticket has been purchased. Advanced tickets are now available via Upstream.ph. — Zsarlene B. Chua