Almost a year after it was plagued with a scandal that led to a congressional probe, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) Executive Committee is under fire again.
The newly-constituted Executive Committee is facing questions anew about its decision to allow film producers to submit entries on “picture lock” stage just eight days before the deadline of entries.
The new controversy stems from MMFF 2016's mechanics which were first presented to all interested participants in August this year, which stated that “all entries shall be finished films.”
The mechanics also said interested participants should submit a “hard drive containing the film entry in DCP (JPEG 2000) or non-DCP (MP4, AVI).”
The mechanics, however, did not include a specific definition for what constitutes a “finished film.”
The first complaint to come in about the changed mechanics came in November 2 from Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto, who said, “It's a complete violation of the original rules. It's like changing horses midstream because may mga gustong sumali na hindi tapos."
The Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP.ph) interviewed a number of film-industry insiders to find out their reactions to the last-minute changes in the mechanics of the annual film festival.
DIE BEAUTIFUL DIRECTOR SPEAKS UP. Jun Lana said that he was “surprised” with the MMFF 2016 Execom’s belated announcement of what constitutes a “finished film.”
Director-writer Lana, who submitted his Die Beautiful film to this year's MMFF, said, “Prerogative ng MMFF yun.
“But to be honest, I was also surprised because my understanding was 'finished film,' because that was in the rules and regulations na sinubmit nila—mag-submit ng finished films.
“Hindi ko alam na, ano pala, picture lock pala ang ibig nilang sabihin.
“But prerogative nila yun.”
Lana, also a co-owner of The IdeaFirst Company which produced Die Beautiful, submitted the Paolo Ballesteros starrer as an entry to MMFF 2016.
Having recently headlined the Tokyo International Film Festival, Die Beautiful is a completely finished film.
Is he saying it was unfair of the MMFF 2016 Execom to announce a change in the mechanics days before the deadline of submission of entries?
The director answered: “Hindi naman siguro unfair.
“Hindi lang nalinaw nang maaga kaya nagulat yung mga tao.
“Because, from our end hindi naman kami magrereklamo dahil tapos na naman kami.
“Wala kaming problema. Whether picture lock or finished film, ok kami.”
He did point out that interested participants who hadn’t finished their film entries would benefit from the change in mechanics.
“Ang makikinabang talaga yung mga hindi aabot, tapos puwede pala picture lock," Lana said.
"Hindi lang nila nalinaw nung simula. Sana nilinaw nila nung simula para hindi nagkaroon ng ganitong problema.”
Without naming names, Direk Jun nevertheless admitted that other filmmakers were unhappy about the changed mechanics.
“I can understand kung saan nanggagaling yung ibang producers na nagulat na parang nagkaroon ng adjustment. ‘Bakit picture lock? E, ang sabi nung una finished film.’
“But sabi ko, I’ll take everything with a grain of salt dito sa MMFF.
“I hope mapili kami kasi gusto naming maipalabas sa maraming tao talaga yung Die Beautiful,” the writer-director said.
BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK PRODUCER'S REACTION. An industry insider with similar sentiments is lawyer-producer Josabeth “Joji” Alonso.
As Quantum Films' producer, Atty. Alonso submitted Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank Part 2: Forever is Not Enough as entry to MMFF 2016.
Atty. Joji said, “We submitted on October 31 at 8 a.m...
“I wanted to make sure that I didn’t violate anything at all. Para no issues, no nothing.
“The deadline was on October 31.
“Although I was informed that there was gonna be an extension because nga walang pasok ang October 31.
“At the back of my mind, you know, if you really want to have a deadline on the 31st of October, and you have people there, e, di i-comply mo na rin.”
Atty. Alonso maintained that her understanding of a “finished film” is that it is a "completed film," which means it has all the elements, including sound, music, and effects.
Asked if allowing picture-lock versions of film entries was discussed at the launch of MMFF 2016, Atty. Joji said that it wasn’t.
