Why Honor Thy Father’s disqualification could be the best thing for the MMFF

HTF-POSTER-2I was surprised as I got home last night from seeing two horror film entries from the MMFF (Haunted Mansion, Buy Now Die Later) to find out that Erik Matti’s Honor Thy Father has been disqualified by the MMFF from the Best Picture category because it participated in the Cinema One Originals Film Festival allegedly without disclosing it to the MMFF committee.

In its statement posted on its Facebook page, the MMFF claimed that disqualifying the film from the Best Picture Category was the lightest sanction it could impose for the film’s violations of festival rules and regulations. The committee claimed that when Honor Thy Father was accepted as an official but late entry on October 23 in place of Hermano Puli, it was not fully aware that the film would also be part of the Cinema One Originals festival and only learned about the film’s inclusion in Cinema One on November 6, two days before the November 8 screening for the earlier filmfest. According to the statement, this did not give the committee enough time to deliberate on the matter.

After a thorough, lengthy, and careful deliberation, the MMFF decided to impose the lightest sanction of disqualifying HTF from the selection as festival awardee for only the Best Picture category. MMFF could have imposed stiffer sanctions to the film, such as disqualification from all the awards or total disqualification from the Festival altogether. – MMFF statement, December 26, 2015

Honor Thy Father co-producer Dondon Monteverde, in his own statement, maintained that they were up front to the MMFF about their participation in the Cinema One Originals festival. Because Honor Thy Father was a late entry into the MMFF, they had already accepted the invitation from from C1 Originals at the time. They fully disclosed their participation and complied with all the requirements of the MMFF including a testament from C1 head Ronald Arguelles that the film did not generate any revenue from ticket sales and exhibited the film by invitation only. Therefore, it was not commercially released prior to its MMFF screening.

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 — Dondon Monteverde

My question is this: The MMFF Executive Committee’s decision was released only in December 26, one day before the awards night slated for December 27, rendering the team behind Honor Thy Father helpless to appeal the decision.

If it is true that they received the letter from HTF producers as early as November 6, and HTF may have violated the rules of the festival, they had enough time to disqualify the film from the MMFF weeks before it was shown together with other film entries on December 25.

Why would they imply that producers of the film did not disclose their participation in C1 when they acknowledged that they received information from the producers that the film was the opening film of Cinema One? Why would they release their decision a day after the MMFF premiere? Why would they make it seem that their decision to only disqualify the film from the Best Picture category is magnanimous and considerate given the timing? The Cinema One festival happened in November, and the MMFF, being one of the means to promote and save the local film industry, should be aware of other similar festivals with the same intention. It would have been impossible for the committee not to know about HTF being the opening film in the Cinema One Originals festival, not unless the committee members were not privy to the goings on in the industry.

I think that no matter what the angle, Honor Thy Father was a victim of politics, which is a crying shame for a festival whose primary intention is o revive the film industry. However, I think that the disqualification will also be a blessing in disguise for the film. Here are the reasons why Honor Thy Father’s disqualification is actually the best thing that could happen to the MMFF.

  1. COMMERCE vs ART. The disqualification actually brought forth questions about what types of movies are featured in the annual film festival. Being an avid supporter of the MMFF for the past years, I could attest that the quality of films of late have been steadily deteriorating, defeating the original purpose of the film fest in showcasing the best. Honor thy Father is without a doubt a quality film, and for it to be penalized for being different (let’s admit that this is the real reason), moviegoers will hopefully start to think about the quality of films they should demand from the local industry.
  2. Pinoys love an underdog story. When Heneral Luna was shown a few months back, no one wanted to see it because it wasn’t modern nor hip. But word of mouth, good reviews and a few crusaders championed the movie and generated interest until such time that viewers began to appreciate the film for what it was. The same thing will happen to Honor Thy Father. And I have no doubt that when the awards season arrives, John Lloyd Cruz, Direk Erik Matti will be sweeping awards left and right, not only here but abroad.
  3. There will be more check and balance in the MMFF. With the general sense of outrage on social media against the MMFF committee’s decision, perhaps this will lead the committee to be more vigilant and take their jobs more seriously to prevent more similar incidents in the future.

While the team behind Honor Thy Father’s hands are tied regarding the MMFF decision, the best way to give the movie justice is by patronizing John Lloyd Cruz’s first foray into the MMFF and film producing. Its true that moviegoers are used to watching comedy and horror as opposed to drama during the holidays, there is never a bad season to take in a quality film. That is a fact.