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‘On auto-pilot but no fresh ideas, and we’re all guilty’ — Erik Matti on state of Philippine cinema

/ 12:46 PM August 28, 2019

Erik Matti recently aired his thoughts on the local film industry, in light of celebrations that would mark the 100th anniversary of Philippine cinema.

“This industry is on auto-pilot now,” the multi-awarded director said in his Facebook post last Monday, Aug. 26.

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Erik Matti

Image: Facebook/Erik Matti

“The industry is abuzz, don’t get me wrong,” he explained.

He cited how hard it is to assemble a crew recently as everyone seems to be working on a TV or digital series, if they’re not doing a film project. Yet, despite the amount of work being done, Matti sees all of it as a means of “just getting by.”

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Matti also pointed out that there are no “game changers” and no “high concept fresh ideas,” as of late. The lack of new ideas, he believes, is behind the continuous “rehashing” of old storylines, as well as the absence of exploring new genres.

“We mostly get fast and easy genre stories with old and told character arcs and plots,” he said.

But there is no single person or group to put the blame on, instead, Matti said, “we are all guilty.”

He presumes that the preference for tried-and-tested plots comes from the uncertainty of new films being able to attract an audience.

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“That’s the only thing we can afford,” he stated. “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 on desperate mode.”

He lamented the decline in quality of films as well, referring to how the quality of films is overlooked due to the need to churn out more content.

“You want content? You say every story’s been done 20 years ago? Well, so long as it’s content then anything is good,” he expressed.

He also expressed his disappointment at the state of the arthouse scene in the Philippines. Matti described it as “stale,” citing how they no longer produce “groundbreaking” or “visceral” work.

Reiterating his inclusion in the industry, Matti admitted to losing his “mojo.”

“Do we still know our audience? Do we still know who we’re making our films for?” he asked. “Have we forgotten what we love about stories on film that we have become content with just churning out half-baked, been-there-done-that stories?”

Matti went on to encourage his fans and followers to admit that the stories in the industry have “gone plateau.”

“We’re stuck in this eternal circle of admiration between cinephiles but outside of that circle no one really cares about what we do,” he said.

He also questioned the presence of film critics in today’s time.

“Everyone is so opinionated on social media that the serious critics have retired and let some lousy wrong spelling, bad grammar guy, who hasn’t seen movies before 1990 do the reviews that couldn’t tell any subtext, historical context or stylistic reference beyond [the] basic storyline that they researched on some movie press release somewhere.”

Considering the current state of the industry, Matti expressed his worries about the future of Philippine cinema.

“Do we just sit still and watch the industry go down in flames? 2019 is the 100th year of Philippine cinema and this is all of what’s left that we can offer?” he questioned. “What do we have in the next 100 years? Or will we even have Philippine cinema in the next 100 years?”

“I can’t sit still. We can’t just ride the tide and wish we end up in a good place. We’re in a state of coma now. We’ve got to find a way to move our toes on our feet to get us out of it and change the course of cinema in this country,” he stressed.

Matti has earned recognition in Philippine filmmaking for a number of his projects, such as the 1996 fantasy-adventure film “Magic Temple” and the 2013 crime thriller “On The Job”. JB

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TAGS: Erik Matti, filmmakers, filmmaking, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry
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