Cannes: Philippines Cinema Comes to the Fore
When asked about his reaction to hearing that his latest film, hitman thriller On The Job, was selected for Cannes, Erik Matti said he was surprised – first for having landed a berth at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals, and second because it would appear in the left-of-center Directors’ Fortnight sidebar.
“We made On The Job mainly for our domestic market in the Philippines; but, of course, getting into the Director’s Fortnight was a welcome gift for all the hard work we poured into the making of the film – not to mention almost four years of finding a way to get it produced,” said the Manila-based filmmaker.
Landing at Cannes alongside On The Job are two Un Certain Regard entries with aesthetics wildly different from Matti’s. Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Death March – which premiered on Sunday — is an eerie, black-and-white piece about U.S. and Filipino POWs being maimed and murdered by Japanese soldiers marching them across the Philippines during the second world war. Debuting on Thursday will be Norte, The End of History, the four-hour film about injustice (a simple-minded man jailed for a murder he didn’t commit) from Lav Diaz, the Philippines’ king of long takes (and films).
“It is still difficult to get independent films to be released theatrically in the Philippines. The distributors are still keen on mainstream genre pics and Hollywood,” he said. “That is what we are working on now — for independent films to be released even just in a small number of theaters, especially now that there are more digital theaters here. For now, we do alternative venues, like schools and special screenings around the country.”
“Hopefully, this entry to the Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight will open doors for us,” Matti said. “By expanding the market internationally with higher revenues, hopefully we can now attempt films that we wouldn’t normally be able to do in our small local market. With more resources come bigger themes and a bit more ambitious filmmaking.”
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