'Boses' filmmaker finally breaks silence on Cinemalaya brouhaha

by Boy Villasanta
ABS-CBN News
July 26, 2008

Filmmaker Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil has decided to speak up on the issue regarding the virtual snub of her 2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival official entry, “Boses” by the jurors during the recent awards rites at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

“People were practically asking me how I felt about the judging of the Cinemalaya. At first I was hesitant to talk about it but I finally come to terms with what I really want say,” says Ongkeko-Marfil whose film “Boses” was a favorite among viewers especially during its gala premiere at the Main Theater of the CCP.

Ongkeko-Marfil is confident enough about her film that, even when she's talking about how its merits seemed to have been overlooked by the jurors, she doesn't sound like she's sourgraping. “This is just a reflection on what really film criticism is all about.,” she said.

Even well-meaning Filipino critics Mario Hernando, Mario Bautista, Nestor Torre, Rosalinda Orosa and other no-nonsense film reviewers were all hurling praises on the movie, raving about its "beauty and timelessness".

After the awards night, Ellen admits her production staff was disappointed about the results of the competition. “Malulungkot sila lahat. Ako, hindi ko itatanggi, hindi rin ako makapaniwala,” she confided.

Ongkeko-Marfil clarifies doesn’t question the integrity and expertise of the panel of jurors but just wants to ventilate her opinion.

“I find it very timely that this incidence would usher in a lot of discussions about film criticism in this country. I am happy that people are asking a lot of questions. Ano nga ba ang kahalagahan ng contest o awards? Ano nga ba ang mga criteria? Maganda ito dahil mas magiging aware ang mga tao na may ganitong reality ang mga awards.

“Kasi, parang ang nangyari, na-marginalize ang ibang pelikula sa Cinemalaya because of the results of the awarding. Parang ang sinasabi ng desisyon ay mas magagaling ang mga nanalo at ang iba ay hindi, including my film. Makakaapekto ito sa public,” explained the filmmaker.

According to her, she is just paving the way for a healthy exchange of ideas about how films should be judged in contest. “Kasi, marami rin naman akong alam na mga film theories na puwedeng i-apply in judging films.

"Kaya nagpapasalamat ako na may ganitong isyu para mapag-usapan pa ang film cricitism at maiparating ito sa mas maraming tao lalo na sa masa,” she opined.

Even the result of the Best Actor category is being reflected on by Ongkeko-Marfil. “Di ba, sa survey, ang daming may gusto kay Julian Duque, ‘yong child actor ko. People who saw the film unanimously liked him,” she said.

"Jay" lead actor Baron Geisler won the Cinemalaya 2008 Best Actor plum, for his portrayal of a gay reporter covering the brutal murder of a gay Christian school-teacher. Geisler, who is heterosexual, is embroiled in an acts of lasciviousness suit filed by Patrizhia Martinez, the daughter of actor William Martinez and actress Yayo Aguila.

The Cinemalaya jury was composed of two Filipinos, namely Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino member Lito Zulueta and actor Cesar Montano and three foreign critics including Ansgar Vogt, Berlin International Film Festival programmer; Kim Ji-Seok, co-founder and program director of the Pusan International Film Festival and Max Tessier, Asian and Japanese cinema expert and artistic consultant for international film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival.