Thursday, March 01, 2012

CNMLY 2012 : (

No more MNL 143? Wahhh!

Of all the finalists to Cinemalaya’s Directors Showcase and New Breed competitions, I was most excited with the proposed full-length entry of Emerson Reyes. He was a promising find last year. I loved his hilarious short film Walang Katapusang Kwarto, which won the Best Short Film award at Cinemalaya 2011. It is one of those rare films that capture the personality of its maker. The film is charmingly funny with large doses of impishness.

Unfortunately for the young director, his entry titled MNL 143 was recently disqualified by the Cinemalaya monitoring committee headed by Robbie Tan. The main reason given was Reyes’ insistence on casting Alan Paule and Joy Viado as main leads. Tan was quoted in PEP’s exclusive article as saying that the pairing will not work and lacks chemistry. He still hasn’t learned his lesson with the Sheika controversy years ago. Sheika’s film director Arnel Mardoquio withdrew his film from the New Breed competition because Cinemalaya officials were convincing him to replace his unknown actress with a more famous star. The Sheika team was vindicated when it won the NETPAC award that year from Cinemalaya. The lead star, Fe Ging-Ging Hyde, later won the Urian Best Actress award from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

I’m outraged with Tan’s remarks. Reading between the lines, the gist of his explanation is that Viado is not good looking enough to have Paule as a boyfriend/lover. Tan seems to prefer Star Cinema’s romance films in which the young leads are all good looking and Seiko’s titillating films in which sexy girls and handsome hunks frolic in skimpy attire. Are love stories of ordinary looking people not good enough for the big screen?

But, more than the alleged lack of chemistry between the two proposed leads, I think the real reason behind the disqualification of the film is its perceived lack of box-office potential. Paule and Viado do not have the clout to pull in moviegoers. However, a good script can overcome that liability.

Box-office money (and the elusive theater run) is now the end-goal of Tan and company. Greater audience acceptability is an important criterion behind the casting of Cinemalaya films. The Cinema One Originals group has also succumbed to the lure of box-office bonanza. The group led by Ronald Arguelles has amended its rule to provide more money to projects with box-office potential. Isn’t Cinema One Originals a competition? So where is the fairness in providing more money to commercial projects?

It’s the end of the local film grant world as we know it, folks. We'll be seeing less of experimental, edgy films and more of bland, commercial films. Maybe in the coming years,  we'll see the likes of  films with titles such as 'Enteng N'yong Lahat' barging in at the competitions. The likes of Vic Sotto, Ai-ai de las Alas, John Lloyd Cruz, and Derek Ramsay will bring in the crowds. Wahhh!

It's a good thing there's still the Film Development Council of the Philippines giving grants to indie filmmakers, most of them are not based in Manila. Now their films are likely to be original and sporting a new breed of filmmaking. There's still hope for indie film lovers.

Related link/s:

PDInquirer article