MMFF could consider dropping final entries if film quality is poor — Joy Belmonte

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ONE OF the new members of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) Executive committee (Execom) suggests the possibility of a film festival entry being dropped from the lineup if its quality if not up to par.

“I think we should not be closed to the idea that those film scripts already selected can still be excluded should the final product be below an established set of standards,” said newly appointed Execom member Ma. Josefina “Joy” Belmonte-Alimurung in an online interview with BusinessWorld.

The Quezon City Vice-Mayor and head of the Quezon City Film Development Council is one of three replacements for the four members who recently resigned from the Execom due to disagreements with how the festival is being run, most notably with the decision to choose four of the eight official festival entries via their scripts rather than as finished films.

Joining Ms. Belmonte-Alimurung on the committee are film director Maryo J. delos Reyes, and actor and AVP for Community Relations and Services of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Arnel Ignacio.

The announcement was made on July 11 by the MMFF.

“I have the highest regard for the resigned Execom members and understand completely the reasons behind their resignation, all of which I took into consideration before accepting the appointment,” Ms. Belmonte-Alimurung told BusinessWorld on July 12.

She added she accepted the post “because I feel that the MMFF is still relevant to the majority of Filipinos given the timing on which it takes place and the traditions that surround it.”

“I don’t think the MMFF ever had any pretenses of being just an indie filmfest to begin with unlike, say, QCinema, so no conflict there,” she noted.

On June 30, scriptwriter Ricky Lee, academician Rolando Tolentino, and broadcast journalist Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala all announced their resignations from the Execom, partly in protest of the way the first four entries to the film festival were selected. This was followed by the resignation of Ed Lejano, the executive director of the Quezon City Film Development Council, on July 8.

“From early on, I was hopeful that the significant gains of the 2016 MMFF be maintained for this year. Succeeding developments with the various committees thus far, have proven otherwise. The ensuing issues resulting from the current compromise selection process make it untenable for me to remain in the committee,” Mr. Lejano said in a statement furnished to

“I firmly believe that for MMFF to truly benefit all its industry stakeholders, the finished film submission is one basic requirement that is fair and viable for all, not to mention above board,” he added.

The four entries — chosen from submitted scripts — saw the return of the regular big ticket names: comedian/host Jose Marie “Vice Ganda” Viceral, Rodel Pacheco Nacianceno (better known as Coco Martin), and Marvic Valentin “Vic” Sotto.

This year’s MMFF vision was to combine “quality and box-office potential” according to Thomas Orbos, general manager of the MMDA, as quoted by MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer in an online interview with BusinessWorld in March.

Among the films that didn’t clinch a spot in the first round were Erik Matti’s Buy Bust; Raya Martin’s Smaller and Smaller Circles, an adaptation of F.H. Batacan’s Palanca-winning English novel; and Loy Arcenas’ Ang Larawan, a musical adaptation of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s The Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.

While some people see the return of festival staples as a sign that the MMFF is only considering the star power of the leads instead of the quality of the films, Ms. Belmonte said: “if anything, last year’s festival put some pressure on our commercial film producers to up the ante and set the bar higher in terms of artistic excellence even while they are headlined by big stars and have the advantage of bigger budgets.”

The challenge now, she explained is for the festival not to alienate new audiences developed by last year’s festival.

“Thus in short, fairness is important. This means that artistically excellent films should not be pulled out of cinemas prematurely just because they do not pull in SRO crowds but be accorded the same treatment as the more commercially viable ones,” she said.

She also noted that the festival should “be more transparent with regards to the funds earned by this festival.”

“I am assuming that the bias towards commercial films has some philanthropic objective other than to enrich producers, so I’d like to have very definite mechanics in place to ensure this and to make this info open,” she explained.

The MMFF will run from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7. — Zsarlene B. Chua