Australian Gritty Hyper Realism & AA Masculinity – Interview with Matthew Victor Pastor 2017
WHO: Matthew Victor Pastor (MVP) is an Australian filmmaker of Filipino heritage. Graduating from the Masters (narrative) program at the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts, his short film I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET was awarded Best Director and the New Voice Award. The film set in the red light district of Manila, Philippines has screened around the world and was nominated for the Academy Award qualifying, Golden Reel at the 33rd Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. In 2013 he released MADE IN AUSTRALIA an independent feature film. It was awarded Best Guerrilla Film at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF). Released in 2017 is BUTTERFLY FLOWER: Please Wait To Be Seated (70 mins) an experimental feature film, which was co-directed with Vietnamese filmmaker Lisac Pham. Currently in post-production and set for a 2018 release are two more feature films MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE! (85 mins) and MAGANDA! “Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man” (130 mins). These two films are part of the ‘Fil-Aus’ trilogy starting with JUPITER, and concluding with MAGANDA. In production is his 5th feature film currently titled REPENT OR PERISH! Set during the 2017 nationwide plebiscite, this LGBT film explores sexual identity amongst a conservative suburban Pinoy family.
AAFFN interview with Indigo Willing:
Asian Australian (AA) men have long faced a bias against them on the screen. They are rarely allowed to be in the role of a lead character. Additionally, it seems almost an unspoken rule amongst the mainstream writers and directors that AA men are incapable of carrying off romantic roles. And if they do, they are usually infatuated by a white character and then killed off. How then, one might ask, can AA men who love someone (of any ‘race’) ever connect themselves to characters on the screen who are void of complex emotions, the euphoria, the tenderness, the joy as well as the desperation and upheaval, the jealous waves, and heart wrenching moments of falling in love? Where can they see characters who convey the proper sting of break ups that they themselves experience? And for AA men, the focus of this article, when can they see the clashing contradictions, highs and lows of being both socially privileged yet also humbled and gutted by things such as racism, classism, cultural marginality, transnational mobility and other things that can be part of these AA men’s lives? One answer is in the short films and independent features of AA directors who tackle these aspects of toxic to fragile masculinity, careless and cautious sexuality and cross-cultural identities directly. Matthew Victor Pastor (MVP) is one such director, actor and writer.
IW: We met in 2011 and things have been moving along rapidly for AA men on TV (Ben Law, Andy Trieu, Lawrence Leung, Ronnie Cheng), but how about film? What is the going on for AA filmmakers? What are your feelings on their opportunities lately?
MVP: Much respect to those names, they are kicking goals both here and abroad! My personal opinion is that things are pretty much the same for AA filmmakers, but I’d like to focus on the positives. With digital equipment never has it been more possible to make a feature film of quality. I’ve only made more content with less opportunity (onto my third feature for the year). I also did a feature in 2016 ‘BUTTERFLY FLOWER.’ It’s a lot of hard work, I’m getting old. At 28 I feel pain after 24 hours on the grind. A few years ago I didn’t feel that, so if you’re young use the energy. I still think us AA’s have to make their own opportunities. Does a doctor make the appointments? Does a teacher show up to teach the class? Do us filmmakers make films? It’s just something that I do, I make films. We live in such a privileged country, so why the fear? It’s our responsibility to tell stories. I think we also need to really work together. Talent is everywhere, so we need more directors from Asian backgrounds to actually make films. Recently I have so much faith in the next generation. I’ve been rolling with these 18 year olds on my new film. I got heaps of faith in them, they are so daring.
IW: Tell me your thoughts on Asian men being seen differently by the West in terms of romantic interests? Or even just as lead actors who aren’t busting down martial arts moves? What range of characters do we see and how do the ones in your film boost that or even differ?
MVP: We literally just filmed some romantic love-making scenes for a feature film called A prayer for the Filo Fam <3. The story is set during the 2017 postal plebiscite for same-sex marriage. The film features some beautiful and vulnerable Asian-Australian performances. I write Asian men as all kinds of people. My work has a wide range of personalities for all, but all these traits come from story. In the feature ‘MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE!’ our lead Bridget O’Brien plays a Asian documentary maker following the MRM (Men’s Rights Movement). In ‘MAGANDA! “Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man”’, I play a drug addicted filmmaker slaying the ghosts of his past. In BUTTERFLY FLOWER Lisac Pham was a painter turned prostitute, turned madame. Those are just a few of the leads, and their stories. In Australia I feel there’s are new school of young AA acting talent in Celina Yuen, Justin Wang, Kevin Pham, Joseph J Lai, Bridget O’ Brien, Slone Sudiro and Chi Nguyen who I’ve had the honour of directing in complex amazing performances. Also, in terms of pioneers, in A prayer for the Filo Fam ,3 veteran actor Alfred Nicdao plays a righteous father dealing with sin.
IW: There’s a lot of pressure for to conform to middle-class expectations of tastefulness and art in film making. How do you relate to that as a storyteller?
MVP: I try to ignore the pressure to conform in all aspects. In some way, Asians have a bit of uphill battle with the stereotypes such as ‘model minority’, amongst others. It’s very easy to get stuck in a box of how they dictate our identity. Personally I write outrageous stories. I think the key is to be interesting, then stories will burst out of you with honesty. Asians in Australia have got to find a balance between their parents identity and their own. Maybe the first step is to throw yourself into something crazy. End up in hospital. Start a relationship. Impulsively marry someone. End up divorced. Move back in with your parents and embrace them for a moment. Spend a night with some dude you meet on the street. Couch surf. Almost burn your apartment down. Take a loan out and travel. Hustle. The key is to be a sponge. If you spend most your time in the CBD, you’ll see lots of young Asians living the city life. We should be reflecting those stories. We need to make something like Ana Kokkinos’s ‘Head On.’ For many of us young second generation Aussies, then and now it’s so heartbreakingly relatable. It’s our reality.
IW: Tell me about your big Australian Filipino trilogy
MVP: Although Pinoys are the 5th largest migration group in Australia where are the stories in film? I want to see them told by Filipino-Australian filmmakers! My trilogy aims to explore these repressed emotions. Part one was my VCA graduation thesis film, I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET, a short set in the red light district of Manila. Part two and three are in post-production and we will soon be submitting them to film festivals. MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE!, is a feature film where we follow a bunch of young disillusioned Fil-Aus through their fractured inner city lives. Part 3 MAGANDA! “Pinoy Boy vs Milk Man” is a mind bending exploitation film throwback, with a dual narrative (it’s my take on a grind house film) about the drug addicted director of the film. These stories confront our fractured identity filled with shame, denial, brutality, silence, repression, castration and death. If I were a true cynic I’d end on that note, however, if you stick with me through the blood and semen, you will witness a climax which portrays love, transformation and ultimately acceptance in the holiest of Milk Facials ever committed to cinema.
Matthew Victor Pastor’s films BUTTERFLY FLOWER, Down Under & LOVE with the POET are currently streaming on www.chopso.com