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
Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female Play on Now & The Family Law gets go ahead for second season
The Family Law TV Series adapted from the book of the same name by Ben Law has received the green light for its second series. More here.
Single Asian Female
By Michelle Law
An incisive new comedy skewering race and gender in contemporary Australia from Brisbane-based award winning writer Michelle Law. Step into the after-hours of a suburban Chinese restaurant and meet a family of whip smart women who are definitely talking about you in their native tongue.
Set on the Sunshine Coast this hilarious play answers what it means to be an Asian woman living in Australia.
For Pearl, a Chinese migrant operating a restaurant, it means sacrifice and struggling to connect with her very westernised children.
For Zoe, the eldest child, it means approaching a crossroads in her life where she’s forced to choose between a career and a family.
For Mei, the youngest child, it means being bullied at school and grappling with the desire to assimilate versus cultivating a unique identity.
Two sisters at odds with each other and a mother harboring a secret that threatens to tear her family apart, Australian domesticity like you’ve never seen it before.
Director Claire Christian Designer Moe Assaad Composer/Sound Designer Wil Hughes Lighting Design Keith Clark Performers Hsiao-Ling Tang, Courtney Stewart, Alex Lee, Emily Burton, Patrick Jhanur and Emily Vascotto
Play details here
Journal of Relevance: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
Join the editors of the Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas (ADVA) journal for a toast as they launch the latest ADVA journal — a special double issue “Island Worlds, Oceanic Diasporas, & Global Flows” guest edited by Tom Looser, Margo Machida, and Francis Maravillas. ADVA journal is published by Brill and is a collaboration between A/P/A Institute at New York University and Concordia University’s Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art.
Happy New Year of the Rooster 2017
2016 is busy with diversity
Waleed Aly wins Gold Logi, Lee Lin Chin nominated, Dami at Eurovision, SBS Pop Asia on fire – good times! Diversity! Congratulations to various Asian Australians making life on the screen more diverse. Recently, this also includes the below plus for more updates regularly follow us on FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/AsianAustralianFilmForum:-
- Tony Ayres for an International Emmy for Nowhere Boys
Story at Daily Mail
- Maria Tran for her role in ‘Tracer’ released in Australia in May 2016, with Vietnamese cast and English subtitles. Tran has also been nominated to participate in Screen Producers Australia’s ‘Ones to Watch – Next Generation of Producers’ program for 2016. More info: https://screenproducers.org.au/news/next-generation-of-producers/
- Raina Peterson and Govind Pillai
‘In Plain Sanskrit’ – Performance soon with Raina Peterson and Govind Pillai – trailer by Jacqueline Erasmus.
- Performance 4a http://www.performance4a.org.au for their ongoing events and activities promoting Asian Australians in the theatre and on the screen
- John Prasida and Alfred Nicdao in TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN TV 6 part TV series on ABC3 running in May 2016
- Charlotte Nicdao for her article in DAILY LIFE about the challenges non-White Australian actors face:
- Max Brown who was featured in ‘Bringing Them Home’ for a special screening on ANZAC Day. SYNOPSIS: Samuel Tongway was born in Australia, the son of Chinese immigrants. After enlisting to fight in World War I, he was told his services would not be required, as he was not of “sufficient European blood”. The program is viewable this month at: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/bringing-our-stories-home/ZW0681A005S00
AAFFN recent event – Melbourne November 2015.
Thank you to everyone who spoke at, attended and supported our AAFFN 2015 event in Melbourne – a creatively fuelled weekend free to the public and dedicated to promoting Asian Australians on and behind the screen. Photos below by Nikkei Australia and Mayu Kanamori who kindly shot and shared them with AAFFN.
AA Filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor wins Best Director & New Voices Award at the 47th Annual Victorian College of the Arts graduate film awards
Asian Australian filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor was recently the recipient of the Best Director *Master’s, and New Voice awards at the 47th Annual Victorian College of the Arts graduate film awards.
His short film I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET is a harsh look into the realities of his motherland the Philippines, the exploitation of Women and how the Western world interacts with South-East Asia.
The film will have one more screening at ACMI on Saturday 12th December at 3:30pm as part of the VCA graduation film sessions in Program A. Be sure not to miss it alongside the other graduate films before they embark on their international film festival journey. Tickets: http://vca.unimelb.edu.au/engage/vca-47th-annual-graduate-screenings
IW: What does your film set out to do?
JUPITER is a film about harsh realities and truths. In a world where we are so distracted by selfies, food pics, social media and other distractions a film like JUPITER exists to shake the audience.
“Silence in the Red-Light District of Manila”, is the films short yet sweet synopsis to reinforce the non-dialogue aspect of the storytelling. Without words there is an uncomfortable silence and dialogue is not important to express a message about how human beings are treated just across our shores.
IW: Who was involved with the production of JUPITER? What was the filmmaking process like?
Andrew Leavold (The Search For Weng Weng), Lisac Pham (lead actor) and Olive De Leon (production manager) helped get the ball rolling. Andrew our associate producer set the groundwork in Manila for me to connect with the local filmmaking community. My wife Lisac Pham spent months in rehearsal and researching to get into character and together we rented a room in the heart of the Red Light District to be close to the subject matter. Olive De Leon spent countless nights helping with contracts, location permits and dealing with the local police to make sure we could film. We also flew out local Melbourne filmmaker Gregory Pakis to play the sleazy sex tourist. The production process from writing script to editing was a 8 month period for myself and Lisac, which also put a lot of strain on our marriage. The production process could be described as picking at a fresh scab and watching it bleed and then being proud of the scar later.
