Liza Diño: ‘Filmmaking is a business as much as an art’

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FDCP chairman and execom member tries to find middle ground in MMFF issue
Showbizlandia was caught by surprise when, out of nowhere, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) executive committee (Execom) announced they had chosen the first four official entries for December’s 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Based on script submissions—contrary to the latest rule implemented in 2016, which based choices on completed movie submissions—the titles that make up half of the traditional “Magic 8” are Coco Martin’s adaptation of “Ang Panday;” Star Cinema’s superhero flick “The Revengers,” which stars Vice Ganda, Daniel Padilla, and Pia Wurtzbach; “Almost is Not Enough” directed by Dan Villegas, with Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales; and Antonio Reyes’ “Love Traps #FamilyGoals” top-billed by Vic Sotto and Dawn Zulueta.

Noticeably, save for Mercado and Rosales, the other lead stars of the said films were those whose mainstream entries were allegedly snubbed in 2016 in favor of an all-independent film line-up. Remember the controversy?

FDCP Chairman Liza Diño (center) still had a meeting with Ricky Lee (third from right) and Erik Matti (extreme left) a week before the MMFF selection issue erupted PHOTO FROM IG.COM/LIZADINO

Back to present time, on the day the first four entries for 2017 were announced, award-winning director Erik Matti later floated the news that three MMFF Execom members—namely academician Rolando Tolentino, scriptwriter Ricky Lee and broadcast journalist Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala—had immediately resigned.


Lee explained his decision via social media and said that when he agreed to join the execom, he gave himself an ultimatum to stay in the MMFF only if the reforms made in 2016 would hold up. Tolentino, on the other hand, cited a confidentiality clause in responding to questions why he decided to resign, but nevertheless hinted at his displeasure over the turn of events. Akipala, finally, seems to have chosen not to speak of the issue any further.

Thus far, of the remaining 21 members of the Execom, only Film Development Council Chairman Liza Diño has issued a statement over what is shaping up to be another controversial lead up to the festival proper. Difficult as it is, she evidently tried her best to take in both sides of the situation saying, “I have been asked by the media to comment about the resignation of our three MMFF execom members since the news broke out last Friday. The past few days have been tough and I’ve been thinking long and hard kung paano i-a-approach ang nangyari so forgive me [for the delay in my statement].

“I’ve actually been talking to Sir Ricky, Sir Roland and Miss Kara even before this happened so I am aware of how conflicted they have been feeling about the opposing views among the committee members. As artists, we operate differently especially kung passion at creativity ang tanging puhunan at pinaghuhugutan. But there are things beyond our control especially in a committee of 24 members na may kani-kanyang pinanggagalingan. Since execom is a collegial body, majority wins and that’s what was followed.

“Of course, I am not happy with how MMFF is shaping up this year, but I do understand where each sector is coming from. Filmmaking is a business as much as it is an art. The hardest part is to find the balance so we can serve both of its purpose.

“Last year, nagtagumpay ang MMFF dahil nakapagbigay tayo ng line up ng mga pelikulang kakaiba sa karaniwang panlasa ng mga manonood. Artistically, it was a big achievement for Philippine Cinema. But we have to consider that unfortunately, the numbers didn’t support that. P400 million 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. Mahalaga ang audience turnout when we talk about the business side and a P1 billion loss is no joke kahit saang sektor.

“But MMFF 2017, with its 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. Kaya siguro umaalma ang karamihan ngayon dahil hindi akma ang naging resulta ng lineup sa sinasabing dapat na vision ng MMFF.

“Walang masamang gumawa ng blockbuster films. We all watch Hollywood’s money-making films. Kaso ang tanong, yun ba ang direksyon ng MMFF? Maybe it’s about time to take a closer look into aligning the supposed vision with the real intention of the festival.

“Sa mga nagtanong, I am choosing to stay 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. Hindi natin pwedeng idamay ang mga pelikulang nakasali. At the end of the day, Pelikulang Pilipino pa rin ang kalahok dito.”

Four more full-length feature films will be announced on November 17, which according to several showbiz observers may be taken from independently produced entries to pacify the ongoing conflict.

The bottom line is that no matter how some stakeholders in the movie industry try to remain optimistic that the delineation between independent films and commercial movies will no longer exists in the near future, the Philippine movie industry clearly have a long—and challenging—way to go toward this direction.

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