Throughout his 14-year career as a Director/Writer/Producer, Mateo Guez has taken the same fearless approach to his art that he has applied to life outside his work. Born and raised in Paris, Guez has no formal training in film; instead learning his craft by watching literally thousands of films, educating himself in the techniques of film production, and trusting completely in his ability to visualize the end result of his efforts, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles.
That ability has informed a characteristically diverse body of work and won him no small amount of critical acclaim. His 1996 effort, Le Dernier Jour, took first prize at the Decine festival, and the Audience award at the International Film Festival of Cergy Pontoise. Since then Guez has amassed an impressive list of credits; directing music videos for a variety of European and Canadian artists including Molly Johnson, as well as directing the much lauded short film, L’Ultima Notte, which was screened at a variety of prestigious festivals worldwide in 2003 – including The Toronto International film festival, the 26th Clermont-Ferrand International short film festival, the Berlin International film festival, and the Inside Out Gay and Lesbian Film festival.
His more recent efforts include his work as one of three contributing directors to the unique interactive feature, Late Fragment – an official selection at TIFF 2007 – as well as a variety of cutting edge short films/photo installations shot using only a Motorola cell phone.
The latest of these interactive cell phone photo/video installations was exhibited at the 2009 Contact Annual Toronto Photography Festival and shares not only its name, but also its subject matter with his 2009 feature film debut, Off World.
Shot on location in the vast urban slum of Manila’s Smokey Mountain in the Philippines, the film is an intimate portrait of both the place, and the people who inhabit it. By turns poetic and atmospheric, Off World is a tribute to the tenacity of human spirit and a document of the singular beauty that can be found in even the most chaotic of circumstances and amidst the most devastating suffering – If one can only manage view it from just the right angle.
Guez’ ability to capture that viewpoint, and to communicate it so vividly and fully to both his audience and to the people of Smokey Mountain, who participated unreservedly in the making of the film, is as rare as it is captivating.
Off World premiered at the 2009 Sao Paolo Film Festival in 2009. Guez’ next feature, entitled Innocent, is currently in development with Telefilm Canada.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
"OFF WORLD" (90 second trailer) is being named The Second Runner Up of the Over 18 Category in Earth Day Canada’s Every Day Heroes Film Competition and will be viewed by over 2 million Canadians a day on Onestop Media Group’s network of digital displays in Ivanhoe Cambridge Shopping Centres and the Toronto Transit Commission, as well as host on Earth Day Canada’s YouTube channel and website. Winning films will screen every 5 minutes in Ivanhoe Cambridge Shopping Centres and every 10 minutes on the Onestop TTC Network during Earth Week (April 16-25).
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
What’s the difference between the people living in Smokey Mountain, in this dumpsite and us? They are born there, and we are born in Paris, or Canada. I was born and raised in Paris and stayed there until I was 19, when I decided to move to Israel. I’m half Jewish, and at the time I was a little bit like ‘Lucky’ in the film, looking for my origins.
People ask, why did you make a movie in Smokey Mountain? Why do you make things complicated? I realized that I’m the kind of human being who has to be in a risky situation to feel alive – to feel that there is a purpose for living – and to produce art.
Off World is about someone trying to find who he is, to go deep into something to die and be born again. All of my movies are about dying and rebirth – it’s my main obsession. When I imagine Lucky, I imagine he has a sweet adoptive family. Yes, they give him everything they can, but he never really fit, because part of him is where he comes from. There is something there that he needs, but it’s buried.
When I visited Smokey Mountain I wanted to make a movie there because my instincts said to. At the beginning I told everyone that I could see the end. I have faith in the kind of films I want to make. We were working with all local people. The only people who were not Filipino were my DOP and myself. And besides the main actors, all the kids, all the other people, are from Smokey Mountain.
In my films, I’m always seeking for identity, to try and understand why things happen to people, and how they can build a future. It’s about finding your destiny, understanding where you come from, why you are here, and what you can do. I think it’s very universal.
Off World is not a perfect film. We don’t think we’re going to change the world. We don’t want to change the world. We are small. We are participating in the process. What we’ve done, we have tried with our talents and vision to give our definition of what we see, to participate in the process bringing awareness to the world.
Smokey Mountain is a mix of all the things everyone is concerned about – environmental issues, health problems, poverty, corruption, the rights of children. As an artist it’s my role and my obligation to participate, to use images to provide something for people to watch they might never hear about. And to be a reminder that humans are used to taking everything for granted, used to not seeing what they have, and used to complaining and asking for more, not realizing that we live in such a luxurious place. Where these people, who have none of these things, are not – it’s how you look at life.
I’m trying to showcase the ugliness, because we are all responsible for it, but also the beauty, because, these people of Smokey Mountain, we have something to learn from them.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I think of this film as a visual poem. Ethereal, poignant and other-worldly, it is aptly named “Off World”. As a 75-minute film, it packs intensity in short emotional bursts, gorgeous photography and haunting images of children juxtaposed with poverty. Featuring a powerhouse performance by lead actor Marc Abaya, this film offers an unconventional view of the Philippines. Auteur Mateo Guez employs an epic score for this tale about a man who returns to the Philippines to seek out a family he’s never known. He is a child of adoption, and child imagery pervades this movie at every corner – in equal parts wonder, doom and beauty.
While the film sheds some light on the less auspicious parts of his homeland (slums, garbage dumps, etc), the cinematic experience is somehow uplifting. It’s sort of a fairy tale gone wrong – a hopeful dystopia. This story is a complex (but still linear) narrative that follows one man’s journey (Abaya) into himself - with the help of his birth country (that he clearly loves). How can one love something so foreign and unfamiliar – with the same recognition of family? Off World asks these questions in an arresting way, and the result is a sparse narrative that somehow always feels rich and full.