MANILA - Erik Matti's ''Honor Thy Father" has been pulled out from the Best Picture race of the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
In a letter dated December 26, MMDA chair Emerson Carlos said the decision to disqualify the entry was because of the failure of the film's producer, Ronald "Dondon" Monteverde, to "disclose its participation to the CinemaOne Originals Festival 2015 as the opening film."
"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," Carlos said.
On his Facebook account on Saturday, Matti shared a statement from Monteverde, along with a photo of the letter from the MMFF executive committee and a document from CinemaOne Originals showing that the special screening of "Honor Thy Father" was "non-revenue generating and by invitation only.''
"Let me refute this allegation of non-disclosure. If you will recall, Honor Thy Father was a late addition to the MMFF 2015 lineup," Monteverde said. "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."
Monteverde continued that each MMFF entry was allowed a maximum of two premieres, and that their team considered their CinemaOne screening as one.
"Let me repeat: we complied with all the MMFF's requirements; we did not commit any non-disclosure of any kind; no MMFF rule was ever violated by 'Honor Thy Father.'"
"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."
"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."
Meanwhile, "All You Need Is Pag-Ibig" director Antoinette Jadaone has responded to the disqualification. She wrote on her Twitter account: "Hay, MMFF. Bakit? Sino'ng may pakana? Sino'ng makikinabang? Para sa ikabubuti ba ito ng industriya?"
"Di end-all-be-all ang awards, pero sa kasong ito, awards translate to instant promotion and word of mouth. And Honor Thy Father needs that," she added in a follow-up post.
As of writing, the phrase "Demand For Honor Thy Father" has become one of the top trending topics on Twitter, with many netizens voicing out their support for the crime film.
'WE WILL INVESTIGATE THIS'
In an interview with DZMM, Laguna 1st District Representative Danilo Fernandez, who is also part of the cast of "Honor Thy Father," said that he will file a resolution when Congress resumes in January to investigate the disqualification.
"I will file a resolution...We need to investigate deeper on this. Kasi baka mamaya, mayroon mga favoritism o bias na nangyayari," Fernandez claimed.
He also criticized the MMDA for not disclosing to the public the members of the panel of judges for this year's awards ceremony. "These are the things that we have to find out," he said.
Fernandez then shared that Carlos has yet to respond to their queries regarding the matter. As of writing, the MMFF executive committee have yet to issue a statement nor announce the disqualification.
"Honor Thy Father' stars John Lloyd Cruz and was graded ''A'' by the Cinema Evaluation Board. Aside from Cruz, it also features Meryll Soriano and Tirso Cruz III. The film was screened in the Toronto International Film Festival last August.
READ: Erik Matti, John Lloyd hope Pinoys will see 'Honor Thy Father'