WHAT WAS supposed to be Kristina Bernadette “Kris” Aquino’s comeback horror film is pulling out from the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), though no formal statement has come from the festival’s executive committee (Execom).

“Quantum Films [had a lengthy] discussion [with the MMFF regarding the] request for the change of lead actor from Derek Ramsay to Gabby Concepcion. The Rules Committee of MMFF invoked [a rule] which states the [need for the] Execom’s approval since the letter of request was submitted [on] Aug. 5 which is five days after the set deadline. The final recommendation is to deny the request of Quantum Films,” Ms. Aquino, who is one of the film’s producers aside from being one of its stars, posted on her Instagram account on Aug. 16.

In a separate post, Ms. Aquino explained that Mr. Ramsay, who was originally cast as the lead in the film (K)Ampon, backed out on Aug. 2 citing prior commitments. He currently stars in GMA7’s primetime TV series, The Better Woman.

Ms. Aquino was informed that Mr. Ramsay backed out on Aug. 3 and by midnight of the next day, the movie’s producers had managed to get Mr. Concepcion to agree to do the role and sent a letter of request to change the lead actor on Aug. 5.

The denial recommendation is “premised on the ground that it was filed out-of-time,” and Ms. Aquino said on the post that if they insist on changing the lead actor to Mr. Concepcion, the film will be disqualified from participating in the MMFF in December.

As of press time, no official statement has come from the MMFF Execom regarding the fate of the film.

“I was raised to abide by the rules. We are not the lead producer for (K)Ampon. So unfortunately, my return to horror was not meant to be for MMFF 2019,” Ms. Aquino wrote.

The film was to be Ms. Aquino’s first horror film since 2014’s Feng Shui 2.

This is not the first entry to this year’s MMFF that had a cast change as Nadine Lustre, who was supposed to star in the Filipino adaptation of the Korean movie The Miracle in Cell No. 7, backed out in July because of health issues. Bela Padilla has replaced her.

“I have read suggestions to appeal [but] I was raised to have delicadeza. The members of the executive committee are friends, one is one of my closest friends that’s why I can’t do it,” Ms. Aquino said in a separate post.

She lamented that aside from not doing a film she so wanted to do, they will have to pay “several millions” in MMFF bond, and to production staff, crew, and artists.

“No blame game, but to clear my name, I was concerned about shooting until we had the approval of the MMFF rules committee, but I wasn’t the producer in charge,” she added.

The film is produced by Quantum Films though Ms. Aquino is also an investor.

(K)Ampon was one of the first four films chosen as official entries from scripts to what is considered the country’s biggest film festival. The other three entries chosen were The Miracle in Cell No. 7, Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity, and Momalland.

The four finished films chosen as entries will be announced at a later date, completing the eight MMFF official entries.

The MMFF runs from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7, 2020 in cinemas nationwide. — Zsarlene B. Chua