IT’S called the Metro Manila Film Festival, but the screening of Filipino movies during this celebration is nationwide.

Cebu cinemas were among those that showed the films selected for screening from Dec. 25, 2018 to Jan. 7, 2019. Foreign films took a back seat and were limited to the most expensive cinemas. The films selected to be shown during the festival are “Aurora,” “Fantastica,” “The Girl in the Orange Dress,” “Jack Em Popoy: The Puliscredibles,” “Mary, Marry Me,” “One Great Love,” “Otlum,” and “Rainbow’s Sunset.”

The Joel Lamangan-directed “Rainbow’s Sunset” on an elderly gay couple’s love affair turned out to be festival winner with a total of 11 awards, including best director and best picture. The film’s main actor, Eddie Garcia, won the Special Jury Prize for an Actor.

It’s supposed to be a nationwide festival, but Cebuanos did not get the chance to view the winning film as the “Rainbow’s Sunset” was shown in Cebu cinemas only on the first day, Dec. 25. According to the person at the ticket section at the Robinsons Galleria Cebu, the film did not perform well on its first day, so it got pulled out to accommodate more screening of festival entries popular with young audiences.

A check with showed that, as of last Friday afternoon, Dec. 28, the film was being shown only in Metro Manila cinemas and in theaters in two provinces but not in Cebu. (As of Saturday, more cinemas, including those in Cebu, were listed on the website to show the winning film. The decision to show it here came after the film won the top prize.)

There are films that are commercial successes although they tend to recycle jokes and have formulaic story lines performed by bankable names in the movie industry.

One criticism of contemporary Filipino cinema is the tendency of movie outfits to prioritize profit over artistry and delivery of a social message at a time when cinema could help direct public attention to society’s issues. Cinema is entertainment and a form of escape for its patrons, but it also has influence over a huge sector of society that can be tapped to show reality and encourage discussion.

The vision of the Metro Manila Film Festival is to “celebrate Filipino artistic excellence, promote audience development and champion the sustainability of the Philippine film industry,” according to news reports. Its mission is to “develop audiences for and encourage the production of quality Filipino films, and to promote the welfare of its workers.”

The pullout of “Rainbow’s Sunset” from cinemas after one day of screening because it lacked audience interest veers away from that festival mission. To keep to its vision and be focused on its mission, the festival should require cinemas to show all entries, including those that do not bring in much ticket sales. Cinemas have a role to play, too, to promote a quality and sustainable local film industry.