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Honor Thy Father Movie Review and Commentary: The Film that Could Have Broken Ground and Exposed Corruption in the MMFF

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There is no doubt that Honor Thy Father can be considered a runaway hit and deserves to be on the list of breakaway Filipino films such as On the Job and Heneral Luna. Critics and film analysts all agreed that this film would win big because of its realistic portrayal of the real inherent character of Filipinos in their capacity for evil, hypocrisy, and how they may look human on the outside, but are actually scumbags on the inside. Ironically, this dark, bleak, and very realistic film portraying corruption in almost all facets of Filipino character suddenly became the catalyst that exposed the corruption that has long seeped into the higher echelons of those in the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) who are running the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

Honor Thy Father had difficulty making the cut

According the Mich Yamamoto, the screenwriter, and Eric Matti, the director, HTF was supposed to be a follow-through to the hit movie, On the Job, at the Cannes Film Festival, but failed to make the cut. The film was shown as an opening film in the Cinema One Originals Film Festival but wasn’t allowed to be shown commercially nor was it allowed to compete. Finally, it couldn’t make the cut for the MMFF, but was allowed only at the last minute because a slot became vacant when a movie backed out.

However, a day before the awards night last December 27, HTF was notoriously disqualified from the Best Picture category, but oddly could still compete in other categories. The main argument of the MMDA executives was the alleged nondisclosure that it had been the opening film at the Cinema One Originals.

HTF producers and their lawyers countered that they had informed the MMDA in advance that Honor Thy Father was the opening films for the film fest, but did not compete nor did they earn anything commercially, thus, they were in no violation of any MMDA/MMFF rules. Also, the MMDA officials already knew about this situation and yet allowed HTF to compete without informing the producers of the disqualification grounds. During the committee hearing in Congress it was then revealed that the MMDA actually has no legal authority to run the MMFF due to its mandate as a “development authority” and nothing beyond this. It was also discovered that several MMDA officials were legal counsels for some of the film producers in other MMFF film entries, thus, producing a “conflict of interest” situation.

To grind more salt into the injury, a day or two after HTF was shown together with the other entries, the film was removed from almost 70% of movie theaters around the country, in clear violation of MMFF rules, and yet not one movie theater owner was penalized for this. As to why these things were only recently discovered and that it took the controversy over Honor Thy Father to reveal all this corruptness is a big question mark.

Honor Thy Father Breaks a Lot of Ground

Unlike the other sordid and lackluster (dumb would be a better word) film entries in the MMFF, HTF wasn’t afraid to show the realities of how Filipinos can truly be bad. In fact, Eric Matti had to use a real-life acetylene gang member as a consultant in order to portray that the acetylene gang members mostly originated from the mines of Baguio, which is why they can work in claustrophobic conditions and to make sure that everything is portrayed realistically. Mich Yamamoto also admits that the bulk of the story is based on the recent large investment pyramiding scams in Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Mindanao, and they actually studied the family backgrounds of the scammers involved to get ideas. Even the satirical religious scenes of organized religion will remind you of a certain religious sect whose leaders were recently implicated in corruption charges.

Pinoys just don’t recognize quality films

Or perhaps Filipinos just have short memories. On the Job and Heneral Luna were all hailed as breakaway hits, but as soon as the MMFF entries come in, people in the millions flock to see either escapist love stories or LGBT-based comedic stupidity. What a contrast to the risks that John Lloyd Cruz and the other cast and crew of HTF had to undergo just to film realism, such as almost suffocating (and some passed out) while filming in the Baguio mines, or how John Lloyd had to shave his head bald just for one scene, or how Tirso Cruz III convincingly portrays a religious leader spewing religious speeches all in the name of being corrupt and making money. Unfortunately, Honor Thy Father as a shoo-in for Best Film was cut because of corruption, so the other awards won by HTF seemed like “Consuelo de bobo” at best.

Honor Thy Father and other breakaway hits prove that Filipinos can excel in film making beyond the usual escapist and stupidity genres that they have been so used to. But until the film industry and the MMFF realize this, come December 25, 2016, we might be once again bombarded with lackluster and sordid entries.

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