Spokesperson: MMFF challenges mainstream producers to improve

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 26) — The Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) challenges mainstream productions to come up with better work, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"It's really challenging them to up their mark in storytelling, in technicals, et cetera," Noel Ferrer told CNN Philippines' The Source. "And for indie productions also to really up their ante into more accessible films."

Ferrer said the first day of the festival, which opened on Christmas and which will run until January 7, was a success.

The line-up of eight films this year received mixed reviews following an altered selection process. The first half of the films — "Gandarrapiddo: The Revengers Squad," "Meant to Beh," "Ang Panday," and "All of You" — were selected based on their script. The next four entries — "Haunted Forest," "Deadma Walking," "Siargao," and "Ang Larawan" — were selected based on the finished films.

Related: What to expect from Metro Manila Film Festival 2017

Ferrer and other MMFF officials said the selection process was a "compromise" between independent and mainstream industries. The change came after last year's snub of expected box office hits from previous MMFF regulars Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto.

Last year's film festival also raked in only about P373.3 million in box office earnings in its shorter run, a figure significantly less than the one billion pesos the festival hauled in the year before. MMFF 2016 was also the first time that producers were required to submit finished films instead of screenplays.

However, some critics argue that entries should have been selected based on the merit of the finished films — not on their production background.

Ferrer maintained the festival this year aims to "[break] down the indie-mainstream divide."

He added that actor Coco Martin, who directed and starred in "Ang Panday," started out in independent films.

"Please, tulungan na lang natin sila [let's help them]. These are people trying to make more accessible films, more commercially viable films, so let's support them," said Ferrer.

In line with this show of support, Ferrer said producers, the MMFF executive committee, and theater owners agreed to impose stiffer penalties against the publicizing of top-grossing films.

The penalty includes a P200,000 fine and disqualification from joining the MMFF next year. The penalty aims to prevent movie-goers from flocking to proclaimed box office hits.

"We're only as strong as our weakest member. Pag linabas mo iyan, may bandwagon effect... Now even Star Cinema or ABS-[CBN] cannot claim number one in the box office kasi bawal," said Ferrer.

(Translation: If you publicize [the rankings], there's a bandwagon effect... Now even Star Cinema or ABS-[CBN] cannot claim number one in the box office because it's against the rules.)

Ferrer also said theaters in the provinces would carry MMFF entries. He also disputed suspicions that some cinemas only ran expected box office hits, saying assignments to theaters were chosen through a lottery.

However, he appealed to movie-goers to watch their anticipated films as soon as possible to keep them in cinemas.

Despite rave reviews, the anticipated musical "Ang Larawan," is in danger of dropping out of theaters. The film is based on a play penned by national artist Nick Joaquin and translated by another national artist, Rolando Tinio.

Ferrer said that artists and workers from both independent and mainstream backgrounds were still in the same industry and had to help each other.

"Ang kalaban natin hindi tayo, but really the foreign films," he added.