FAP denies politics in Oscars selection process
FAP director general and 'On the Job' cast member Leo Martinez in a scene from the Erik Matti-directed film
MANILA -- The Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) addressed a claim made by "On the Job" director Erik Matti that several politicians urged the group not to submit the film as an entry to 86th Academy Awards.
In a statement given to ABS-CBN News on Tuesday, FAP director general and "On the Job" cast member Leo Martinez denied there was any form of "lobbying" against the film to become the Philippines' official submission to the 2014 Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category.
"Hindi naman kapanipaniwala na may lobbying against 'On the Job.' Senators were in fact endorsing 'Thy Womb,'" said Martinez, who portrayed a corrupt general in the Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment co-production.
"[Pero] wala namang kinalaman 'yun sa ganda ng pelikula. Hindi naman ito paramihan ng text tulad ng reality show," he added.
Last week, FAP's selection committee, headed by director Peque Gallaga, said "On the Job" and Brillante Mendoza's "Thy Womb" figured in a "three-way fight" with Hannah Espia's "Transit."
Speaking with ABS-CBN North America News Bureau on Tuesday (Manila time), Matti said "several senators and even congressmen wrote to them (FAP) not to choose 'On the Job.'"
Referring to the Cinemalaya film which tells the story of Filipinos in hiding from the Israeli government, Matti said, "'Transit' was the safe choice for everyone in the midst of the Napoles issue."
Matti was referring to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, whose alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam supposedly benefited some members of the Upper and Lower House.
"On the Job" centers on inmates temporarily released from jail to become contract killers for corrupt politicians.
'No politics at all'
In a separate statement given to ABS-CBN News on Tuesday afternoon, Gallaga said he feels "insulted" by Matti's insinuation that the FAP may have been marred by political interests in choosing the Philippines' entry to the Oscars.
"There was no politics at all in the selection process. In this particular issue, I don't give f**k about what government says. I find the insinuations insulting," Gallaga said.
Enumerating the members of FAP's selection committee, Gallaga said, "Let's not cast aspersions on people like Robert Arevalo, Gina Alajar, Elwood Perez, William Mayo, Joe Carreon and Jess Navarro who are respected and who do original work."
"We did our work professionally, responsibly and we sat down intelligently to discuss the merits of the potential entries 'Thy Womb,' 'On the Job' and 'Transit,'" he added.
While he referred to the Israel-set indie offering as "a really good film," Matti said "On the Job" and "Thy Womb" would have had a better chance of earning a nomination in the Oscars, pointing to their respective acclaimed runs internationally.
"On the Job" will hit selected theaters in the United States starting September 27, four months after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Thy Womb," on the other hand, has been screened or has competed in over 40 international film festivals, with four best actress wins for lead star Nora Aunor so far.
"There will be winners and losers," Gallaga said, "Okay lang to be very disappointed pero walang pikunan. Who does he think he is, the savior of the industry?"
Along with the Philippines' "Transit," two other films that center on Filipinos have been submitted as an official nominee to the 2014 Oscars.
Anthony Chen's "Ilo Ilo," which centers on a Pinay domestic helper in Singapore, is the country's entry; while Sean Ellis' "Metro Manila," which chronicles the struggles of a Filipino farmer in the Philippine capital, was recently announced as the United Kingdom's entry.