Why Albert, Jennylyn were not nominated

MANILA – Every year, after every awards night presentation of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), expect a barrage of complaints from various sectors and self-appointed opinion-makers. It could be about unknown screen goon Baldo Marro winning Best Actor for Patrolman. Or at another time Vivian Velez’s victory as Best Actress for Paradise Inn.

Albert Martinez and Jennylyn Mercado

In the still ongoing 36th MMFF, there are now questions about how Rosario lead actress Jennylyn Mercado and director Albert Martinez were not nominated in their respective categories.

Were they deliberately snubbed by the members of the board of judges? The answer is NO. Besides, why would we do that?

The procedure went like this: Immediately after the screening of each movie, we were made to give scores from anything as high as 100 percent or as low as 75 percent. It was a tedious process since we had to grade based on a set of criteria set by the MMFF: Global appeal — 20 percent, innovativeness — 20 percent, etc. The names of the winners and the nominees were determined from there.

It was secret balloting and that was the first and last time we saw the score sheets. No one knew who was leading in the race or who was lagging behind. We were totally unaware who would end up in the list of finalists. It was not like an election where we could nominate names and push for them. In fact, there were no deliberations and it had always been that way — even in the ‘90s when I first sat as MMFF juror. No one, except for the chairman, who is there to break ties, knew the list of winners.

There was actually a suggestion from two judges, Marichu Maceda and Emmanuel Borlaza, to check the names of the Top 3 and vote from there. We discussed this with the chairman, Sec. Edwin Lacierda, and he was amenable to the idea. But there was this fear of later being confronted with the issue of a possible leakage. The leak could come from any of the 11 judges, the tabulators, members of the secretariat or even the waiters of Club Filipino where we planned to set the meeting to choose the winners per category. The idea was scrapped. That turned out to be a sensible decision.

In Ricky Lo’s Funfare last Dec. 31, 2010, Bong Sta. Maria, who heads the production of Rosario, implied that there was a leakage based on the acceptance speech of Best Actress winner Ai-Ai de las Alas. Ricky promptly got Ai-Ai’s side and the comedienne repeated her explanation in last Sunday’s edition of The Buzz.

With the issue of the leakage hopefully cleared, let’s proceed to what was perceived to be a deliberate attempt on the part of the judges to shut Jennylyn and Albert out of the race. No, there was no concerted effort to shoot down those names. Not even a singular attempt.

From my end, I wouldn’t have minded having them in the list of nominees. I’ve always had faith in their talent. Right after Jennylyn won in the first edition of StarStruck, I already made a forecast that she would excel in drama. She did — and even earned an Urian nomination for Blue Moon. And Albert? He has two acting trophies from the Manunuri (for Segurista and Magnifico).

During the MMFF awards night, I saw how Albert’s jaws dropped to the floor when he was not nominated for Best Director. Mine fell, too, but I managed to collect them on my lap.

However, after carefully reviewing in my head the other entries in the MMFF, I came to realize that Albert actually faced tough competition from the other contenders. If I had the power, I also would have included the name of Jerold Tarog in the list of Best Director nominees because of his impressive work in the Punerarya episode of Shake, Rattle & Roll 12. His could just have been one episode, but length doesn’t always matter in the selection of winners. Take the Best Supporting Actor win of Dolphy for Rosario. It was brief, but powerful.

I am also beginning to ponder now: Had Jennylyn and Albert been nominated, but without necessarily bagging the awards, would everyone been happy? I wouldn’t want to make assumptions.

When I came out with a column a week ago that tried to figure out why the two names were not in the nominees’ lists, there were a lot of violent reactions — even from those who did not read the article, but made their conclusions just the same.

Jennylyn’s performance wasn’t considered only because she didn’t know how to hold a cigarette? Wrong. That was just the tip of the iceberg. But I didn’t want to go on and on because I felt I had to tiptoe through that piece and consider feelings and egos during the holiday season. However, it came out like I was nitpicking when I was actually just holding punches since I didn’t want to spoil the chances of Rosario at the box-office by coming out with a full review.

As you read this, I still encourage you to watch Rosario if you haven’t yet. It’s not a bad movie. In fact, even I would want to sit through it again and savor its visual delights. Of course, the film is not perfect. Disappointing? Perhaps. But only because it was practically sold as the greatest Filipino film ever made.

If you sum up everything, it was still a victory for Rosario. It was Second Best Picture and the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas cultural award. However, happiness and contentment is relative.

In my case, what would make me happy at this point is for everyone to watch all eight MMFF films first before making any comment. Not just one, two or three, but all the entries. The judges went through all eight — with some of us sitting through five additional indie movies that competed in a separate category. We’ve therefore earned the right to make our decision and discuss the entries.

Make the time and effort the way we did. But I guess it’s always so much easier to simply just yap and openly express misinformed and unenlightened views, opinions and baseless conjectures.

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