IW: What are your future plans?
We are hoping to get a world premiere at an international film festival so we are sending it out now. Recently Lisac Pham and I also co-directed a feature film BUTTERFLY FLOWER: Please Wait To Be Seated. We are also currently finishing post-production on it. BUTTERFLY FLOWER is an experimental film which features the writing/poetry of Filipino poet & film director (father of Philippine Digital Filmmaking) Khavn De La Cruz. He inspired us to film BUTTERFLY FLOWER over kebabs at Stalactite’s when he was in town to premiere Ruined Heart at the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival. He challenged us to to shoot the whole film in under 24 hours like his ‘Day Old Flick Manifesto’. It was great to create a film quickly and raw, a timestamp of the creativity of that moment. In the future I’d like to continue making movies which take years, and some which take a day. I like extremes.
Meet Kevin Bathman – AAFFN 2015 Event Panelist
An interview with Kevin Bathman, AAFFN 2015 Event panelist by Indigo Willing.
Kevin Bathman is a visual designer, storyteller, curator, writer and social change advocate based in Sydney. He is interested in using creativity to address environmental, cultural and social justice issues, and believes that the arts is an untapped avenue for catalysing change. As the founder of social enterprise, Coalition of Mischief, Kevin has worked on numerous social justice projects with not-for-profit and arts organisations to help them communicate their message better. In 2013, he co-founded Carnival of the Bold, a movement of arts for social change. Since 2012, Kevin has been researching the history, connections and cross-cultural stories between the Chinese and Indian culture for his project, The Chindian Diaries.
We are fed an abundance of Hollywood films in Australia – but to me, what that industry clear lacks are a diversity of actors, stories and writers. To be honest, I was tired of seeing the Australian arts and creative sector be dominated overwhelmingly by white, male-driven heteronormative narratives. Why was this sector not reflecting what Australia really looks like? When it came time to curate Carnival of the Bold, I made it a point to include diverse voices – voices that we rarely hear or see, voices that more often gets rejected or sidelined due to its “non-mainstream” narrative.
Describe one of your favourite moments as a festival programmer?
What do Australians gain when they see diversity on the screen? What’s the feedback like?
A new perspective, a new way of living, a new way of thinking. People generally don’t know what they don’t know. In the arts sector, it takes a brave festival and film curator to expose new narratives to audiences. In many respects, they are bound by the marketability of the film/artist and the need to pander to what their audiences are already familiar with. It then takes tremendous effort to convince funders, board members and committee to go down a new path. Once they succeed, you run the risk of audiences not turning up or keeping away due to its “foreign” content.
What are you working on now? And what are you working on or would love to be doing next?
27-28 November 2015
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, Melbourne
Meet Joy Hopwood – AAFFN 2015 event panelist
Interview with Joy Hopwood, panelist at the 2015 AAFFN event, by Indigo Willing.
Joy Hopwood was a former Presenter of A.B.C.’s Play School, a writer, blogger, teacher, lecturer, public speaker. She was an ambassador for Mission Australia and Cancer Council NSW and was nominated twice for the Australian of the Year awards. Joy was a contributing writer for Growing Up Asian in Australia (Black Inc Books), Chinese Australian Women’s Stories (Jessie St Library / CHAA) and Reflecting on Life (Pearson Education). She wrote and created “The Wong Side of Life” theatre play, and transformed it into a video form titled “Kindness is for Free” ( an anti-bullying & anti-racism initiative in schools). She also founded and is artistic director of the yearly Joy House Film Festival. Joy blogs, writes, acts & makes films.
Describe one of your favourite moments as a festival programmer?JH:
What do Australians gain when they see diversity on the screen? What’s the feedback like?JH:
I’m busy working on next year’s Joy House Film Festival and busy writing at the moment. I’m also writing a story at the moment and hope to share it with an audience in late 2016.
For more info about the AAFFN 2015 event in Melbourne in November visit:
27-28 November 2015
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, Melbourne
Xuống Dưới (Down Under) at the 15th DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival
Australian Asian auteur Matthew Victor Pastor will screen the world premiere of his new short film Xuống Dưới (Down Under) at the 15th DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival. Down Under will be shown on as part of their shorts program ‘We Are The Choices We Make’, starting at 6:00pm on Saturday April 18, 2015.
A surreal painting of moving lights, Xuống Dưới captures the melancholy of lost love and rejection amidst the emptiness that is found in a restless city” – Joyce Ng (Editor, JOM Magazine)
“Down Under is very personal film to me. In many ways it’s my suicide note. Death has been on my mind a lot lately, and how love is connected to death. My earlier works, the feature film Made In Australia and the short film Dinky Di Aussie were about my qualms with Australian culture and the Westernization of Asian culture growing up in modern Australia. There is a cultural subtext to this movie as it’s still about two connecting nations represented by my characters, but the emotional core of this film is the idea of how memories act as ghost’s, which haunt us. Even after something as certain as death, the living still can’t forget the imprint the dead have left. The past is a spirit, which can take hold for eternity. I was in love with a beautiful woman while writing this film, but I still couldn’t help continue my narcissistic needs, and my lonely and selfish desires. I love her dearly. This film is my apology, my suicide note, our story.”
The program will be held at US Navy Memorial Burke Theatre located at 701 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20004. If you are reading from the US check out his latest film.
Keep updated at www.facebook.com/matthewvictorpastor