A SNEAK PEAK INTO A DIRECTOR’S MIND

I am taking a slight digression from story posting today to share this deeply personal perspective of an extremely talented Filipino Director and friend, Erik Matti. 

Erik laments the degradation of the independent film industry in his country. However, I find that some of his words resonate with me on the state of our society at large. After all, art does imitate life to an alarming degree. I hope you will take the time to read this, as it is rather long. It is definitely a worthy read. 


By the way, Erik is one of the nicest guys I have the priviledge of knowing. He is famous for his temper and his fierce loyalty to friends and films. Please do google him and find out more. There are really many good films and Directors that will never see the light of day because mainstream movies have been hogging the cinemas across the globe. How will we ever see other points of views or enjoy the diversity that is an essential part of life?  
Rantings on the state of the indies by Erik Matti

I realized that my collection of paintings has exactly the same qualities I look for when I watch a movie. Craftsmanship, subject, honesty and a unique personal eye imbued by the artist in the world depicted in the subject of his work.

I don’t have in my collection conceptual and abstract pieces. The kind that has splashes of color that matches the sofa in 

your living room or a hotel lobby. I also don’t have works that has a single nail in the middle of a huge stark white painting with a thread tied to it and the end dangling with a drop of the artist’s blood. Nothing wrong with these pieces if it is worthy as final piece of work. Worthy of emotional and form value that we can marvel at.

In short, I don’t have a piece of painting where the rationale is more interesting than the work itself. I also don’t get swayed buying a piece of work where any one with a wild imagination from 5-12 years old can put together and pass it off as art.

Nowadays, there seems to be a prevailing acceptance of conceptual films with no solid groundwork on crafting solely because of the charm the work evokes out of the struggle of the filmmaker to put the film together. Again, the story behind the filmmaker’s struggle to mount such work has overshadowed the merits of the final film itself.

We all know the limitations of film production in a Third World country such as ours. Without sounding elitist in the way I feel filmmaking should be done, the task of the filmmaker aside from just evoking emotions out of abstract images or poetic dialogues is to really push the form and the medium by which he is working with.

I was asked a week ago by a magazine what i think about “why films should reflect culture”. My answer was cynical. Our local films, primarily Indie movies, nowadays, certainly reflect our culture. It reflects our culture of settling down on what we can do as a nation. Our films have lost all the wanting to explore the form and to push for excellence in craftsmanship to help evoke the emotions and the ideas the film material requires. Just like our Government, we have come to believe that to settle is acceptable and that what matters is the spirit behind it even when there really is no effort whatsoever to put out a work of excellence.

The last CinemaOne Originals have reflected that whole spirit of “making do”. Movies that are unfinished, masturbatory and are loosely told are deemed “acceptable given its shortcomings”. Don’t get me wrong here. CinemaOne as a festival is something I highly respect given its bold choices of film subjects and styles. But the filmmakers now have mostly become self-indulgent and lacking in the foundations of film as medium and a good sense of storytelling. And they have become a breed of filmmakers who have come to believe their own glory.

It scares me that such kind of filmmaking and film appreciation seems to permeate in our film culture. We have now become, as a film viewing nation, accepting of badly crafted movies solely on the belief that anyway the idea of the movie and the spirit it moves along with is worth appreciating.

As a filmmaker myself and as someone who has done 8 shooting day movies, I see no excuse for filmmakers to do badly crafted movies using resources as an excuse. It is imperative that, just like painting, the story behind the subject and the execution of it is equally important in the appreciation of the work itself. Why make movies when your resources can’t afford the vision in your head?

I am scared to wake up one day and see that we have become a nation of film viewing people who hail only the ineptly made and call it art solely because of the grand idea the film espouses and shoot down the ones that kill themselves to come up with a film work that tries hard to further the form and take crafting their movies seriously to tell their movie ideas using the medium by which it’s working with.

I have a general feeling that our local film festivals now have given permission to anyone and everyone to just bring forth their ideas without really thinking hard whether it is really an idea deserving to be made into a film or whether the ideas equal the resources they are handed with. And the sad part is, these festivals have given birth to monsters who feel that they are God’s gift to filmmaking.

To paint takes a lot of hard work to find your own signature, to manipulate the paint and the form to make it your own so that the painter can then render the subject that is personal to him.

Everyone can be filmmakers. But at least, take time to learn it first and don’t do it on the fly. Filmmaking goes beyond than just grand ideas of indigenous tribes, black and white treatments, long takes, esoteric dream sequences, handheld shots and photographing Third World scum.

Though, I can’t really blame the “filmmakers” who resort to all these trappings of a serious, meaningful film. The resources dictated the form. And since the form has been hailed here and abroad, it has become acceptable. But i just can’t get over the idea of how unfair it is that other directors like Celso Ad Castillo, Peque Gallaga, Mike De Leon and Ishmael Bernal kill themselves to craft and tell their stories well using the medium when in fact, even critics only appreciate the merits of story and idea but never the painstaking design that a filmmaker puts into the film using the elements at his disposal to further flesh out the basic story on the written page.

But in any work of art, more than craft and the subject, the question is, is it honest? For the last few years of our indie film festivals, we have seen a prevalent mix of movies that have the same kind of form to it primarily to pass it off as “important”. But then, where is honesty and integrity in the work in all these?

I apologize for sometimes looking or talking down on these indie works. That’s why I haven’t been to these festivals for years now (except of course watching only the works of my friends) because i refuse to see it and end up getting furious at watching these pretensions.

I wish to see a different kind of filmmaking soon. Something that appeals to how I was taught films should be made and appreciated. Then maybe I can start a collection of these local indies too. Until then, I think I can settle to just reading about them.

Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

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