Be Inspired: unexpected Filipino talent in...Hollywood.

Matthew taking a light meter reading for a shot on a film set. (Photo above taken from a fansite )

When people watch big Hollywood movies they'll know the stars, the directors, which pop star is on the soundtrack, and perhaps they might know the producers, but oftentimes one of the most important members of the film crew is overlooked...the D.O.P...the director of photography aka the cinematographer.  This is the person who runs the camera, who paints with light, and who makes that actor look like the multi-million bucks they are paid.  Many moons ago, there was an indie film called PI, directed by then unknown Darren Aronofsky.  This was a black and white mind bender that was low in budget but high in style, mainly due to an even less known cinematographer named Matthew Libatique.  Of course with that last name,  I was sure that Libatique was French, and once again idolized the film skills of those damn Europeans.   Later on I found out that Libatique was in fact...Filipino...and I rejoiced to any other film nerd who gave a damn.

Romeo holds up his film festival pass to the camera making a funny face.

As an aspiring filmmaker, I followed Filipino-American Libatique's career as he grew in profile with Aronofsky doing films like Requiem For A Dream and The Fountain, each time out, making as much of a statement as a cinematographer as Aronofsky did as a director.  When we were to premiere our film Ang Pamana : The Inheritance at the LV Hawaii International Film Festival, I heard he was receiving the Kodak Lifetime Achievement Award, and I must admit, I had a bit of an agenda in meeting him.

I attended the screening of his film Everything Is Illuminated, listened intently to him speak, and probably waited in line to say how big an admirer I was.  And despite his French last name, he was as Pinoy as Pinoy can be, and with matching big heads and hair, we looked like brothers.

Matty and Romeo mingle at a garden party in Hawaii for the Hawaii International Film Festival 2006.

And so a friendship was born as I was the first Filipino director that he met at one of these festivals, and he was my idol as I continually tried to downplay my starstruckness...especially when he revealed to us that he just found out he was going to do his first mainstream Hollywood tentpole called Iron Man.  We kept in touch over the years where we would exchange stories from sets...him getting kisses from Gwyneth Paltrow...and me doing pig commercials and eating pinakbet from sets in the Philippines.  Matty went on to D.O.P. for Spike Lee (She Hate Me, Inside Man),  Iron Man 2 , and this month, with the release of Black Swan where Natalie Portman gets freaky with Mila Kunis as a ballet dancer that turns to the dark side.  Next up for him is the movie Cowboys Vs Aliens where he gets to shoot a Bond and a Blade Runner fighting space baddies, and where he'll continue his reign as the most sought after cinematographer in Hollywood.

Bet you didn't know. Be Inspired.

-- Romeo Candido