'Citizen Jake' director Mike De Leon criticizes MMFF for corruption

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 31) — Veteran film director Mike De Leon on Tuesday announced that his film "Citizen Jake" will not be part of the Metro Manila Film Festival this year.

In a Facebook post, De Leon said corruption in the film festival deterred him from entering the movie, which sees the acting debut of broadcast journalist Atom Araullo.

"Ever since the anomalous selection process that occurred months ago that resulted in 4 films being selected based on scripts, I realized that any reforms well-intentioned filmmakers may clamor for are only doomed to failure," De Leon said.

De Leon, known for directing classic Filipino films "Kisapmata" and "Batch '81," has been on hiatus from the industry since "Bayaning Third World" in 1999.

He was also the producer and cinematographer of Lino Brocka's "Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag," which earned him the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Award for best cinematography in 1976.

In his statement, De Leon added a reliable source told him that "Citizen Jake" would be a shoo-in at the MMFF should he decide to join.

"Corruption has returned in full force to this festival that purports to make children happy during the holiday season, a euphemism for profit and greed. My film may be fiction but it is based on truths we ignore at our own risk. It should be seen by its audience in its original version, without cuts and without compromise," he said.

MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer, however, told CNN Philippines that no film entry has a sure slot in the festival.

"No one - not even an EXECOM (executive committee) member can promise a producer a sure slot in the festival. There is a separate Selection Committee (composed of independent-minded individuals) that is tasked to screen and evaluate the films," Ferrer said.

"Citizen Jake" features Araullo in a fictional journalist role, who criticizes politicians through his writing. It also stars Nonie Buencamino, Gabby Eigenmann, Max Collins, Cherie Gil, Dina Bonnevie, Luis Alandy, and Teroy Guzman.

In June, MMFF revealed on its Facebook page the first four entries to this year's competition, which saw the return of annual staples Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto, along with a film featuring Coco Martin, and another movie topbilled by Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales.

This follows last year's festival which saw a reformed selection of films, with more independent films but performed poorly at the box office.

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

MMFF revealed that the selection committee based the first four entries on the scripts submitted, which Executive Committee Chairman Tim Orbos said is a new vetting scheme applied for this year's festival to assure that there is no discrimination among commercial and independent film entries.

According to its post, "The film entries this year were evaluated based on the following criteria: 40% artistic excellence; 40% commercial appeal; 10% promotion of Filipino cultural and historical values & 10% global appeal."

READ: Ex-MMFF committee members speak up on resignation

The return of commercial movies to the festival prompted the resignation of four members from the selection committee-Ricky Lee, Rolando Tolentino, Kara Magsanoc Alikpala, and Ed Lejano.

Four more full-length feature films will be announced on November 17, which will be selected based on the finished outputs.