MMFF 2017 Executive Committee member Ed Lejano resigns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 8) — University of the Philippines (U.P.) film professor Ed Lejano said on July 8 that he has resigned from the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival Executive Committee (MMFF ExeCom).

The ExeCom — which is composed of over 20 members from the academe, government, media, movie industry and the business sector — is the film festival's selection and decision-making body.

Lejano — who has judged various international film festivals as a member of the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema — said in a July 8 statement that he submitted his resignation on July 7.

Former MMFF 2017 Execom member Rolando Tolentino, a fellow U.P. film professor, confirmed this in a July 7 tweet.

His departure comes less than a week after Tolentino, award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee and broadcast journalist Kara Magsanoc Alikpala left the ExeCom after the festival's first four entries were announced on June 30.

Read: Ex-MMFF committee members speak up on resignation

Their resignations come amid changes to the MMFF's selection process this year, with "commercial viability" or a movie's money-making ability making a return as a criterion.

In 2016, commercial viability was replaced with "artistic excellence," which enabled independent films to comprise the majority of entries in the film festival, including multi-award-winning comedy-drama "Die Beautiful."

Read: MMFF roundup, part 2: ‘Die Beautiful,’ ‘Oro,’ ‘Sunday Beauty Queen,’ and ‘Vince and Kath and James’

This year's MMFF also reintroduced the submission of film scripts to the selection process, which had been removed last year. Four scripts and four finished films will be chosen for the festival on Dec. 25 to Jan. 7, 2018.

Lejano said although he has nothing against including blockbuster movies in the MMFF, the move to announce the four winning film scripts in June could have "potentially chilling effects" to the film industry.

"It privileges the first four titles with plenty of lead time for promotions," he said in the statement. "Come October, when the next batch of finished films are selected, only a month remains for marketing and promotions for the latter four titles."

He said the finished films would have a "built-in disadvantage" that could limit their box-office performance and result in the films being cut from cinemas early.

"Who will be marginalized in this scenario?" he said. "It is a vicious cycle once again at the expense of indie films and their struggle persists."

Lejano said he still believes the 2016 MMFF "set the bar for a viable festival criteria for submission and selection."

'Commerce over art'

Tolentino, Lee and Alikpala said in a July 4 joint statement that they left the ExeCom because this year's MMFF put "too much emphasis on commerce over art."

"We accepted the invitation to be members of the Metro Manila Film Festival 2017 Executive Committee because we were excited to maximize the gains of the MMFF 2016," they said. "Last year's festival showcased a wide variety of quality cinema that went beyond the formulaic. It also celebrated the spirit of a film culture that produced many cult classics in the early years of the MMFF."

They emphasized, however, that their resignation had little to do with the first four MMFF 2017 entries and that they expressed their intention to leave long before the entries were announced.

The four entries include:

"The Revengers," directed by Joyce Bernal and starring comedian Vice Ganda, actor Daniel Padilla and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach

"Love Traps #Family Goals," directed by Antonio Reyes and starring comedian Vic Sotto and seasoned actress Dawn Zulueta

A remake of the classic film "Ang Panday," directed by Rodel Nacianceno and starring actor and model Coco Martin

"Almost is Not Enough," directed by Dan Villegas and starring Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales, who also headlined the 2015 MMFF Best Picture winner #WalangForever, similarly directed by Villegas

Read: Vice Ganda, Vic Sotto return in MMFF 2017 roster

"All excellent Filipino films deserve all forms of support," they said. "This support includes movies being screened for the entire duration of the festival with maximum exposure in as many theatres in and outside Metro Manila. We remain steadfast believing in a Metro Manila Film Festival that can once more be a celebration of the finest of Filipino artistry."