Here’s what’s wrong with Philippine cinema, according to Erik Matti

August 28, 2019 - 7:34 PM
Erik Matti gestures with hands
Director Erik Matti speaks to an audience. (Intearksyon/Jill Tan Radovan/File photo)

Acclaimed director Erik Matti once again lambasted the local film industry for rehashing concepts that have long been present in previous local movies days before the country celebrates its centennial year of filmmaking.

In a lengthy Facebook post, he said the local film landscape is “on auto-pilot mode” now since there are no “game changers looming in the horizon” and “no high concept ideas coming out,” among others.

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Matti lamented that most local films have “rehashed” concepts that kept on centering around love triangles, May-December affairs and boy-girl commitment issues.

He also mentioned that even stories about children and old people are “clichéd.”

The director also observed that the film industry is in “steady middling mode.”

“In this volatile industry where we don’t know if there’s an audience for any story we come up with or if it will ever see the light of day in cinemas, everyone is in desperate mode. Steady middling mode,” Matti said.

He added that Filipinos have “stopped dreaming of big things” which led them to create movies that seemed “stale.”

“We are where we are now because we have been cornered into this as an industry and as a market. We have stopped dreaming of big things. We are resigned to the fact that this is all we can do. Who’s to blame? The whole thing is so muddled that I dunno who’s the culprit anymore,” he said.

Matti then enumerated some factors which he thought contribute to the industry’s deterioration.

“Is it the audience whose gauge on a good film is based on the polished look of a Hollywood western film? Is it the cinemas who have found a sure hit with Hollywood and would find it to be too much work to push for local movies?” he asked.

Movie theater
Empty movie theater. (Philstar/File photo)

“Is it the producers who can only risk so much and would fall back on tired stories just to not alienate the ‘audience they know?'” Matti added.

He then went on to blame filmmakers who he claimed are “slowly circumcised and eventually castrated by being told to calculate the risk of stories by making it more relatable than different.”

“Is there anyone to blame? No one? Or everyone?” the director said.

Matti admitted that he is also “losing” his mojo and is currently feeling his way around the local filmmaking landscape.

“Do we still know our audience? Do we still know who we’re making our films for? Does the audience still care about the films we make? If all Filipino filmmakers stop making films now, will the Filipino audience miss us? Is it enough that we still have jobs even if we keep on cooking last decade’s chicken a la king?” he asked.

The director ended his post by saying that Filipinos, particularly filmmakers, have to “find a way to move” and “change the course of cinema in this country.”

The Philippines will celebrate its centennial year of filmmaking from Sept. 12, 2019 to Sept. 11, 2020 as declared by a presidential proclamation.

This commemorates the full hundredth year after the first Filipino feature film, “Dalagang Bukid,” was released by Jose Nepomuceno, now considered the father of Philippine cinema.

The local film industry

It is not the first time that Matti aired his sentiments about the state of the local film and television industry.

Earlier this year, he said that the government should intervene in an industry that is in “life support.”

“The film industry is at its busiest the past three years but no one gets to see the movies we make except for the sporadic mega hits. Hundreds of movies are being made now but no one is really doing good business including the big studios. What happened to our local audience?” Matti wrote on Facebook.

His post came after some local movies—which were released that time—failed to get a warm reception from the audience “despite all the marketing and promising stories.”

When Matti wrote his Facebook post, locally produced movies such as “Tol,” “Elise” and “Hanggang Kailan?” were in theaters.

Last year, the director implied in a tweet that successful movies which earn a lot are “bad.”

His tweet came before the 2018 run of the Metro Manila Film Festival which included entries such as “Fantastica,” “The Girl in the Orange Dress,” “Aurora” and “Jack Em Popoy: The Puliscredibles.”

Two years ago, Matti criticized the selection process of the Metro Manila Film Festival’s Executive Committee and said that it should change its criteria in determining what makes a movie worthy to be included in the roster.

“Ang problema nga lang it’s the same type of films, the same kind of movies. I know what happened in the selection. That’s why diyan nanggagaling ang galit ko. I’m not judging the four films that were chosen. But I’m judging how they select it,” he said.