Lead actor and director talk about Honor Thy Father at TIFF

Community News & Features Sep 19, 2015 at 9:30 am

honor_thy_father_still_h_2015Interviews with John Lloyd Cruz and Erik Matti:

By Rachelle Cruz

A-lister John Lloyd Cruz flew to Toronto and stayed a little over 48 hours just to attend TIFF for the first time, for the world premiere of his film Honor Thy Father, directed by celebrated filmmaker Erik Matti. The suspense, thriller movie follows the character of Cruz, as Edgar, who struggles to save his family once his wife’s get-rich scheme, or scam, more appropriately, jeopardizes everything and put their lives at risk. Honor Thy Father is a suspenseful story that tackles themes about white collar crime, family reconciliation, and hypocrisy of the Church.

The film is eligible for the Grolsch People’s Choice Awards.

Steve Gravestock, Senior TIFF Programmer aptly said, “Honor Thy Father is many things: a suspenseful story of betrayal and retribution, a drama about familial reconciliation, and a commentary on the tenuous nature of newfound wealth. Holding everything together are Matti’s fluid, skilled direction and the tightly wound performance by Cruz, whose Edgar — disgusted by the greed and hypocrisy he encounters — seems always on the verge of exploding.”

JOHN LLOYD CRUZ

JOHN LLOYD CRUZ

The Philippine Reporter caught up with Cruz and direk Matti at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this week:

TPR: So this is the first time that one of your films made it to TIFF, what does it mean for you?

John Lloyd Cruz: This particular film means a lot to me. This is my venture to the kinds of films I don’t normally do back home. And I am happy, I’m very happy na si Direk Erik yung unang nakatrabaho ko (that direk Erik is the first one I worked with). Kasi (because) he’s very collaborative, and very open so I have to admit nung una mahirap (first time it was difficult) because para kang naka-blindfold (you were like blindfolded). And to be honest, it was a risk. It was a big, big risk for me. And now that I’m here and part yung film namin dito sa TIFF (our film is part of TIFF), it means the world.

TPR: This is the first time that we’ve seen your character play a dual role, a hero or a villain? Can you elaborate on that duality?

JLC: In films, this is my first venture into this genre. This film kasi it’s very anti-genre. It could be a drama, it could be konting (little) action, and ang hirap niyang i-define (it’s hard to define). So medyo nahirapan talaga ako (sort of really hard for me). Pero feeling ko yung pinuntahan naman niya ay something good (But my feeling was it turned into something good). It actually opened up a lot of new doors para sa akin (for me). Siyempre (Of course) I’m not getting any younger, so right now I’m all about collaboration, meeting new directors, meeting new writers. So far so good, I’m enjoying it.

TPR: This is the first time that your audience, especially from the Philippines, will see you in a new role. How do you think they will take it?

JLC: (laughs) Ang hirap (It’s hard). It’s subjective. Depende yan sa tumitingin eh (It depends on who’s watching it). So mahirap sabihin (it’s hard to say), especially sa panahon ngayon (at this time), especially sa atin (back home), hindi mo na alam kung anong magugustuhan ng audience (you don’t know what the audience will like). Parang (Like), it could be this film, it could be another film. Parang napaka-unpredictable (Like, it’s so unpredictable), which is good. In my opinion, I think okay yun kasi (because), we’re always on our toes. So lahat (everyone), eager to perform, eager to make it big, so it helps the competition. But kung paano siya, how it would appeal to them, to the audience, or the general audience, hindi ko alam (I don’t know). Hindi ko masasabi, kasi merong format yung kanilang appreciation (I cannot say because their appreciation has a format).

DIRECTOR ERIK MATTI

DIRECTOR ERIK MATTI

With Director Erik Matti

TPR: You are a celebrated filmmaker. What does it mean to you, that your film “Honor Thy Father” is being featured during this year’s TIFF?

Erik Matti: This is like a second chance. Because I had a film that was screened here maybe ten years ago, and I didn’t know much better, I was invited to come here, but I was shooting a film and I said, ‘I can’t make it’ and then I really regretted it because there was a nice reception for my film then, so when this came along, Steve Gravestock, who was also the first one who programmed my film, and now he programmed it again, when they invited me, I said, ‘Yes, I’m coming over’.”

TPR: So nakabawi ka na? (So, have you recovered?)

EM: Oo, parang natuwa na ako (he laughed) (Yes, it’s like I was glad.)

TPR: What has been the reaction so far, from the audience?

EM: It’s surprising because we haven’t shown this to the public at all. This is the first time, and we are showing it in another country so there were Filipinos and foreigners in the audience. And so far, when we walked out of the theatre, even during the Q&As, everyone seemed to enjoy the film. Everyone’s saying that they couldn’t breathe watching it, they were at the edge of their seat.

TPR: But the themes that you tackled– crime, wealth and hypocrisy of the Church–that’s going to touch a nerve, especially in the Philippines because it’s a very very religious country. How do you think that’s going to play out?

Direk Matti holding the latest copy of The Philippine Reporter

Direk Matti holding the latest copy of The Philippine Reporter

EM: You know what I’m expecting a broad-minded audience. That when they look at it, they look at it as a story, that here’s a character, he goes through so many things and it just so happened that the milieu is set in them being part of a church and all those things, but of course, I wouldn’t deny it, I wanted to say a lot of things about the church, about the hypocrisy of the middle-class, how sometimes you can’t find anyone to hold on to, when they find that you’ve done something wrong. People tend to be judgemental, hypocritical.

TPR: Last question, why did you choose to work with John Lloyd Cruz and what was it like working with him?

EM: John Lloyd is one of the really few actors of his generation who is a real actor. He’s not just charming on screen, or he’s not just larger than life, but he’s actually someone you could empathize with, could relate to, and you could feel for. I’ve always wanted to find a role for him. We were supposed to work on another project prior to this, but it didn’t work out. And this one was really written for him. When after the success of On the Job (film starring Piolo Pascual), Star Cinema talked to us, and asked if there was anything that we can have John Lloyd for. And of course we were excited. That’s why the film is really a character-driven piece, shot from one person’s POV (point of view), which is John Lloyd’s character Edgar because I really wanted to milk the talent of John Lloyd, by not doing a film with so many ensemble cast. But this one’s just really focused on him and his journey as a character. It’s nice to see him onscreen do something that he hasn’t done before. And show us how good of an actor he is. At some point, all these years, you knew how good of an actor he is, but you’re looking for range, you’re looking for where you could push him to do something more. And we thought this would be the vehicle.

——————————-