page contents

Philippine Inquirer: Filipino cinematographer wins indie film award

Posted by FAN Admin in Home, News on 02 28th, 2011

Filipino cinematographer wins indie film award

Sunday, 27 February 2011 08:50 Ruben Nepales |

LOS ANGELES – On the eve of the Academy Awards, Matthew Libatique, the Filipino cinematographer of “Black Swan” won the best cinematography prize in the Independent Spirit Awards held in Santa Monica, California.

Libatique, the top Filipino-American creative talent working behind the scenes in the US film industry today, is also in the running for the best cinematography honors in the Oscars which takes place Sunday evening (Monday in Manila). It is his first Academy nomination.

The lensman’s win in the Independent Spirit Awards, which recognizes excellence in films with budgets under $20 million, is his second. Libatique won the trophy for the first time with “Requiem for a Dream,” one of his earliest films with his frequent collaborator, Darren Aronofsky.

Libatique told the Inquirer by phone that his second triumph was sweet because the last time he won was in 2001. “It took a long time for me to get back,” he said. “The first award happened early in my career. So I don’t take this recognition for granted.” The filmmaker added that he loves indie cinema and what it stands for so he valued the honor. “I identify strongly with the independent filmmaking community.”

He shared that in his acceptance speech, he gave special thanks to his wife, Magela Crosignani, who is also a cinematographer, and their two children.

“Black Swan” dominated Saturday’s awards, winning in all the categories in which it was nominated – including Best Feature, Best Director (Aronofsky) and Best Actress (Natalie Portman). The film pulled an upset over “Winter’s Bone,” considered the frontrunner with seven nods but which won in only two categories.

Sthanlee B. Mirador, the Filipino-American photographer who covered the awards held by the beach, told the Inquirer, “When Matthew walked into the press room after he won, he had this huge smile on his face. He came up to me, shook my hand, gave me a hug and said to me, ‘We did it, man!’ I replied, ‘Take home the Oscar tomorrow.’ He simply smiled and shook my hand again.”

Mirador said that Libatique was visibly ecstatic when “Black Swan” won in the other categories. In his category, the director of photography beat Michael McDonough, “Winter’s Bone,” Adam Kimmel, “Never Let Me Go,” Jody Lee Lipes, “Tiny Furniture” and Harris Savides, “Greenberg.”

In the Academy Awards, Libatique, 42, one of the youngest members of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), is competing against veterans – Roger Deakins, “True Grit,” Wally Pfister, “Inception,” Danny Cohen, “The King’s Speech” and Jeff Cronenweth, “The Social Network.”

Born in Queens, New York, Libatique has chalked up major film credits, including the two “Iron Man” movies directed by Jon Favreau. The lensman’s collaborations with Aronofsky include “The Fountain,” “Pi” and “Protozoa,” a short film from their American Film Institute graduate student days.

In an online poll conducted by “American Cinematographer,” the magazine of ASC, “Requiem…” was named one of the best shot films from 1998 to 2008, alongside such award-winning movies as “Amelie,” “American Beauty” and “City of God.” Libatique’s most recent project is Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens,” which stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig and is due out this year. His other credits include two films with Joel Schumacher, “Tigerland” and “Phone Booth,” and three with Spike Lee – “Inside Man,” “Miracle at St. Anna” and “She Hate Me.”

Libatique, who is called Matty by friends and colleagues, began his career by shooting music videos with such artists as Tracy Chapman (“Give Me One Reason”), Moby, Jay-Z, Brian McKnight and 98 Degrees. He followed and shot Kobe Bryant during a day in the 2008 NBA playoffs for the documentary “Kobe Doin’ Work.” He also directs commercials in between film projects.

In “Black Swan,” a psychological thriller in which Portman portrays an obsessed ballerina, Matthew masterfully shows the gritty world underneath the professional gloss of ballet. The film is considered by many as the best collaboration so far of Libatique and Aronofsky, who said that “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler,” for which Mickey Rourke got acting accolades, began as one movie.

In an earlier interview with the Inquirer, Aronofsky said that Libatique’s DP expertise helped in making “Black Swan,” whose $13 million budget is loose change compared with the budgets of their “Iron Man” movies. “We didn’t have the spotlight in some of the ballet scenes,” the director disclosed. “So we didn’t know where the shadows were. Matty had to sit there with his dimmer board, making sure one spotlight came down while another came up so that there weren’t any shadows in the shot. So technically, and Matty has said this, too, ‘Black Swan’ was more difficult for him than any of those big movies like ‘Iron Man’ because he had less tools and less time. We had to make do with the limitations we had.”

Libatique traced his interest in photography and cinematography to a gift – a Nikon camera – that his father, Justiniano Libatique, gave him when he was a child. “My father was an amateur photographer and worked at a film lab in New York,” he said. “He taught me the fundamentals of photography at an age when I didn’t realize I would spend the rest of my life using them. I did not even know what a cinematographer was at 11 years old.”

The aspiring filmmaker’s parents “didn’t quite understand how I would make a living as a cinematographer and that was a source of anxiety for them, but they never dissuaded me from it.”

He is proud of his Filipino heritage. “Both of my parents spoke Tagalog when I was growing up,” Libatique said. “Although I spoke Tagalog very early on, my life became dominated by English when I started school. I still understand Tagalog but rarely hear it since my mother married an American. She now goes by the name Georgina Porter. I consider myself a Filipino, however. I cook and eat Filipino food all the time.

Libatique’s trips to the Philippines included one that was work-related. “I shot second unit on a film, ‘Soldier Boyz,’ with Darren. I taught him about pinakbet.”

