The 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival proved to be one of the most-talked about editions of the movie event in the last four decades after independent films dominated the roster of finalists, leaving out the usual crowd drawers from mainstream cinema.
Despite the low turnout of audiences in December—which translated to a huge loss in box office revenue—those who supported the changes in the MMFF selection were confident they had begun a new era in the local film industry.
However, an unprecedented announcement was made a week ago, when the first half of the traditional Magic 8 was named based on submitted scripts of mainstream cinema. With three members resigning from the executive committee, the issue continues to hound the MMFF.
In a telephone interview with The Manila Times, respected and long-time execom member Boots Anson-Rodrigo clarified that the announcement of partial finalists should not have taken anyone by surprise in the first place.
“These were not sudden or impromptu announcements because on May 2, when the first meeting with producers were held, it was already announced then that in order to approach a win-win situation, instead of purely script-based entries and finished product entries, the eight entries would come from four winning scripts and four finished products,” she related.
Rodrigo added that it had been agreed that the first four finalists would be announced on June 30 in that meeting, which also discussed the rules and criteria to be used. She recalled some some 30 producers from both mainstream and independent production outfits in attendance.
Meanwhile, the actress did not deny that there remains a faction in the execom. “There’s always a division of the house in any Execom meeting or in the composition of the execom from the very beginning—some members were for the script [while others]were for the finished product; some members were for indie, some for including mainstream.
“I would like to think that the great divide between mainstream and indie was obliterated and so as it is now, wala nang pinpointed na mainstream ito, indie ito basta kung ano yung entry that would abide by the criteria as stated, after the deliberation of the selection committee, yun na yung [official entry].”
As an execom member for many years, Rodrigo has seen various controversies hound the MMFF and the latest one is anything but unexpected.
“From the beginning of the MMFF, the execom has always eaten controversies for breakfast. Wala yatang MMFF na walang controversy. That is for the simple reason that as human nature dictates, nobody is really satisfied with the results—those who are not selected will complain and they will raise issues. Parang politcs din siguro yan—those who are not elected will complain and say they were cheated. That is human nature, and that is something that we expect and respect,” she declared.
“But what is important is that the ground rules were stated and that the rules committee really took several sessions to study the issues and to finalize the rules that were passed on and stated to the producers at that meeting.”
She further pointed out that the selection for this year was made bearing in mind the recommendations made at the Senate committee hearing in 2016 after the poor box office outcome of the festival.
“I remember as a guide to us, at the last Senate committee hearing last year, the MMFF execom agreed to come up with a win-win situation that would put emphasis or premium on good, quality commercial films. Good quality films that would appeal to audiences just the same,” Rodrigo conveyed. “Because what is the use of coming up with best films if they will not connect with an audience present?”
Finally, as an advocate of the welfare of movie industry workers, Rodrigo highlighted the fact that the festival, besides bringing entertainment to the public, also has a responsibility to its continuing beneficiaries.
Rodrigo stated, “I think we should not discard the fact that while the festival aspires to produce quality movies, it also has responsibilities to its beneficiaries that are all film-related agencies. These comprise the various sectors and the stakeholders in the movie industry, including the producers, the theater owners, the bookers, the distributors, the actors, the marginalized workers represented by Mowelfund, and the professional guild represented by the Film Academy of the Philippines.”