The 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has redesigned its upcoming season to honor the hard work of the Philippine film industry, while creating a bigger and sustained experience for December’s most awaited family affair.
“This year, the Philippines has undergone the most drastic changes in history; and like the change of government, now [comes]the change for the film industry,” said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman and lawyer Emerson Carlos over a grand launch of the “new” MMFF Tuesday night at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
“Change is the theme of today’s MMFF. This change is what we expect; this change will bring back the excitement and love for the country’s most prestigious festival,” he added with aplomb.
Indeed, major amendments to the rules of the MMFF were made by the MMDA following the controversial disqualification of film entry Honor Thy Father from the Best Picture race in the festival’s 2015 outing, when its lead star John Lloyd Cruz had been nominated for Best Actor, and its director Erik Matti won the plum for his category.
The controversy even caught the attention of the House of Representatives where an inquiry was held in January, headed by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, then chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development. Besides the illogical exclusion of Honor Thy Father from the Best Picture nominees, irregularities in the disbursement of the festival’s funds were also uncovered.
Acting on the findings of the public inquiry, the MMFF decided to refit its board of directors, coalescing high-ranking representatives from the country’s public and private sectors to create the 2016 executive committee.
This all new MMFF Execom is now comprised of MMDA chairman Emerson Carlos, Police Senior Superintendent Rhoderick Armamento, film academician Edward Cabagnot, producer Jesse Ejercito, Film Development Council of the Philippines executive director Teodoro Granados, writer Moira Lang, Bryan Ian Montaces, and Metro Manila Theaters Association Vice President Marcus Ng.
Also included are Mowelfund president Boots Anson-Rodrigo, Bureau of Broadcast Services’ Jun Romana, SM Lifestyle Entertainment president Edgar Tejerero, Motion Picture Distributors Association of the Philippines president Wilson Tieng, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, and Movie and Television Review Classification Board Chairman Eugenio Villareal.
One of the major changes that the committee announced at the gathering is that producers will now have to submit a finished film by October 31, as compared to the previous requirement of turning over a script for selection. A Letter of Intent addressed to the board will also have to precede the submission of a finished film by July 8.
“This all came about because we want change. Actually, the demands came from the stakeholders. Sabi nila, dapat hindi script ang batayan ng pagpili ng mga entries sa film festival, so we discussed this and madugo ang talakayan para magkaroon ng desisyon,” Carlos recalled.
“I think this is the right time that we start accepting or selecting films based on finished products. It may be very hard for the first year but we can adjust. Moreover, we expect this year na lahat po ng mga entries will keep going in the box office dahil iaangat nating lahat ang kalidad ng mga kasali dito sa film festival.”
Carlos and the attending board members went on to enumerate the new selection criteria for interested filmmakers. The conditions for the choice of finalists are built on story, audience appeal, and overall impact (40-percent); cinematic attributes and technical excellence (40-percent); global appeal (10-percent); and Filipino sensibility (10-percent).
With the new MMFF, there will also be a value system shift from box-office consideration to the said criteria. There will neither be any distinction from here on between mainstream and independent film entries. Finally, there will no longer be cash prizes given to the winners.
Furthermore, the awards night will now be held at the very tail end of the festival, on January 8, 2017 for the 2016 season, in order to avoid unduly influencing audiences in their viewer’s choices.
With regard to categories, the Best Child Actor Award has been scrapped to give way to the MMFF Children’s Choice Awards, which is designed to encourage filmmakers to create worlds geared for younger audiences with children aged nine to 12 years selecting the winners. There will also be a “People’s Choice Award” introduced this year.
The new MFFF will further see the merging of the main competition and the “new wave” category, which is usually reserved for budding independent filmmaker. IN their place will be the Full-Length Feature Film and the Short Film sections.
Unlike before, there will no longer be a limit to the number of submission of entries to the festival, and movies which have already competed locally or internationally will also be accepted.
“In a more democratic move, tinanggal na namin yung rule na kailangan limited yung genre. Tinanggal na din yun yung rule na naglilimita ng productions na sasali. Any and all genres will be allowed in the main competition, whether from mainstream or indie film productions,” Boots Anson-Rodrigo said.
“Kahit na nailabas na sa ibang festivals abroad or even locally, basta’t may abiso lamang sa Execomm, as long as there is due notice, they will be accepted,” she explained.
The Executive Committee has appointed a nine-body team to act as the Competition Committee. This is comprised respected individuals in their own fields who possess unquestionable integrity.
Meanwhile, the eight selected finalists will be announced on November 10.
“Obviously the rationale for the changes came from the issues that were raised during the 2015 festival. This prompted us na kailangan may pagbabago. Hiningi yung mga pagbabago. We listened to the people; we listened to the stakeholders,” the MMDA Chairman concluded.