Musings: Erik Matti's On The Job (2013)

First of all, let me put it out there that I am still confused as to whether or not it is okay to shorten the film's name to "OJT." OJT actually stands for on-the-job training, but since the title of the movie doesn't include the word "Training," I'm not sure if it is still okay to shorten it to "OJT" or perhaps it is more proper to use "OTJ," but that doesn't sound right either. Quite a trivial dilemma actually, but nevertheless I had to ponder about it somewhat when I used #OJT when I tweeted about the movie after watching it earlier.

ANYWAY.

I won't give away the main plot of the movie, but I have to say that after watching On the Job, I can't help but feel depressed as a citizen of the Philippines. At the start of the movie there was a note that flashed on the screen saying that the events to be shown were inspired by real events. Though the story and the characters are fictional (I fervently hope so), that note makes me wonder if there is a real-life counterpart of the story and the characters, or if things are still happening that way today.

If the answer is "yes," the Philippines is one fucked up country.

While it is common knowledge that our government is one of the most corrupt governments in the world (highlighted even more by the recent Pork Barrel Scam), seeing it interpreted by the movie--portrayed to THAT extent--sickens me to the core. And since this movie ended in a dark note (you know, none of that breaking into song and running down the beach and stuff), I came out of the cinema more affected and disturbed than I intended. I was initially interested in watching the movie because the trailer showed cool action scenes, but I wasn't expecting a stark sociopolitical portrayal of my country. That unexpected intelligence of plot jarred me, but I don't want to complain because that is the reason why I found the movie to be really good.

REALLY, really good. As in the masses should watch this to learn a thing or two.

Another thing I liked about the movie is the setting they chose. I think they chose to shoot on location in old Manila, and that alone was impressive because they were able to preserve the chaotic, crowded feel of the place without making the extras act staged or something. They even had a LRT chase scene, beat that! Also, the movie showed intimate views of places I haven't been to before, such as office areas of a local police station, a dingy hospital, a study room of a politician's house being turned into a meeting room for campaign strategies... I'm not sure how well they were able to replicate those settings, since I've never been to any of those before, but the portrayal felt authentic enough for me.

Speaking about authenticity, another thing that bothered me is the casting of the movie--how much can the cast relate to their characters and to the story. Showbiz and politics are (sadly) interchangeable careers here in the Philippines, so I can't help but wonder if there is anyone in the cast who has a real-life experience of the plot. This isn't art imitating life, nor life imitating art; it is actually life disguised as art.

Needless to say, every Filipino needs to watch this movie, not to be entertained but to realize (or reaffirm, depending on your level of awareness) the sorry state our country has become. As a society, we have become so numb to feel our demise that I think it's time that we should abstain from feel-good movies for a while.

Comments

  1. Very well said :) If only MMFF entries were of this caliber...

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