Portman is considered in a close fight with Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”) in the Academy’s Best Actress race. Libatique’s gritty cinematography is credited as one of the factors for Portman’s well-received portrayal of a paranoid prima ballerina. “Natalie is interesting because she’s a bad-ass actor,” Libatique said. “It’s my job to capture that through cinematography. If you look at the film, you’ll see that it’s her face that makes you believe she is a ballerina.”

Libatique is also grateful to “Spike Lee, along with his former cinematographer, Ernest Dickerson. They are the reasons I became a filmmaker. So, when Spike called and asked me to shoot ‘She Hate Me,’ it was a landmark moment in my career. Making a film with Spike is an experience, and I’ve had the rare opportunity to have made three with him. He challenged me in different ways than other directors. He’s a force of nature who demands the best from everyone.”

Libatique and Aronofsky will work together again on the next “Wolverine” movie with Hugh Jackman resuming the title role.

Of his chances at the Oscars, the low-key talent with impressive credits said, “I don’t expect to win. I feel like I’ve already won, especially with this honor from the Independent Spirit Awards.” He added that he might wear something with a touch of the Philippines or of the Filipino in him. But he stressed that he will make that decision on Sunday morning.


1st Annual FilBookFest – October 1&2

Posted by lecrowder in Back To Our Roots, Events, Home, News on 02 23rd, 2011

A Pinoy literary fiesta in San Francisco By Benjamin Pimentel First Posted 13:23:00 02/22/2011 Filed Under: Migration, People, Books * Reprint this article * Send as an e-mail * Post a comment * Share Related Articles * P-Noy’s search committee fails on Torres * Groups back Tetangco reappointment * Teacher, auditor, scholar, mom * Jimmy Ongpin, Angie Reyes * The truth about the Tiger Mom * Lucky to have Mar * Korina denies breakup talk * Of change and hope * Vicente Rama, father Advertisement In six months, San Francisco will be, temporarily, the heart of the Filipino literary world.

The first Filipino American International Book Festival—or simply FilBookFest—will be held here October 1 and 2 at the San Francisco Main Library. We’re talking about one big Pinoy book fiesta that would highlight the latest and best from Filipino authors all over the world. And the timing is perfect. Filipino writers have been drawing attention international and in the United States recently. Miguel Syjuco’s critically-acclaimed ‘Ilustrado,’ winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, has been short-listed for the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize. Bay Area poet Tony Robles, author of the wonderful children’s books ‘Lakas and the Manilatown Fish,” and ‘Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel,’ is a finalist for this year’s Pushcart Prize with his story ‘In My Country.’ Journalist Criselda Yabes’ ‘Below the Crying Mountain,’ winner of the U.P. Centennial Literary Prize, was long-listed for this year’s Man Asian Literary Prize. It’s a powerful novel about a tragic, but sadly little-known, chapter in recent Philippine history, the burning of Jolo in the 1970s. Cris has just published her latest book ‘Peace Warrior, On the trail with Filipino Soldiers,’ an in-depth look at life in the Philippine military. Last weekend, a new book, ‘Filipinos in San Francisco, written by the Pinoy Educational Partnership and Manilatown Heritage Foundation, was published in San Francisco. (I’m particularly excited about this book because I and the other members of Pinoy Pod, the San Francisco Chronicle podcast on Filipinos, are featured in it. Actually, just our group photo in front of the San Francisco Chronicle building taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Kim Komenich. The image was the cover photo of Filipinas magazine five years ago.) The Bay Area, with nearly half a million Filipinos, one of the largest Pinoy communities outside the Philippines, is the perfect venue for a Pinoy book fiesta. FilBookFest is drumming up support through a series of author conversations and readings at local libraries throughout the Bay Area, especially in areas where there are huge Pinoy communities, such as Daly City and Pinole. I had a chat with my friend and former San Francisco Chronicle colleague Pati Poblete, at the Pinole Public Library. We talked about her book, “The Oracles,” an engaging and funny memoir focused on her growing up in an Ilocano household with two sets of traditional grandparents. (It’s a fun read and I highly recommend this book.) Former Daly City Mayor Mike Guingona, one of the most prominent Filipino American political leaders in the region, talked to Benito Vergara about his book, “Pinoy Capital,” which is about Daly City’s history as a center of Filipino Americans including Isagani Cruz, Ambeth Ocampo, Butch Dalisay and Margie Holmes. Several National Artists are also expected to attend including critic and poet Bienvenido Lumbera, poet Virgilio Almario, novelist F. Sionil Jose and visual artist Ben Cabrera, known as BenCab. The two-day event will also feature exhibits, video screenings and, of course, lots of Filipino food. A highlight of the event will be a ‘Tribute to Philippine Cultural Greats,’ which would include a gala dinner to pay tribute to ten Filipinos “whose talent and achievements have brought great pride to our nation.” The festival’s key organizers are the Literacy Initiatives International Foundation, a Bay Area non-profit focused on cultural and literary issues, particularly the Filipino-American community; the Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library; and the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. Partner organizations include the Philippine American Writers and Artists, or PAWA, the Filipino American National Historical Society, the Filipina Women’s Network and the Book Development Association of the Philippines, as well as major Philippine publishers led by Anvil Publishing. FilBookFest organizers recently held a launch party at the Philippine Consulate in downtown San Francisco. (I missed the shindig, thought I heard it was a blast.) Lead organizer and author Gemma Nemenzo was there to talk about the big plans for the fiesta. And so were well known Bay Area writers including Penelope Flores, Maya Escudero and Edwin Lozada. Yeah, we love to party, and the FilBookFest could very well be just another excuse to do so. But it’s certainly more than that. As Bay Area poet and fiction writer Oscar Penaranda, said about what the book fiesta is also about, “The best weapon against our invisibility is our literature.” (For more information, check out the FilBookFest site at Copyright 2011 by Benjamin Pimentel. On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel.