MANILA, Philippines – Independent film director Emerson Reyes, whose movie “MNL 143” was disqualified from the 8th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition, is considering filing a lawsuit against the film festival.
|Indie film director Emerson Reyes
Reyes said he and “MNL 143” producer Nestor Abrogena are studying their legal options with their lawyer and may seek moral and exemplary damages.
"We’re in consultation po with our lawyer as of now for a case, with Atty. [Jose Manuel] Diokno," Reyes told ABS-CBN News.
Cinemalaya's organizing committee has dropped "MNL 143" late last month, saying that the casting of Alan Paule and Joy Viado were "not suitable to the material." The movie tells the story of an overseas Filipino worker who returned to the country in search for his long lost love.
According to Reyes, they have yet to receive an official explanation on their removal from the film festival’s New Breed Section.
"Pumasok po kami sa Cinemalaya knowing that we will create the film of our dreams. Sana maging clear sila kung gusto nila commercial acceptability. I think that’s against the principle of being independent. Kasi ang independent cinema I think we create films for us to tell stories na 'di karaniwang napapakita sa mainstream. So if may nakikialam na ganyan, na gusto nila ng commercial viability eh hindi na po 'yun independent, parang nagiging studio work na rin po," he explained.
“Hindi po ako nagyayabang dito. Hindi naman po siguro pagyayabang na ipaglaban ko yung tama. Hindi naman po ako magre-react ng ganito kung wala naman pong masamang ginagawa eh. Hindi naman po ako para magimbento lang," he added.
Just a suggestion
In a press conference on Tuesday, Cinemalaya monitoring head Robbie Tan said he was merely “suggesting” to the filmmakers to cast Victor Neri and Francine Prieto as a “peg para mas may idea sila.”
“When they present their plans, when they present that kind of casting and other things, I tell them straight, because that’s the only way for them to realize perhaps it won't work. But definitely I don’t insist what I want,” Tan said.
“There are occasions when the filmmakers disagree with me, so I ask them to present me photos or videos to prove that they are correct. Kami naman hindi naman kami tumitingin kung lahat dapat sikat,” added the Seiko Films producer.
Cinemalaya founder Antonio Cojuangco Jr. cited the case of Jim Libiran’s festival-winning film “Tribu,” which featured actual residents of Tondo in the cast.
“But before we agreed to do that, they had to show us videos of this group, and so they had to give us samples of their acting skills and what they can do, before we actually said, ‘OK this will do, and you’ll be able to make the film,’” said Cojuangco, who is also the chairman of theater group Tanghalang Pilipino.
He added: “We have not come to an agreement on casting matters and we have not actually signed any agreement with them nor have we paid any downpayment. How can we have a meeting of the minds when we can’t agree on the first section of the agreement?”
The 10 finalists in the New Breed category each receive a seed grant of P500,000 from the Cinemalaya Foundation.
Cojuangco also said they have selected between 12 to 15 potential films for this category "because we know [some of them] may drop out along the way."
Guillen affected by issue
|Cinemalaya’s competition chairperson Laurice Guillen
Last year, Reyes’s “Walang Katapusang Kwarto” won best film and screenplay in the Short Feature Category of Cinemalaya. It also bagged the Audience Choice Award.
While Cojuangco praised Reyes for his victory, he also stressed that making a 20-minute documentary and a full-length movie are “world’s apart.”
“I think he needs some guidance from people who have been there so the usual mistakes will not be made which will waste his time, waste his budget. So we just want to point out, ‘O eto mga problema sa gagawin mo’ and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Cojuangco said.
Meanwhile, Cinemalaya’s competition chairperson Laurice Guillen admitted that she has been affected by the issue.
“Mahirap mag-concentrate sa trabaho kung this is going on because there are also finalists who might be affected,” she said at the press conference.
“Out of the 11 or 12 we are processing in the New Breed Category, this one had a problem, siya lang magisa, and alam naman namin na itong competition …meron talagang posibilidad na mayroong mga filmmakers na iba ang interpretasyon, na iba ang expectation,” she added.
Despite the controversy, the director of “Tanging Yaman” and “Salome” said it’s important for her not to get distracted from her main work.
Cojuangco also stressed that, amid numerous speculations, Cinemalaya will push through this year.