Erik Matti, Your Wish Is My Comment

MANILA: I seldom buy a newspaper, but today I did and then I saw the stark full-page layout of Erik Matti's 8 wishes for Filipino cinema to resurrect itself, with the title "The future of Philippine cinema is not bright" (The Philippine Star, 09 January 2015, F-2), and I was moved to write this. Erik Matti is the director of Honor Thy Father, On the Job, and The Aswang Chronicles, among other films.

All the more reason because I also read, this time online, the full text of Matti's acceptance speech as Best Director in the 2015 MMFF that was read for him by Shiel Calde of Reality Entertainment, which film company Matti co-owns with Dondon Monteverde, and which produced the movie Honor Thy Father that was disqualified at the last minute for the award of Best Picture. Here it is from the Inquirer (28 December 2015, entertainment.inquirer.net), with my English translation (in italics):

Sa kabila ng lahat, magandang gabi pa rin sa inyo.

Despite everything, good evening to you all anyway.

Kahit kailan po, hindi ako gumawa ng pelikula para magka-award. At kung may mga reklamo man ako sa MMFF, hindi ‘yan tungkol sa pagdisqualify niyo sa Honor Thy Father from the Best Picture category. Naglabas na ng statement ang producer namin na si Dondon Monteverde. Sang-ayon ako sa mga sinabi niya doon. Mas malalim kesa d’yan ang disappointment ko sa MMFF.

Never did I make a movie to get an award. And if I have a complaint against the MMFF, it's not about you disqualifying Honor Thy Father from the Best Picture category. Our Producer Dondon Monteverde has already issued a statement. I agree with what he said there. My disappointment with MMFF goes deeper than that.

Mula sa pagpili niyo ng mga sineng isasali hanggang sa pagkunsinti niyo sa masahol na trato ng mga sinehan sa ibang pelikula, lalo na ng maliliit na producers, para sa isang die-hard movie fan na gaya ko, hindi ko na halos makilala ang film festival na dati kong hinangaan at nirespeto.

From the way you select films to compete up to your condoning the worst treatment by theaters on some films, especially those small producers, for a diehard movie fan like me, I can no longer recognize the film festival that I used to admire and respect. (Note: The MMFF is known to pull out films that are not doing well at the box office during the festival.)

Maraming salamat na lang sa libreng publicity, at higit sa lahat, sa pagbukas ng pinto para pag-usapan na sa wakas ng filmmakers pati ng moviegoers ang mga hinahangad nilang pagbabago sa MMFF.

I thank you for the free publicity and, most of all, for opening the door so that at last filmmakers as well as moviegoers can talk about the changes they desire for the MMFF.

Sa lahat naman ng Pilipinong hindi pa rin nagsasawang manood ng mga gawa namin dito, salamat sa inyo. You deserve better. Kaya tulungan niyo naman kami. Demand for better films! Demand for more choices in the cinemas! Kaya pa natin baguhin ‘to. Hindi ako titigil kung hindi rin kayo titigil.

And to all Filipinos who have not gotten tired watching our movies here, thanks to all of you. You deserve better. We ask you to help us please. Demand for better films! Demand for more choices in the cinemas! We can still change this. I will not stop if you will not stop.

Hindi na ito tungkol sa Honor Thy Father. Buong industriya ng paggawa at panonood sa pelikulang Pilipino ang usapan na ‘to. Kaya, salamat na rin sa inyo, MMFF. Binuhay niyo ang pag-asa ko para sa pagbabago.

This is no longer just about Honor Thy Father. It's now the whole industry of making and watching Filipino movies that is the matter. So, thank you MMFF anyway. You brought back to life my hope for change.

And, almost 2 weeks later, on 09 January 2015, Erik Matti came up with his soliloquy, his back to the audience, musing on Philippine movies: "The future of Philippine cinema is not bright" (image from that page online, philstar.com).

So as not to rub salt on wounds, I will not quote the soliloquy but I will do the wishes, which are for:

(1)     Fresh stories
"I wish for the producers to make insightful, progressive, relevant and fresh stories. I don’t care if it’s funny, wacky, aspirational, mushy, cheesy or super commercial. Just tell stories that we haven’t heard or seen before. Stories that make us see ourselves and understand ourselves better. Stories that elevate us to think beyond our sorry lives and not just reaffirm what we already know about ourselves."

