The resignation of three Metro Manila Film Festival’s executive committee members has elicited differing opinions from MMFF 2017 chairman Thomas Orbos and Film Development Council of the Philippines chairperson Mary Liza Diño.
Acclaimed screenwriter Ricky Lee, former dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication Rolando Tolentino, and journalist and documentary producer Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala resigned following the official announcement of the first four entries selected for this year’s festival, and allegedly due to the failure of the committee to implement reforms.
“We respect their decision and I believe we parted amicably. There are 25 Execom members, only three resigned. Ms. Alikpala, in fact, resigned two months ago and the rest of the members remained,” said Orbos in a text message.
Orbos said the selection process for this year’s MMFF is not yet finished and the committee only selected four out of eight official entries, including the two films featuring comedians Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto, whose previous films were excluded in 2016.
“So, there is still chance for others not selected and therefore there is no reason to say there is no more chance,” said Orbos, who is also a general manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority, the overall organizer and the supervising body of the annual festival.
Orbos said “the selection committee members were not chosen by me but was evenly recommended and selected by both commercial and indie sectors. No one objected at that time. The two-tier selection process approved by the Execom precisely assures fair play for both commercial and indie groups.” “We all need to remember that MMFF is not an ordinary festival. As an afterthought, last year, when all the eight films selected were “indie” films, the Execom members who were associated with “commercial” did not resign,” he added.
For her part, Diño, also a member of the Execom, said she’s “actually been talking to Sir Ricky, Sir Roland and Miss Kara even before this happened so I am aware of how conflicted they have been feeling about the opposing views among the committee members.”
“As artists, we operate differently especially kung passion at creativity ang tanging puhunan at pinaghuhugutan. But there are things that are beyond our control especially in a committee of 24 members na may kani-kanyang pinanggagalingan. Since Execom is a collegial body, majority wins and that’s what was followed.”
Diño admitted she is not happy with how MMFF is shaping up this year, but she said she understand where each sector is coming from.
“Filmmaking is a business as much as it is an art. The hardest part is to find the balance so we can serve both of its purpose,” said Diño.
Diño described last year’s MMFF as a big achievement for Philippine Cinema for having independent films.
“But we have to consider that unfortunately, the numbers didn’t support that. P400 million is not enough to sustain a theater industry. In a country where we only have an annual average of 20% audience viewership, they need that Christmas revenue in order to recoup their losses. Audience turnout is important when we talk about the business side and a P1 billion loss is no joke,” she said.
Diño said the MMFF 2017, with its vision to marry the artistic success of 2016 and commercial successes of the past, provided a huge promise of creating a more sustainable model without losing the reforms that it introduced last year.
“There is nothing wrong having blockbuster films. We all watch Hollywood money making films. Maybe it’s about time to take a closer look into aligning the supposed vision with the real intention of the festival,” she added.
In his Facebook account, Lee posted “When I agreed to join, I decided to stay if the reforms which started in 2016 would continue. But in the course of what’s happening right now it looks like it will not happen, so there’s also no reason for me to stay.”
Tolentino on Twitter said discussing his resignation would break a confidentiality clause. Nevertheless, he said “The results of the script selection speak for themselves.”
Earlier this year, Tolentino said there would be no distinctions made between mainstream and independent movies in the selection process for this year’s festival, but simply that the films chosen must “come with artistic merit and come with a certain kind of popular appeal.
”In another tweet on Sunday, however, he declared, “It proves that during the MMFF script selections, there is no interest in removing the distinction between indie and mainstream. What was removed was indie.On Sunday, he shared a photo of a folder bearing his official designation in the committee and said, “It’s not in the rules, the decision is in the implementation.”
Other members of the MMFF executive committee include Senator Grace Poe, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos, Taguig City Mayor Laarni Cayetano; Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde; Rachel Arenas, chairperson of the Movie, Television Review and Classification Board; Wilson Tieng, president of the Movie Producers and Distributors Association of the Philippines; Jun Romana of the Bureau of Broadcast Services; Jesse Ejercito of the Philippine Motion Picture Producers Association; Marichu Maceda, chairperson of the Mowelfund; actress Boots Anson-Rodrigo; Victor Villegas , a film distributor; Edgar Tejerero, president of SM Lifestyle Inc.; and lawyer Rolando Duenas, assistant general manager of Ayala Cinemas.
Last Friday, the MMDA announced the first four official entries for this year’s MMFF and the films included those featuring Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto in The Revengers and Love Traps #Family Goals, respectively, along with a Panday remake starring Coco Martin and the romantic comedy Almost Is Not Enough featuring Jennylyn Mercado.
It said the following entries have been thoroughly evaluated by the body’s selection panel.
The MMDA admitted that the line-up of movie entries in 2016 failed to hit or surpass the P1 billion total gross it earned in 2015.But it added that even if they failed to hit their targets, last year’s MMFF was considered successful in bringing mostly independent films.