For Australian filmmaker Matthew Victor Pastor, making films is more than just a hobby — it’s a way of life.
Pastor, who is of Filipino and Malaysian descent, saw his film “I Am Jupiter, I Am The Biggest Planet” shown at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival this month. The 14-minute short provides a glimpse into the life of a female sex worker and what one has to go through in order to survive and meet basic needs within the Philippines’ Manila red light district. The film will screen at the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival from May 24 to 28 and Charlotte Asian Film Festival, from May 26 to 27.
Here’s our conversation with Pastor about his film, his perspective on filmmaking and goals.
What inspired you to create the film and what do you hope audiences take away from the film?
My inspiration was the strength of women surviving under dire circumstances, my mother being the ultimate muse. In 1988 my Filipino mother Carol married my Australian father Victor. “The true reason people marry out is to get to a better country. You don’t want to raise a family in a country poor and corrupt,” she said recently. Carol had spent her whole life reinventing her identity, so as her only child I wanted to go back to the motherland and make a film about a mother’s journey. The whole film rests on the final 3-minute shot where the mother/sex worker breaks the fourth wall staring deep into the soul of the audience. I wanted to frame her gaze back on us. That’s the moment I want audiences to take home with them.
What was it like filming this?
It was hard with minimal money. There is no silence in the entertainment district of Manila. To get those streets empty was the hardest part, and because I work in long uninterrupted takes, it made the process more difficult. The team in Manila was the best crew I’d ever worked with. There were also many favors. Melbourne actor Gregory Pakis flew himself down for the shoot. Lisac Pham did a killer performance and held her gaze with so much grace, even with gooey milk running down her face in the middle of the red light district. In reality, I’m an imposter at best, so without the help of the locals, and also Aussie filmmakers Andrew Leavold and Daniel Palisa (“The Search For Weng Weng”), I couldn’t have made it. They were in production on “The Last Pinoy Action King,” so we spent many nights winding down over bottles of San Miguel at the local H&J sports bar in Makati. Good times.
How did you come up with the title for this film?
“You should be grateful I married you and brought you to Australia,” my father would say in fits of rage. The word “grateful” was a word I’d heard a lot. Growing up, I compared my father to Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. In my adult years I likened my mother to Jupiter. Both my mother and father are larger than life!
What’s your perspective on making films with limited platforms on which to tell your story?
I make films because it’s my identity. I live and breathe filmmaking, and have for as long as I can remember. I’ve always worked on a micro-budget with limited funds. Regardless of who watches the films, I’m just grateful to make them. If all goes well I’ll be releasing four feature films by the end of 2018. I started filming one of them in 2014, and I’m finally finishing it. I do this because nothing else is important to me than expressing myself in this medium.
Are they any other projects that you’re working on right now?
Our first is an experimental feature titled “BUTTERFLY FLOWER: Please Wait To Be Seated.” We are set for a VOD release in the upcoming months. Also I’ve just started post-production on “MAGANDA,” a Filipino-themed ozploitation film. Set to pop-punk tunes, and a look at the modern dating scene is “Melodrama / Random / Melbourne,” which will be the shortest of the bunch clocking in at a runtime of 60 minutes. The fourth film is “a prayer for the Filipino family (in the name of the father),” which I am currently casting and hoping to shoot by September.
(Matthew Victor Pastor)
Are there any long-term goals that you’re aiming for?
Long term…I’d like to live long enough to witness a brave Fil-Aussie filmmaker prosper with pride amongst a supportive community of creative Fil-Aussies. I’d like to see them proud of their narrative. I want to see more bravery down under, a future that when people try to capitalize on their talents, or choose to do something different, they are met with encouragement. I want to live long enough to see that.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I think I might be the first Australian writer/director to tell the Fil-Aussie story in narrative film, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong. My point is that it’s time for us down under to start telling our stories, and not live in fear. I’ve lived by hustling, sleeping on couches, shooting on whatever equipment I can find, using mostly non-actors. Now because of digital filmmaking there is no roadblock, and the time to do it is while you are young. I’m at the beginning of my career and I know that the energy of my youth is fading, that I won’t be able to capture stories with this perspective in 15 years. This urgency is why I keep at it, and if you haven’t started yet, it’s time to.