Fest attracts controversy for over-representing Regal

MANILA — Name-calling and threats of a boycott typified the recently wrapped Metro Manila Film Festival, a two week fest supposedly showcasing the best the once-great Filipino movie industry can offer.

While Filipino films have done well at the local B.O. by concentrating on fantasy-adventure pics aimed at youth, fest attracted controversy for over-representing one production shingle.

Regal Entertainment, headed by “Mother Lily” Monteverde, this year saw its productions and co-productions take five of the 10 festival slots, up from four last year.

The awards ceremony was marked by walkouts and producers threatening to hand back prizes. Although her nostalgic romancer “Blue Moon” won best picture and best screenplay awards, Monteverde was among those unhappy.

Claiming that backroom manipulations produced unfair and illogical awards, Monteverde said she would not be back next year if the method for selecting winners doesn’t change. In particular, she objected to horror film “Kutob,” produced by Canary Film, winning several prizes.

New direction

Apart from the name-calling, the latest frame of the fest moved away from the adventure genre and edgy subject matter that dominated last year’s crop.

The jury and festival-goers seemed to like the trend. Slasher-pic “Kutob” won awards for director (Jose Javier Reyes), actor, song, editing and musical score, plus the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Memorial cultural prize.

Auds, who made fantasy flick “Enteng Kabisote,” and effects-studded “Exodus” and “Mulawin” their top picks, drove the fest’s B.O. gross to a record PhP 353 million ($6.7 million).

Their taste may be being shaped by the growing quantity of fantasy material appearing on local TV. That industry continues to dominate Filipino entertainment, and fantasy soaps (called “fantaseryes”) have ruled primetime TV for the past two years.

“Mulawin” is a movie version of the popular GMA TV series about bird people and their quest for goodness, freedom and light, co-produced by Regal and GMA Films.

GMA Films, as well as “Kutob” director Reyes also told local media they will not participate in next year’s fest unless changes are made in the fest’s structure.

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