(2)     Good stories
"
I wish that the film producers would become impassioned enough to share good stories and not just write a mishmash of stories that second-guess the market to meet the quota."

(3)     Memorable films
"
I wish for film workers to devote their knowledge and expertise to not just making a living but to mainly making something memorable. It has become all about the paycheck and not about doing excellent work. I wish for them to stop doing five projects all at the same time so they can focus on what matters to them most. This is a tough thing to ask from a Third World country and from an industry that doesn’t pay much, but I still wish for this."

(4)     Actors taking acting lessons
"I wish for actors to take acting jobs for their souls, not just their bank accounts. I wish that at least they do something to hone their craft once in a while so that they don’t wake up one day and realize that they have become prostitutes. What makes an actor is not the number of tickets sold at the box office or the number of products endorsed."

(5)     Media watching
"I wish that the media and social media would play an active role in seeing this industry grow for the better. That they do not just become mere observers reporting what’s out there but that they actually become movers in shaping a healthier, mature, and progressive film industry. To dissect when there are wrongs. To question beyond what is just said. To forward the thinking when everything appears to stay the same."

(6)     Indies for local audiences
"I wish that the independent film movement would begin to look beyond itself and start thinking about the local audience. Before anyone lambasts my statement about the indie movement, let me qualify it. I know that there have been indie films that try to reach a broader audience. I know that marketing money for these indie films is not easy to find. I know that distribution in theaters is difficult. But after a decade with maybe four independent local film festivals and still growing, the filmmakers have managed to breed like rabbits, but the audience has never grown. Maybe it’s time to go beyond making personal films for ourselves (our lost loved ones or dead mother or aboriginal origins), to stop doing films as college exercises or representations of admired international filmmakers, and start making well-made films that can talk to an audience no matter how small or how niche."

(7)     Making it the best
"Being given a chance to make films is a privilege and not a right. And with that privilege comes the challenge to make it the best that it can ever be because it may be your last chance. It’s easy to say something meaningful. Grab a microphone and shout it out and you can already tell the world what they want to hear. It is tough to say something meaningful using the medium of cinema. Take time to learn how to use every element of cinema to say what you mean better. Don’t just make films to beat the deadline."

(8)     Audience taking risk
"Lastly and most importantly, I wish that the audience would take risks in the films they go out to see. Let’s watch romantic comedies all we want. But let’s also watch other things. Documentaries, scary movies, sad movies, weird movies, shocking movies. Films are not just about feeling good or being charmed or falling in love. Films are also about getting angry, feeling terrified and frustrated. It is also about feelings of loss, of uncertainty, of thrills and awe. Films are about so many other things, too, other than just fun and love. I wish that you let films surprise you and not just give you what you always expect of it."

You having said all that, what I call your soliloquy would have been perfect without you exclaiming at the film industry as one mot%#$&@*ker. Anger is the last refuge of the wise. Like I always say at times like this, HATE HATES HATERS.

In fact, you have just shown us the thousands steps to take in this long journey. With your wishes showing us the lights, I have more faith than ever before in Philippine cinema waking up from its Rip Van Winkle of 25 years, counting from the death of Lino Brocka, one of the best if not the best of our film directors.

Since I am in media, I want to end this essay with a reiteration of the role of media, and so I quote Eric Matti's Wish #5 again:

(5)     Media watching
"I wish that the media and social media would play an active role in seeing this industry grow for the better. That they do not just become mere observers reporting what’s out there but that they actually become movers in shaping a healthier, mature, and progressive film industry. To dissect when there are wrongs. To question beyond what is just said. To forward the thinking when everything appears to stay the same."

I love you, Erik Matti! Your wish is my comment. You have just redefined the role of media beyond the media's narrow comfort zone and stoked the flames, so I see:

The future of Philippine cinema is now bright!

Popular posts from this blog

GABRIELA is scandalized by Asingan Bikini Open

"O Naraniag A Bulan." How an old folk song can help choose new Senators!

What Federalism? Precisely, That Is The Question!