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FDCP tells filmmakers: CEB rating a privilege, take initiative to write appeal

The "zero rating" received by the award-winning film "BALANGIGA: Howling Wilderness" has given birth to a forum that placed the function of the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) in focus.

During the forum on Thursday, hosted by Arlyn dela Cruz and Noel Ferrer, Film Development Council of the Philippines chair Liza Diño clarified that the films "BALANGIGA" by Khavn Dela Cruz and "We Will Not Die Tonight" by Richard Somes are not graded "zero."

"There is no such thing as zero [grade]," Diño declared.

The submitted films, Diño said, actually failed to qualify for a rating. "It's not graded, meaning there is a pre-qualification measure," Diño explained.

Members of the CEB must first decide if the film submitted qualifies for a rating based on artistic and technical merits.

According to Diño, the incentive that goes with the CEB rating "is a privilege, not a right of every filmmaker."

Every member of the CEB judges a film based on their own "wisdom" and Diño insisted that their independence is sacred and must be respected. Even if she personally supports the film being rated, "BALANGIGA" for example, she refrains from exerting influence on the CEB.

Avenues for reconsideration

Nonetheless, Diño encouraged the directors of the films that did not qualify for a rating to write an appeal.

"Walang [sumulat] na, 'Dear CEB, we do not agree with the board not grading the film for the following reasons. May we request for reconsideration based on these points' ... something like that," Diño revealed during the forum. 

Dela Cruz and Somes countered by citing the information made available to them online through the official website of the FDCP and CEB, which stated that films that failed to receive a rating cannot submit an appeal.

A lawyer present during the forum said that this is a mistake in the CEB's Implementing Rules and Regulation, as it avenues for appeal must be kept open. Diño further said that they have always been ready to receive letters from the filmmakers.

"It's not true that you cannot apply or you cannot send a letter for a motion of appeal," she asserted. "The law doesn't say that you cannot do that (appealing for reconsideration)."

Dela Cruz argued that they did not immediately receive the CEB's ruling and were thus unaware of the next steps to take and stressed the fact that, from their understanding, they were barred from making an appeal.

"Naka-focus nga lahat sa 'Balangiga', nag-open ng can of worms. Sa amin nga hindi kami talaga informed e," Somes butted in, "If there's one thing na gusto ko talagang magwala, it's me, because I was oblivious to the CEB hanggang sa nabasa ko na lahat. Kami ang nag-suffer no'n kasi kami ay misinformed at kulang 'yong instructions."

Diño stood her ground and said that a letter should have been sent and addressed to the FDCP or CEB.

"In terms of immediately reply or action, we cannot act on posts on social media. We need a physical letter coming from the aggrieved party para documented ang paggawa ng action," she said. "The government, kailangan sumagot sa ganitong mga katanungan."

Diño said that this is what happened with "Gusto Kita With All of My Hypothalamus", who sent a letter asking the board to reconsider and cited their awards as a reason to change the rating.

In addition to this, Diño said that the public forum was a good venue to discuss the composition of the CEB and their criteria, et cetera. However, she said that this was not the proper platform to correct any errors made by the members of the CEB.

Changes in the CEB?

Diño said that CEB is a big help to the local film industry as it's purpose is to help alleviate the cost of production by directing the Amusement Tax collected from movie ticket sales to the filmmakers.

"This is the only incentive system that we have right now in the country and in the absence of an incentive system, wala na tayong mabibigay pa sa producers unless there is a new incentive system that we can put in place right now," she said.

Dela Cruz during his turn with the mic said that the issues being raised are beyond where the Amusement Tax goes. He and his fellow filmmakers want the criteria for the ratings reviewed. They also said that there should be transparency on the part of the reviewers in terms of their credentials and any conflict of interest they might have when voting on a film. 

The filmmakers additionally want to raise the discourse beyond the legalities and asked the CEB to explain what it means when they label films like "Gusto Kita With All of My Hypothalamus" dangerous, et cetera. — AT, GMA News