The lawyer-producer elaborated, “Picture lock or pic-lock. Wala, e. I don’t recall that being mentioned during the meeting with the producer. Nothing.
“That’s why nga, it’s very clear at the back of my mind that we should finish it on time to be able to meet the deadline.”
Is she saying it was unfair that she complied with the Execom's requirements whereas other interested participants did not have to?
“My position there is, whatever the committee decides, I just follow," the Babae Sa Septic Tank producer said.
“To a certain extent, yes, it’s unfair, because there were people shooting up to 3 a.m., doing their fight scenes just to finish the film on time, and submit it on time.
“So, I can understand where these filmmakers are coming from, if they will object.
“But, me kasi, it’s the decision of the committee. I will respect their decision.
“I don’t wanna question na... I’m so tired na…”
MMFF 2015 SCANDAL. It is no secret that Atty. Joji’s film festival entry last year, #WalangForever, was embroiled in the congressional probe of the “MMFF 2015 scandal.”
Aside from the alleged anomaly in the disqualification of Honor Thy Father for Best Picture Award, “conflict of interest” was a major issue during the meetings of the House of Representatives’ Metro Manila Development (MMD) committee.
Laguna Representative and Honor Thy Father cast member Dan Fernandez accused Atty. Joji of having a “connection” or “association” with MMFF 2015 Execom member Dominic Du.
During the congress meetings, Representative Fernandez questioned at length Atty. Joji's "connection" to Du, and implied that the lawyer-producer benefited from this.
Atty. Joji Alonso denied benefiting from her lawyer-client relationship with Dominic Du, who is an MMFF 2015 Execom member who is also the head of Motion Picture Anti Film Piracy Council.
But the scandal, which was investigated in PEP's MMFF 2015 Special Report, revealed that “if strictly applied, ‘conflict of interest’ tainted all key players in the scandal, including the very parties who made it an issue.”
Dondon Monteverde and Erik Matti, chief complainants in the issue against Atty. Joji Alonso and Dominic Du, turned out to be business partners of MMFF 2015 Execom member Marcus Ng.
MOVING FORWARD. In light of the controversies that hounded MMFF 2015, PEP asked Atty. Joji Alonso if she expected the MMFF 2016 rules and regulations to be questioned again.
The lawyer-producer answered, “Honestly, no. I always thought that this time around, no nothing. No compromises. If the deadline was the 31st, the deadline would be 31st, and it would be a completed film.”
Nevertheless, Atty. Joji reiterated that she had no plans of raising a complaint against the new Execom for its belated announcement of what constitutes a “finished film.”
She added, “So, since they made adjustments, ok lang. I respect that decision.
“Siguro, maybe if I can inject lang din the fact na, in international festivals, they really do accept pic-lock.
“And if the film is really good, they accept it. So, if in international festivals they do that, I don’t see any reason why the MMFF cannot also allow it.
“Trying lang to consider all arguments possible, that’s what comes to mind.”
Atty. Joji added that she empathizes with filmmakers objecting to MMFF 2016's decision to introduce last-minute changes to the mechanics.
"Kasi nga, grabe, as in walang tulugan para lang matapos, para lang makapag-comply sila sa deadline. So, naiintindihan ko, masakit yun for them."
SENATOR SOTTO'S COMPLAINT. It was Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III who first protested that the last-minute change in the mechanics is a “complete violation” of MMFF 2016 Execom’s original requirement that producers submit “finished films.”
In a TV interview last November 2, Senator Sotto said, “It's a complete violation of the original rules.
"It's like changing horses midstream because may mga gustong sumali na hindi tapos.
"Kaya parang bine-bend nila ang rules para ma-accommodate [yung ibang entries]."
While the senator is not a producer of any film entry, he is the older brother of Vic Sotto, who is a co-producer of an aspiring film entry, Enteng Kabisote 10 and The Abangers.
Vic’s camp, however, has not directly raised any complaint before the MMFF 2016 Execom.