It is always said that art imitates life. We would find images of our surroundings painted onto canvas, songs written about personal experiences, and films and shows created based on real life events. And the latter is the case for Erik Matti’s 2013 film On the Job (OTJ).
The movie revolves around two hit-man prisoners–played by Gerald Anderson and Joel Torre–who are temporarily freed so they could carry out political executions. While this may sound like a fictional story, the movie’s inspiration came from a Viva Films crew member who said he was released temporarily from prison to perform ‘contract killings’ before being imprisoned again. (Read: 3 Reasons Why You Should Watch On The Job Series On HBO Go)
It was shown at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight, and received a standing ovation from the audience. It was released not only in the Philippines, but also in the United States and Canada.
But now, more people around the world will get the chance to watch this action-packed movie thanks to HBO GO.
On September 12, an abridged version of OTJ will be released in two parts as part of a six-episode HBO Asia Original series. The next four episodes will be an entirely new story, serving as the continuation of the 2013 movie.
The sequel, featuring an entirely different cast, will center in on a group of journalists that go missing under highly suspicious circumstances. The series tackles the real and pressing issues of press freedom, corruption in the media, and how the dangers that come with exposing the misdeeds of people in power can sometimes cost your life.
Asked about the reasoning behind the story of the sequel, Direk Erik said that the journalism angle came out during the planning session. He said that he had three areas that he was interested in telling a story about–gambling, healthcare industry, and journalism.
“Gambling operates using the entire government structure kahit illegal pa yan pero hindi yan mabubuhay kung walang tulong ng gobyerno,” he explained, “[Pero] mas napunta pa nga kami nung una sa medical. Medical meaning the black market of medicines coming from China, usually allowed by certain people in the government tapos magtatayo sila ng private corporation.”
But then he said they were in the planning stages of the sequel when Donald Trump won as president of the US. “Si Cambridge Analytica may mahabang report on it. One line that caught our attention was, “Before Cambridge Analytica used the strategy of using social media and trolling on Trump, they first tested that in the Philippines for the Duterte administration,” the director said.
“It caught our attention, sabi namin, ‘Ah, there’s a machinery pala behind winning the election in the last election natin. So from there nag-decide kami na journalism talaga yung susundan.”
So what then does the cast want the audience to take away from watching OTJ 2?
According to Lotlot De Leon, who will play the role of Weng, she wants the viewers to “never stop caring.” “Never stop caring about telling the truth, never stop fighting for what is right even if it means na malalagay ka sa alanganin,” she said. The veteran actress adds that she dedicates the series to everyone, especially journalists whose lives are always on the line for the work they do.
As for Dennis Trillo, who is one of the prisoners freed in the series, he says people will probably learn about not trusting anyone from his character. “Sa panahon ng kagipitan, hindi mo na talaga alam sino ang kaibigan mo,” he explained. “Gusto ko rin na ma-remind sila na kaya ng mga Pilipinong i-angat ang quality ng mga trabaho nila lalo na sa mga pelikula dito sa Pilipinas.”
‘We have to speak up’
Lastly, veteran actor John Arcilla says he is glad that the series is opening people’s eyes–not just Filipinos but also the international community–that what the show is portraying is actually happening in the Philippines, and depicts how severe the situation is. “Maybe it could also open the minds of other countries on how to deal with that kind of situation,” he says.
He then calls on the people in his statement, “Are we just going to close our eyes after opening it, after watching it on film? Kasi whether we like it or not, it will worsen–it will not just stay [the way it is], it will worsen if we don’t do something about it.”
“We have to do something about it. We have to find ways to be empowered as people, as Filipino people. Whether we like it or not, we have to encourage each other to speak and fight for it. We don’t need to be heroic–just voting for the right person who will lead us [is a way to help the country].”