By Alvin I. Dacanay
In a move seen as a return of the practices that marked earlier, scandal-plagued editions of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) and a reversal of the lauded artistic gains scored in last year’s edition, the festival’s executive committee (execom) for 2017 issued late last week its call for submissions of screenplays and finished films to this year’s annual event.
The call came “after months of thorough and careful evaluation and deliberations, including dialogues with the different industry stakeholders,” MMFF organizers said on the festival’s official Facebook page on May 5.
“Based on the stated objectives of the 2017 MMFF to pursue both artistic excellence and audience appeal that can equate to more benefits (for) its target industry beneficiaries, it has been resolved that there will be two ways (of) entering this year’s MMFF for full-length features,” they said.
One way is submitting a dozen copies of a script, a duly accomplished application form, and complete requirements to the MMFF Secretariat on or before June 15, and paying an application fee of P30,000.
Half of the eight official entries for this year’s edition—often called the “Magic 8”—shall be selected from the scripts submitted and announced on June 30.
The other is submitting a finished film, a duly accomplished application form, and complete requirements to the secretariat on or before October 2, and paying an application fee of P30,000. Those submitting beyond that date until October 30 shall pay P50,000.
The remaining four official entries shall be chosen from the finished films submitted and revealed on November 17.
As for short films, festival organizers said the deadline for submission is on September 1, and the eight official short-film entries shall be announced on September 29.
“In order to facilitate schedules for screening and for monitoring purposes, the letters of intent of filmmakers and producers for joining this year’s MMFF should be given to the MMFF Secretariat on or before 5 p.m. of May 10,” the MMFF said.
“We would like to underscore the 2017 MMFF Execom vision of encouraging the submission of excellent films that would connect to a broader Filipino audience for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival,” it added.
The 25-member executive committee is led by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and MMFF Chairman Thomas “Tim” Orbos. Members include Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) Chairman Rachel Arenas, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairman and CEO Liza Diño, Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund) Chairman Marichu Maceda, SM Lifestyle Entertainment Inc. (SMLEI) President Edgar Tejerero, director Mel Chionglo, screenwriter Ricky Lee, and academic Roland Tolentino.
The revised MMFF submission guidelines bring back producers and directors’ longtime practice of entering screenplays to the festival and, after their selection as official entries, later submitting finished movies that are reportedly different from what had been approved.
The Magic 8 films were chosen based solely on their scripts until last year, when the executive committee ruled then that only finished films can be submitted for consideration.
This resulted in a diverse lineup of films—Jun Robles Lana’s transgender dramedy Die Beautiful, Erik Matti’s 1940s-set religious thriller Seklusyon, Ted Boborol’s crowdpleaser Vince & Kath & James, and Avid Llongoren’s animated feature Saving Sally, among them—that was generally regarded as the festival’s best in years.
Many expect that commercially successful, but critically panned film franchises, including the Enteng Kabisote, Mano Po, and Shake, Rattle and Roll series, would return to the MMFF this year as a result of the latest guideline change.
Social-media users, including those who were involved in the 2016 MMFF, expressed disappointment over the change in the comments section of the festival’s Facebook page.
“Na-ano ulit ang MMFF,” wrote Chuck Gutierrez, producer and editor of the overseas-Filipino-worker documentary and last year’s festival best-picture winner Sunday Beauty Queen, using Sen. Vicente “Tito” III’s remark about Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s status as a single mother during her confirmation hearing at the Senate on May 3 that many felt as insulting.
“Change, in an ideal world, should move the movie industry forward. With this politics of accommodation, I pity those who are fighting for what has been started,” wrote actress and satirist Mae Paner, a member of the 2016 MMFF selection committee.
“Evil can be good-mannered, compassionate, (or) in well-pressed clothes or bright red lipstick. Beware! And I am afraid civility will kill the soul,” she added.
“Change for the sake of compromise is not change. Compromise is complicity. #protectthereelvolution,” outspoken former MMFF executive committee member and film professor Ed Cabagnot wrote on his Facebook account.