Kidpic most popular at Manila fest

'Mother Lily' sent four to Monteverde

MANILA — The Metro Manila Film Festival proved to be a success both commercially and artistically, despite a fluff over a producer with four entries.

Critics had protested that too many entries produced by companies owned by ace producer “Mother Lily” Monteverde were allowed, but nevertheless, four Monteverde films were eventually permitted in the fest, which kicked off Christmas Day.

Runaway box office winner was “Enteng Kabisote” (“Vincent Memorizer”), a fantasy-comedy aimed at the kiddie market which grossed PhP 83.6 million ($1.5 million) at the conclusion of the two-week event. Other popular titles were comedy “So Happy Together,” starring former presidential daughter Kris Aquino, and “Spirit of the Glass.”

While the majority of festgoers went for comic, escapist fare, the 2004 entries revealed a more adventurous spirit among filmmakers, many of whom explored fresher subject matter and delivered higher quality cinematography and technical aspects. All were encouraging signs that Filipino moviemakers — stung by criticism from within and without, and envious of the cinematic leaps made by other Asian countries — were digging deep into their creative arsenals.

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Actor-director Cesar Montano’s “Panaghoy…” was described as “poetic, magical, sensitive storytelling,” winning six awards, including director for the first-time helmer.

“Panaghoy…” didn’t fare as well at the box office, but producers are still hoping for international distribution later this year.

The bigger winner of the film fest, however, was Mother Lily’s “Mano Po 3,” which drew picture and six other awards.