Ex-MMFF committee members speak up on resignation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — As the first four entries of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) have been revealed, three of its committee executive members had resigned.

Film director Erik Matti, in a Facebook post, suggested the resignation of the three committee members — Ricky Lee, Rolando Tolentino, and Kara Magsanoc Alikpala — was due to the lack of the festival's desire to have a roster of quality films in this year's competition.

One of the resignees, University of the Philippines professor Rolando Tolentino, then added fire to the issue through his tweets, saying there's a divide between mainstream and independent films.

The initial lineup revealed by MMFF on June 30 was based on the submitted scripts. The second batch, completing the eight entries, will be based on the final output, to be announced on September 29.

However, award-winning scriptwriter Ricky Lee clarified he did not resign because of the choice of scripts, as he stepped down before the selection process even started.

He said he sensed the direction of the festival was veering towards showcasing commercial films against art house films, which he described as a flawed formula. He suggested a solution to hold a separate edition of the festival solely for big commercial movies.

"Miyembro ako ng industrya kakampi ko silang lahat, pare-pareha kami ng goals and katrabaho ko silang lahat and hopefully tomorrow, I'll still be working with them so sa akin, hindi ito away," Lee said.

[Translation: I am a part of the industry and I'm all for everyone, we have the same goals and we all work with each other and hopefully tomorrow, I'll still be working with them so for me, this is not a conflict.]

He said he believes having art house movies and so called blockbuster movies competing in the same festival makes for an impossible task for those choosing the winners in the different categories.

"Na-realize ko lang mahirap eh, itong proceso eh, yung direction ng meetings namin pumupunta, kumikiling doon sa mas emphasis sa box office... sabihin natin hindi na sila masisisi dahil syempre... kailangan nila kumita eh. Syempre hindi naman namin masisisi ang inclination namin dapat syempre excellent films, so nag-aaway na agad yung dalawang interest, nahihiwa, nahahati," Lee said.

[Translation: I realized this process and direction of our meetings put an emphasis on the box office, and we cannot blame them as they want to earn. Of course, they cannot also blame us if we our inclination is toward excellent films, so the two interests are already divided.]

He also dispelled rumours that he resigned because a script he submitted didn't pass the selection.

Lee said art house movies need to be helped and screened over the Christmas season to ensure they sell and help the audiences develop appreciation for quality movies because blockbuster movies will sell no matter the season.

"Tama naman eh na mabigyan nila ng pera and so on and so forth. That is precisely the reason why sana meron tayong box office festival where to the max ang kikitayin natin, walang na tigi-gulo na ibang klaseng pelikula," he said.

[Translation: It's just right that they are given money. That is precisely the reason why we should have a box office festival where we maximize the earnings, it won't be mixed with other films.]

Lee said he feels that through the years the public's taste has somehow changed, not necessarily for the best.

"Noong panahon maganda yung mga pelikula, festival quality and mabo-box office sila noon then somewhere along the way nagkaroon ng shift."

[Translation: Back in the day, films were good, festival quality and they're box office, then somewhere along the way, there was a shift.]

However, Metro Manila Development Authority General Manager Tim Orbos denies a major clash, adding that he respects the decisions of the former committee members.

"Not only do we push for artistic excellence but we have a responsibility for our beneficiaries. It was put up precisely to support the industry and you have beneficiaries there and then that's why we need revenues," Orbos said.

He admits this year, unlike last year when all the films were acclaimed as being of artistic excellence, they have to allow space for so called blockbusters or commercial movies.

"We have to strike a balance!... We were all criticizing that na walang quality that was two years ago but it was making a lot of money. Tumama tayo ng ₱1 billion two years ago. Last year we had all those nice and really, really good films but we hit only ₱300 million yata or ₱400 (million). Yes, imagine the disparity," Orbos said.

Orbos explained organizations who focus on developing the film industry receive a cut of the earnings of all the movies shown in Metro Manila annually.

These organizations are the Film Development Council of the Philippines, MOWELFUND, Optical Media Board, Motion Picture Anti Film Piracy and the Film Academy of the Philippines.