The three members of the Metro Manila Film Festival whose resignations became public last Saturday after the first four entries of the coming festival was announced issued a joint statement Wednesday to explain their decision.
Broadcast journalist Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala furnished InterAksyon with the joint statement she signed together with academician Rolando Tolentino and screenwriter Ricky Lee.
“We accepted the invitation to be members of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) 2017 Executive Committee (ExeCom) because we were excited to maximize the gains of the MMFF 2016. Last year’s festival showcased a wide variety of quality cinema that went beyond the formulaic. There was a shift of emphasis from commercial viability to artistic excellence. It also celebrated the spirit of a film culture that produced many cult classics in the early years of the MMFF,” their statement began.
“After several meetings and deliberations, we resigned because the MMFF 2017 ExeCom took a different direction, by putting too much emphasis on commerce over art.”
Stressing their departure had “little to do with the first four selected MMFF 2017 entries,” Alikpala, Tolentino and Lee said they had expressed their intention to resign long before the announcement.
“Some quarters in the ExeCom insist that only big film studios can produce a blockbuster. We believe that producing a box office hit and creating quality film is not exclusive to big film studios nor to independent film outfits. All excellent Filipino films deserve all forms of support. 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,” they added.
“We stand committed to seek reforms in the Filipino film industry. We remain steadfast believing in a Metro Manila Film Festival that can once more be a celebration of the finest of Filipino artistry…The Filipino audience deserves no less.”
Prior to the joint statement, Lee earlier posted on his Facebook page that he had only agreed to be part of the committee if the reforms started in 2016 would be continued and he decided to leave when he realized it was not possible.
The MMFF has yet to issue an official statement on the much-publicized resignations but Metro Manila Development Authority general manager Thomas Orbos, who is also the chairman of the MMFF Execom, earlier texted InterAksyon with this message, “Basically we respect their decision to resign despite the fact that the selection process is not yet over.”
Film Development Council of the Philippines chair Liza Diño-Seguerra, a member of the MMFF Execom, posted a lengthy message on her Facebook page commiserating with Alikpala, Lee and Tolentino.
“I am aware of how conflicted they have been feeling about the opposing views among the committee members…But there are things that are beyond our control especially in a committee of 24 members…Since execom is a collegial body, majority wins and that’s what was followed,” she pointed out.
“Of course I am not happy with how MMFF is shaping up this year, but I do understand where each sector is coming from.”
While recognizing that last year’s MMFF was a big artistic achievement for Philippine cinema, Diño also noted that “filmmaking is a business as much as it is an art” and conceded that “the hardest part is to find the balance so we can serve both of its purpose.”
Diño, however, cited the importance of audience turnout as she noted that the P400 million gross of last year’s festival is “not enough to sustain a theater industry.”
“In a country where we only have an annual average of 20 [percent] audience viewership, they need that Christmas revenue in order to recoup their losses…when we talk about the business side and a 1Billion loss is no joke,” she added.
Still optimistic that MMFF 2017’s “VISION to marry the artistic success of 2016 and commercial successes of the past provided a huge promise of creating a more sustainable model without losing the reforms that were introduced last year,” Diño said that she has opted to stay in the MMFF Execom “despite the conflicts that are happening within.”
“I know it’s always going to be a question of integrity so for that, I salute sir Ricky, sir Roland and Miss Kara. But this is bigger than myself. As head, I have a duty to serve the entire industry,” she concluded.
Diño’s post was criticized and challenged by several industry stalwarts that included filmmakers Babyruth Villarama-Gutierrez, Jade Castro, Emmanuel dela Cruz, Katski Flores and actress-activist Mae Paner, a member of the MMFF’s selection committee last year.
Singer-songwriter and National Youth Commission chair Aiza Seguerra, Diño’s husband, defended his wife in his own Facebook post Wednesday by pointing out that the MMFF is not FDCP’s program and “Liza is NOT the decision maker [of] MMFF” and only one of 24 individuals with different agendas.
“Say what you want but do not question her love for this art and our industry. Do not question her integrity,” Seguerra added as she stressed that if his wife were leading the MMFF, “believe me, it will be very different from what is happening now.”