(First of two parts)
The films that placed fourth, fifth and sixth during the deliberation of the final lineup of this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) were all given the same score, prompting the festival selection committee to include two more films in which was once an eight-entry event.
This is what film producer Jesse Ejercito, head of this year’s selection committee, says. “They are all quality films. We didn’t have the heart to base the decision solely on drawing lots. The suggestion to make it a 10-film lineup actually came from a member who operates movie theaters. We decided to give them all a chance. We also want to see what the effect of this change will be. Actually, the MMFF had 10 competing films in the beginning, not eight,” Ejercito told Inquirer Entertainment during a meeting at the new Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) office in Ortigas on Tuesday afternoon.
MMDA is the organizer of the annual film event.
Here are the final six entries: Jun Robles Lana’s “Becky and Badette,” starring Eugene Domingo and Pokwang; Derick Cabrido’s ‘Mallari’, starring Piolo Pascual and Janella Salvador; Zig Dulay’s ‘Firefly’, starring Alessandra de Rossi and Euwenn Mikaell; Lem Lorca’s ‘Broken Heart’s Trip’, starring Christian Bables; and Pepe Dikono’s “GomBurza,” starring Dante Rivero, Cedrick Juan and Enchong Dee; and Conrado Peru and Rommel Peneza’s “When I Met You In Tokyo,” starring Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon. The first four entries announced in July are: Nuel Naval’s “A Family of 2,” starring Sharon Cuneta and Alden Richards; King Palisoc’s “(K)ampon,” starring Derek Ramsay and Beauty Gonzalez; Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Penduko” starring Matteo Guidicelli; and Mae Cruz-Alviar’s “Rewind,” starring Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes.
Ejercito said the ten films were chosen from thirty entries. “This year was the toughest for us. It was hard to get just four. We do not select entries based solely on artistic merit. We have criteria on which to base our decisions,” he said, referring to the fact that only two films are allowed per genre and an actor cannot star in more than one entry.
“The commercial value of the film is also taken into account,” Ejercito added. “Last year it was a horror film that did well. This explains why we received eight horror entries this year. Moreover, there was hardly any entry in the fantasy genre.”
For MMDA chairman Romando Artes, what they had was a “lucky problem. We know we made the right decision to add two more to the line-up because they are all good films. You can tell just by looking at their trailers and the cast of each project.”
Artes hopes that cinema operators will show support by lowering ticket prices. “We will discuss this with theater owners and producers. We will encourage them to listen to the sentiments of moviegoers,” he added.
MMFF spokesperson Noel Ferrer described the inclusion of two more films in the lineup as “a win-win situation.”
“From the producers’ perspective, their films receive a premium if they become part of the MMFF. They can sell their films to streaming platforms at a better price,” he said.
In fact, Artes reported that one of last year’s Top 3 entries cost just $20,000 before it was shown at the MMFF. After the MMFF run it sold for $100,000.
More, better choices
“From the public’s perspective, they are offered more and better choices. If we can spend that much on Taylor Swift concert tickets, then we know there is a market for entertainment projects. We know that if people like good content, they are willing to spend money for it,” Ferrer said.
Meanwhile, Santos admitted that her film with De Leon, who also served as associate director, was not originally intended for the MMFF. “We had a first play date in September, but we decided not to go ahead because this is considered the rainy season. “I prayed hard for the film to get shot, so you can imagine the anxiety I went through, especially when I found out that thirty films had been submitted for the final four slots,” she began. “There were so many good films to choose from this year. I can’t comment much as I haven’t seen all the entries. I’m just grateful that ours was included. It means it’s really worth watching.”
She added: “This is truly a team effort. Boyet (De Leon’s nickname) and I made sure we had a say in all our scenes in the film. That’s how we were involved in this project. We wanted to make sure all the scenes were age appropriate. We also didn’t want the story to become a heavy drama, because we think it should be a feel-good film.”
Because “Firefly” was included in the lineup, De Rossi said this meant she would have to ride the float and promote the film during the Christmas season. “This came as a shock to me, but I am happy for my friend Zig. His films deserve to be seen in theaters,” she told Inquirer Entertainment. “Now that there are ten films in the line-up, all I can say is: ‘The more the merrier.’ Viewers will have more choices. The great thing about ‘Firefly’ is that it is a film for all ages.”
She continued: “While doing this, I had to focus on the emotions I wanted my character to express. And we know that motherly roles require a pure heart. That’s where the drama is. It’s about a mother and her son. It’s about how the strongest love can overcome the greatest fear.”
(To be completed tomorrow)