With Erik Matti’s crime thriller On The Job: The Missing 8, the Philippines hopes to finally make the cut at the Academy Awards.
Erik Matti’s Venice Film Festival winner On The Job: The Missing 8 will represent the Philippines at this year’s Oscars race for Best International Feature Film. The big announcement was made during the Film Development Council’s closing ceremony of the 2nd Philippine Film Industry Month last September 30. The Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI), which was tasked by the Film Academy of the Philippines to choose this year’s selection, also posted the decision on their Facebook page.
“It’s overwhelming! Sobrang saya ko talaga… Sabi nga nila, ‘When it rains it pours,’” John Arcilla, who won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for his performance as the lead in the film, said in an interview. “Sana mas lumakas pa loob natin at dumami ang financial support para tulungan tayong makapasok talaga sa Oscars.”
ON THE JOB CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
The Missing 8 is a sequel to Matti’s critically acclaimed and award-winning film On The Job. Both films are co-written by Matti and his wife, Michiko Yamamoto. Its cast boasts names like Arcilla, Dennis Trillo, Dante Rivero, Christopher de Leon, Lotlot de Leon, Leo Martinez, Joey Marquez, and Agot Isidro among others. The crime procedural is inspired by true events and follows the story of Sisoy Salas (Arcilla), a corrupt journalist who seeks justice for the disappearance of his colleagues, and Roman Rubio (Trillo), a convict who is regularly brought out of prison as a hired assassin. All hell breaks loose when their paths cross as Sisoy becomes Roman’s next target.
“This film is an ensemble piece that attempts to explore, through the disappearance of eight people, the reality in the Philippines that is never shown on the news,” Matti revealed in his director’s statement posted at the La Biennale website. “Politicians as gangsters. Journalists as paid hacks. Prisoners as assassins. This ensemble of crazy characters intersect to represent a deep-seated culture of impunity and non-accountability in a country like the Philippines.”
The Missing 8 premiered in last year’s Venice Film Festival to a favorable response from critics – calling it ambitious and absorbing – and ultimately took home the best actor trophy. It was then re-edited, along with the prequel, into a six-episode limited miniseries for HBO Asia which has also just recently been nominated at the International Emmy Awards in the TV Movie/Mini-series category.
“It’s our honor, Emmy’s. Congratulations, Pinas!” Matti said in an Instagram post as a reaction to the nomination. Matti also expressed his surprise for being nominated alongside big international titles including the Jodie Comer-led British miniseries Help, French TV movie Il est elle, and HBO’s three-part offering Isabel: The Intimate Story of Isabel Allende from Chile.
THE OSCARS RACE
The Missing 8’s submission this year marks a comeback for the Philippines in the Oscars race as it has failed to submit a representative last year. As per veteran director Jose Javier Reyes and DGPI head Paolo Villaluna, other films that were considered this year include Lav Diaz’s John Lloyd Cruz-starring When the Waves Are Gone and Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) winner Leonor Will Never Die.
“Kung ‘di maingay ang pelikula at mababa ang curiosity ng voting members all over the US, walang boboto — and this means the voters from 51 states. Ganu’n ka importante na mai-publish tayo at ma-promote sa mga mainstream magazines or platforms,” Arcilla said, alluding to the tight competition and costly campaign involved to lure the Academy voters to watch the entry. Regarding this, the FDCP also gave The Missing 8‘s creative team Php 1 million to help fund its campaign efforts.
The Missing 8 is up against frontrunners like Mexico’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths by Academy Award-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Golden Bear winner Alcarrás from Spain, and Cannes winners, Close from Belgium and South Korea’s Decision to Leave.
The 15 shortlisted films will be unveiled on December 21 while the nominations will be announced next year, January 24. The Philippines has yet to be shortlisted and nominated in the coveted Best International Feature Film category. Will The Missing 8 finally make the cut?
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