Award-winning and box office actor John Lloyd Cruz has called for drastic reforms in the yearly Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), starting with its selection of entries.
Cruz made the strong call on Wednesday when he attended a congressional probe of the last-minute disqualification of his MMFF movie, “Honor Thy Father,” from the MMFF Best Picture award.
During an inquiry two days ago, it was revealed that MMFF jurors were told by MMFF Executive Committee Members Marichu Maceda and Dominic Du to disqualify Cruz’s movie from the Best Picture category as early as December 21 despite completing requirements of disclosure of previous non-profit screenings.
December 21 was five days before the MMFF Executive Committee decided that “Honor Thy Father” was disqualified from the Best Picture race which is December 26–less than 24 hours before the MMFF Awards night.
“Hindi ito maliit na bagay. Hindi ito kashowbizan lang [This is not making mountains out of molehills. This is not just about entertainment]. This is an important matter. The process was not followed. We are not saying that we should have fared better in the box office if not for the disqualification. It was anybody’s game. But we were denied an opportunity to compete in a fair game,” Cruz, the lead actor and one of the film’s executive producers, said.
Cruz has at least eight Best Actor awards under his name.
“I am here because I love the film industry, and it has loved me back, and so much more. And I am sure I am not the only fan of the Philippine movies here who is also a fan of different genres of movies. We have varying experiences in life, and we should have the same variance in our movie choices,” he said.
Cruz, whose MMFF foray came after his movie “A Second Chance” broke box office records and became the highest grossing Filipino movie of all time with gate receipts of P556 million worldwide, then went as far as saying that his movie’s disqualification from the top MMFF prize would have prompted him to reject a Best Actor award had he won it.
“I was nominated for Best Actor. I did not win, but if I did, I would have said, on what basis are you judging my performance? Based on a movie that is disqualified? It did not make sense to me. I would have rejected that award,” Cruz told reporters in news conference held before the hearing, alluding to the fact that “Honor Thy Father” still won major awards such as Best Child Performer for Krystal Brimner, Best Supporting Actor for Tirzo Cruz 3rd and Best Director for Erik Matti despite being disqualified for the top prize.
He, however, underscored that it is not about winning awards or generating box office numbers but providing for a level playing field for all genres of local movies.
“Honor Thy Father” marked Cruz’s first try as a movie producer.
“What I have learned in this process is there are a lot of sides to it: the creative, the commercial and the investment. I wanted to exercise my creative rights. I have no intention on going after monetary issues. I wanted to produce as part of my growth as an actor and a part of the film industry,” he said.
“I am not here for the Best Actor award or any other citation. This is about the future of Philippine movies. And now that I am in the eye of the storm, I wish [I could join MMFF again], but only until I see appealing reforms,” Cruz added.
He cited that there were instances when non big-ticket movies were initially removed from theaters but were screened again because of positive reception from the audience such as Heneral Luna, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, Kimmy Dora, Zombadings and Lav Diaz’s four- hour film Norte, whose screenings were all sold out despite its unusual length.
“If we screen more local films, it would be a win-win situation for everybody. If we develop our audience, it means more sustainable income. We should institute reforms for MMFF on how entries are picked so that the festival will inspire audiences rather than peddle doubts,” Cruz said.
“What has happened [in the MMFF]would either sow discord among us in the industry or make us work together to strengthen our industry. At sa dinami rami po ng pelikulang nagawa ko, natutunan ko pong kapag mahal mo, ipaglalaban mo [In all of the movies I made, I have learned that you would always fight for something that you love],” he added.