Cinemalaya row heats up
A member of the selection committee of the annual Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival has resigned, following the controversial disqualification of one finalist in the New Breed category.
Film critic Francis Joseph “Oggs” Cruz filed his resignation on February 29 because he said he could not continue to “be part of a system I no longer believe in.” He resigned shortly after news broke out that Cinemalaya had barred Emerson Reyes’ “MNL 143” from competing due to casting disagreements with its director and producer.
In his letter to competition chairperson Laurice Guillen-Feleo, Cruz said: “Clearly, the current film festival and I are working on two different principles as to what independent filmmaking is and should be.”
The disqualification stemmed from Reyes’ insistence on casting actors Allan Paule and Joy Viado to play the lead roles. The committee deemed the choices “not suitable to the material.” Cinemalaya monitoring head Robbie Tan allegedly wanted Victor Neri and Francine Prieto instead.
“MNL 143” is a black comedy about Ramil, an overseas Filipino worker who, returning home, works as an FX cab driver to find his lost love, Mila.
Reyes was to compete in the New Breed category, whose finalists each receive a seed grant of P500,000 from the Cinemalaya Foundation. His film will be replaced by Gino Santos’ “The Animals,” about a bunch of rich kids in a fraternity.
Cruz said in his resignation letter: “I respect the contributions of Cinemalaya to the filmmakers, who have now established themselves as formidable and important members of the filmmaking community which I owe my passion to. It is because of this respect that I have decided to now withdraw my name as member of the selection committee.”
Filmmakers and enthusiasts, including Cruz, have turned to social networking sites to air their reactions to the disqualification of “MNL 143.”
Cruz said he posted a comment on his Facebook wall because he had been “enraged by the disqualification.” He clarified, however, that the remark was solely his own, “erupting not from my position as a member of the selection committee but from my conscience and my passion for true independent filmmaking in the Philippines.”
Also on Facebook, writer-producer Raymond Lee said Cinemalaya “was supposed to be about giving filmmakers, especially young, beginning filmmakers, the freedom to make their films their way. And yes, that includes the freedom to make their own mistakes.”
Lee said he read the script of “MNL 143” and found Reyes’ casting choices “brilliant.” He explained: “Paule is well-suited for the lead role, but the young filmmaker’s choice for the… long-lost love, Viado, is genius. For me at least, it is a glimpse into the writer-director’s—and his producer’s—maturity, sobriety and wit. [They refuse] to settle for the trite, the expected, and most of all, the false.”
Lee added: “I’m sure [the committee members’] intentions were good, just as I’m sure they’re sure they’re right, but it’s not always about being right.”
Film producer Alemberg Ang said he hoped the problem would be solved soon. “It would be such a pity if all the hard work that…both the filmmakers and those involved in the festival, had put into it went to waste.”
A source said another finalist in the New Breed category is in danger of disqualification, also due to casting disagreements with the competition committee. Eduardo Roy Jr.’s “Lola Igna” reportedly had to cancel filming last week upon the order of committee members, who did not approve of actress Sue Prado being cast. They also ordered a “major script revision,” the source added.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Fajardo has replaced Jeffrey Jeturian as director of “Posas,” a film competing in the Directors’ Showcase category. Online reports said Jeturian could not take a leave of absence from ABS-CBN, where he just started directing a new drama series. “Posas,” a coproduction of Quantum Films, features Bangs Garcia and Nico Antonio.
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