MMFF intrigues spark debate once again
Once again, the Metro Manila Film Festival is embroiled in a maelstrom of controversy.
Soon after the announcement of the Final Four entries, all sorts of rumors cropped up in cyberspace. According to the grapevine, one of the finalists, Brillante Ma Mendoza’s “Alpha, The Right to Kill,” was pulled out of the roster and replaced with another entry, Joven Tan’s “Otlum.”
The last-minute change allegedly occurred after a heated exchange of words among officers of the annual festival, which is held in December—the most lucrative time at the box office.
Rochelle Ona, a representative of the festival’s Secretariat, told the Inquirer that the “deliberation of the Selection Committee is confidential. The Final Four is strictly in accordance with the ranking of the scores given by the Selection Committee to all the 16 films submitted.”
Lastly, Ona asserted that “discussions in a collegiate body are normal.”
As announced last Wednesday, the MMFF’s Final Four entries are: Joel Lamangan’s “Rainbow’s Sunset,” Eric Quizon’s “One Great Love,” RC delos Reyes’ “Mary, Marry Me” and Tan’s “Otlum.”
Four movies were earlier chosen as part of the fest’s Top Eight: Yam Laranas’ “Aurora,” Rodel Nacianceno’s “Popoy en Jack: The Puliscredibles,” Barry Gonzalez’s “Fantastica: The Princess, the Prince and the Perya,” and Jay Abello’s “The Girl in the Orange Dress.”
However, filmmaker Mel Chionglo, a member of the Selection Committee, shared with the Inquirer that the body had originally chosen Mendoza’s film as part of the Final Four, instead of Tan’s entry.
Even though his entry had landed a slot in the Final Four, Lamangan remained skeptical of the process. The veteran director explained: “I heard there were some irregularities, that there was pressure from higher authorities… If this is true, it is corruption in its most naked form and must be exposed!”
Lamangan has a simple suggestion: “The MMFF has always been controversial year in and year out. I think it is time to give the festival’s management to a more competent body … to an industry-related organization.”
The MMFF is currently spearheaded by the Metro Manila Development Authority.
Writer-director Jose Javier Reyes, whose past movies have won awards and topped the tills at the MMFF, remarked: “This festival is a microcosm of how things are being run in this country. The compromise to include commercial viability as a criterion has been accepted because the film industry is an industry, and the business aspect cannot be ignored.”
He noted, however, that the addition of “Aurora” to the list is “a good sign that the marriage between commercialism and a director’s aesthetics can be integrated into the Christmas fiesta. But if the stories told about the replacement of an entry without the consent and knowledge of some committee members were true, then we have sunk the MMFF into a new low.”
Reyes exclaimed: “Whereas before, politics and bullying were implied, now it is made more apparent in the age of entitlement and impunity.”
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