By Edwin P. Sallan, 
January 2, 2017 · 7:24 pm

Following a closed-door meeting with the Metro Manila Film Festival Executive Committee and representatives of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, the makers of “Oro” agreed to edit out the controversial dog slaughter scene that caused the outrage of numerous shocked moviegoers.

Based on the complaints of these moviegoers, a formal letter was sent by PAWS executive director Anna Cabrera to MMFF and Metro Manila Development Authority chairman and general manager Thomas Orbos last New Year’s Eve. Acting on the PAWS letter, Orbos then called for the said closed-door meeting held at his office on Monday.

Emerging from the meeting, a very disappointed Cabrera told InterAksyon and other media that PAWS would continue to pursue legal action against the makers of “Oro” as their group is not at all satisfied with the outcome.
The animal welfare group was seeking the pullout of the film from cinemas and the recall of the three awards it won during the festival’s awards night.

“[T]oday’s meeting with MMFF re: animal cruelty in the film ‘ORO’ was very disappointing. Editing out that portion where the dog was killed does NOT change the fact that a dog was killed for this movie,” Cabrera protested in a Facebook post shortly after the meeting.

“A crime has been committed. The film makers lied to the MMFF ExCom by initially saying that ‘no animal was killed.’ And get this- the only thing that MMFF EXCOM has agreed to do is to show the film with the ‘disturbing portion’ edited out. Edited out. The ‘disturbing portion’ snuffed out a terrified dog’s life in the most horrible way: He/she was beaten to death. So this is how they sweep animal cruelty under the rug in showbiz: edit it out.” Cabrera further expressed her disappointment with the MMFF Execom.

“As for the MMFF ExCom, let’s just say I expected more from you than the ‘washing of hands’/we-can’t-do-anything-about-it line. If you cannot pull out the showing of a film whose production hides behind the technicality of having no DIRECT HAND in the animal cruelty, some degree of ethics must dictate deep within that you have to at least let them know that their complicity in the matter – filming a crime and using it for their entry – is unacceptable.”

In the film’s defense, “Oro” director Alvin Yapan told InterAksyon and other media that they recognize that they have offended certain sensibilities which in this case are represented by PAWS. Hence, they came up with what he called a “compromise” to address the issue.

For starters, there will be a warning or advisory outside of cinemas showing “Oro” that the film contains graphic material. Specifically, they agreed to “blacken” the scene that depicted the dog slaughter.

But although they are saddened by the PAWS protest, Yapan added that what is more sad is the fact that people are talking more about the dog’s slaughter rather than the film’s depiction of the four miners that were killed in the infamous Caramoan massacre.

“That is the message that we will continue to drive home. Whatever happened in that case? Is anybody asking about what happened to the four miners, their families and the whole barangay? That should be the focus,” added Yapan, who spoke in mostly Filipino.

Yapan likewise reiterated that neither he nor any of the film’s actors actually killed the dog and instead insisted that what they did was document a culture of violence in a remote part of the country.

In the MMFF’s defense, Executive Committee member Edward Cabagnot said that the festival’s latest controversy only shows that “the best thing about the last few days is that the MMFF is not a done deal.”

“It’s a work in progress. It’s being changed every year as audience members are more and more enlightened so we are glad that everything that has happened here will be fed and will serve as inputs for MMFF 2017. Rest assured that this thing is continuing and evolving for the best.”

Asked if the MMFF screening committee had questions about the said dog slaughter scene in “Oro” that may have affected its selection as official entry, Cabagnot said that they are not privy to the selection process.
“From the start, we at the Execom agreed that none of us will sit in the selection committee. But I will recommend that for next year, some of us should sit with them so we can discuss and advice the filmmakers regarding any questionable scenes,” he added.

“If the members of the screening committee think the film is good but found among themselves that something is questionable, they can talk to us about it.” Citing “insider sources,” revealed that “Oro” ranked eighth in the selection of this year’s official MMFF entries. The same report revealed that Regal Films’ “Mano Po 7: Tsinoy” ranked ninth.

Related Story: ​