The annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) officially opened yesterday, with eight films to suit every taste and preference for Filipinos around the country. All the films have successfully opened and are getting their reviews, but one film is standing out for another reason.
Despite the stellar reviews of Erik Matti’s Honor Thy Father, the director and producer are crying foul because it’s already being pulled out of cinemas and was today disqualified for the Best Picture category of the MMFF 2015 Awards.
The notice was given to the producer Ronald Stephen Monteverde, by overall chairman Atty. Emerson S. Carlos. According to Atty. Carlos:
Dear Mr. Monteverde,
Please be advised that due to your non-disclosure of your participation to the Cinema One Originals Festival 2015 as the opening film and after careful and thorough deliberation, the Metro Manila Film Festival Executive Committee has disqualified your entry, Honor Thy Father, from the selection of the Best Picture Category of the MMFF 2015 Awards.
The news hit social media, and the hashtag #DemandForHonorThyFather became a trending topic on Twitter to keep the movie in theaters.
Monteverde has released his official statement on the film’s Facebook page, stating that the executive committee was informed that Honor Thy Father was screened at the Cinema One Originals Festival 2015. He stated that the team complied with all of MMFF’s requirements, and even met the festival’s request to provide a letter from CinemaOne head Ronald Arguelles about the film’s screening.
When Reality Entertainment partnered with John Lloyd Cruz in producing “Honor Thy Father” we agreed to make a movie that would capture a small portion of the struggle of the Filipino as he tried to transcend the back-breaking realities and limitations of his life. We wanted to tell the story of Edgar, a Filipino who finally fights back. After putting up with so much oppression, he confronts the people that have made his life hell, people motivated by greed for money and lust for power.
Little did I know then that this same narrative would find its way to the movie’s own history.
Today I received a letter from the Metro Manila Film Festival informing me that their Executive Committee had disqualified our movie from the Best Picture Category of the 2015 MMFF Awards. The reason for this, the letter said, was our “non-disclosure” of our participation in the CinemaOne Originals Film Festival as the Opening Film.
Let me refute this allegation of non-disclosure. If you will recall, Honor Thy Father was a late addition to the MMFF 2015 lineup. It had been rejected by their selection committee when the lineup was announced in June. On October 23 our film was officially offered a slot after an entry pulled out. By then we had already accepted CinemaOne’s invitation to screen as Opening Film. We informed the MMFF Secretariat, both by email and by phone, about this. We complied with their request for a letter from CinemaOne head Ronald Arguelles attesting that the screening was non-revenue generating and by invitation only. We have all of this on record.
He went on to say that each MMFF entry is allowed two premieres, as long as the first was only for promotional purposes and was non-revenue generating. If this is the case, the team must send a sworn statement attesting to this, which the producer did on November 5 and 6 via email.
I am questioning the reasons, the timing, and the means employed in enforcing this decision by the MMFF Executive Committee. Where is due process in all of this? We were merely informed of their decision, not given any opportunity to air our side. They sent the letter today. The awarding ceremony is tomorrow. Are they merely being good scouts and sticklers for the rules, even when no rule was broken? Or is there some other reason? Why disqualify the movie only from the Best Picture category and not all categories? Whose interests are being protected by this last-minute decision?
Together with my director Erik Matti, co-executive producer and actor John Lloyd Cruz, and everyone behind Honor Thy Father, I demand answers. We demand an investigation. But if no one would care or bother to investigate, then we simply wish that the moviegoers, the Filipino people would start to question and be more critical of what, year in and year out, is passed off to them as good and true.
Monteverde wraps his letter saying that the film’s goal is not to win awards.
They can have their Best Picture and all the other awards. We just want to keep making movies that people will care about, MMFF or no MMFF.
Today is a sad day for the industry I was born into and love dearly. But it doesn’t have to stay this way.
Let’s do something about it. Let’s end the silence.
Do you think Honor Thy Father has a strong case? Share your thoughts below!