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House asked to probe controversial MMFF entry

MANILA, Philippines – A Bicol congressman asked the House of Representatives yesterday to look into the controversial Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry “Oro” for allegedly being politically motivated.

The film has become controversial after the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award was taken back from it due to a belated protest over animal cruelty in violation of the law.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said film fest officials should explain “why they included ‘Oro’ among the official entries – and worse, even granted an award to it – despite its gory dog-slaying scene and its depiction of supposedly everyday life in our province that was the exact opposite of what actually happened as well as the real protagonists and antagonists in a barangay in Caramoan Island.”

“The film is nothing but political propaganda masquerading as art in which the highly respected actors that took part in it, plus the film crew, were unwittingly used to present an alternate universe of events that never happened in Caramoan Island two years ago,” he said. 

Caramoan Island is located in the eastern part of Camarines Sur.

“There is such a thing as artistic license but it does not justify the misinterpretation of events for political ends,” he said.

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He added that their political opponents, including the Fuentebellas, had something to do with “Oro.”

“The withdrawal of the award over the animal cruelty issue is the best proof of sloppy work by the film fest committee, which explains why it was haphazardly included among the official entries despite its grossly inaccurate depiction of reality in Camarines Sur,” Villafuerte stressed.

He urged film fest officials to ban the screening of “Oro.”

“Instead of just suspending the movie’s showing until such time that the dog-slaying scene is edited out, the Metro film fest committee must ban its showing altogether as an act of contrition for its dismal failure to exercise due diligence,” he said.

Villafuerte said aside from animal cruelty, another serious violation committed, this time by its producers, was the distortion of the facts and events that transpired in 2014 in the small-scale gold-mining community of Barangay Gata in Caramoan. 

“What is terribly wrong with this movie is that it has elevated to the pedestal certain characters supposed to be environmental champions when the truth is these people are the ones who have been raking in money by engaging in or condoning illicit gold-mining activities that harm the environment,” he said.

The lawmaker also pointed out that the supposed heroine in the movie – the barangay chairperson – was in fact charged with illegal mining and has a pending warrant of arrest, contrary to what was depicted in the movie.

For his part, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said the issue on animal cruelty involving the film “Oro” should serve as a lesson for the movie industry.

Vargas, also an actor, said animal cruelty could not be condoned and that there was a difference between genuine artistry and actually killing an animal for cinematic purposes.

Another House member, Winston Castelo of Quezon City, urged the MMFF organizers to share their income with the intended beneficiaries of the film exhibition like industry workers.

“And I mean there should be no delay in the delivery of these benefits,” he said.

He said proceeds from previous film fests did not reach their beneficiaries.

“The past MMFF was tainted with corruption. There was no transparency. Outright delay or partial remittance marked the distribution of income to the workers and beneficiaries of the festival,” he said.

For her part, movie actress and Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto welcomed the production and entry of quality films in last month’s film fest.

She said she hoped more such movies would be produced. – With Delon Porcalla

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