Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/15/20 – Critically Acclaimed Winner of 25 Awards at International Film Festivals, in US/Canadian theaters Jan. 24, Quezon’s Game is based on a largely forgotten, true story of Holocaust heroism during World War II in the Philippines by Filipino President Manuel L. Quezon—who rescued as many persecuted Jews as Oskar Schindler at a time when most countries were turning their backs. The release of Quezon’s Game also marks the landmark 75th anniversary on Jan. 27 of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi’s most-notorious concentration camp. “There are so many layers to Quezon’s Game. One element that I wanted to thread through the movie was a feeling of pride and hope. The film is not about the horrors of the Holocaust … It is about the lengths and risks good men will go to stop the horrors. Another element that I wanted to put across is that there is no bigotry in the Philippines, none. Growing up in England during the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was regularly set upon by anti-Semitic thugs. My father used to tell me England is still the safest place for a Jew to live in Europe and I grew up accepting bigotry as being part of human behavior. I have now lived in the Philippines for 37 years and never experienced bigotry or intolerance … Not just towards me but to anyone.”- Matthew Rosen
Share your upbringing.
I was born in London UK.
When did you discover your love for cinema?
I inherited my father’s love for the movies. When I was about 4, my parents took me to see South Pacific. I noticed the reel change marker flash in the corner of the screen and asked my dad what it was. As he was a projectionist during the war, he explained the workings of film and the reel change marker to me in detail. I remember understanding it perfectly and the illusion of motion pictures has never lost its magic for me.
How did you break into the business?
I decided even before I went to school that I would be a Filmmaker. Everything I did during my youth was aimed at that goal. I started my apprenticeship in the studios as soon as I could and made my way up the production ladder to a cinematographer for music videos by the age of 20. At 22, the Director of a project I was working on left the country suddenly for an overseas project and the Producer asked me to step in for him. It was a TV segment for a music show on what was then a new dance craze—Breakdancing. It was very well received and I was suddenly wafted into the director’s chair where I have continued to sit. I never lost my love of cinematography though and I light and photograph my projects as I did with Quezon’s Game.
How important is media in changing people’s perspectives?
After directing over 1000 commercials, I would say media is currently the most powerful way to deliver a message. I also feel it is the most powerful way to change people’s perspectives.
Tell us about Quezon’s Game. Why is this film timely?
Between 1938 and 1940 Manuel Quezon, then President of the Philippines, and four of his closest friends battled against apathy and bigotry to save as many Jews from Nazi death camps as they could and bring them to settle in the Philippines. It is a story of humanity and self-sacrifice in a time when world leaders showed very little of both. I feel this story is both timely and timeless. We occasionally need to be reminded of how our past intolerance has led us to unfathomable consequences.
What are a few crucial elements to your film, Quezon’s Game?
There are so many layers to Quezon’s Game. One element that I wanted to thread through the movie was a feeling of pride and hope. The film is not about the horrors of the Holocaust … It is about the lengths and risks good men will go to stop the horrors. Another element that I wanted to put across is that there is no bigotry in the Philippines, none. Growing up in England during the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was regularly set upon by anti-Semitic thugs. My father used to tell me England is still the safest place for a Jew to live in Europe and I grew up accepting bigotry as being part of human behavior. I have now lived in the Philippines for 37 years and never experienced bigotry or intolerance … Not just towards me but to anyone. One of the reasons I wanted to make this move was to show the world that there can be a culture without bigotry.
When you reflect upon history, what does it tell you about the human condition?
The movie is set in a very different time. Bigotry and intolerance were the norm … Not just in Germany but in many countries around the world. This motion picture does not shy away from this, but it also shows how far the human condition has changed for the better in such a short period of time.
What has Hollywood done right and wrong when it comes to bigotry?
I think Hollywood has done a lot of good for the cause against bigotry. However, this film deals with an aspect of bigotry that has been forgotten not just by Hollywood but also by history. There are elements within the film that can be quite shocking to many that were unaware of their country’s position regarding the victims of the Holocaust.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration has been my father, but in terms of film I have an eclectic set of idols from Steven Spielberg to David Lynch
What does utopia look like to you?
I recall in my school days when we once discussed the class’ vision of the future. Unlike most in my class that saw apocalyptic, dystopian futures, I saw a utopia—With technology, culture, tolerance and a way of life much improved to how we were living then. I now live in Manila. Every morning I look out of my window at the stunning towering buildings along tree-lined streets or walk the streets with people smiling, laughing and greeting each other and I think we made it to my utopia. My children’s utopia is probably as far from now as mine was 40 years ago. Let’s hope they get to live theirs also.
Who would you like to work with in 2020?
I don’t really inspire to work with any single individual in particular as I love working with my usual team. I truly hope I can work with all the Actors in Quezon’s Game again. I had the pleasure of shooting with Rachel Alejandro (Aurora Quezon) and Audie Gemora (Sergio Osmena) in a motion picture I made recently. I would love to have the opportunity to shoot again with Raymond Bagatsing (Manuel Quezon). There are Actors that I really do admire. I love working with talented Actors. I so respect and admire their craft. If there was any one person, I would like to collaborate with I suppose it would be Anthony Hopkins … He is an absolute pleasure to watch and I am always moved by his performances.
What is next for you?
Back to the grind. I have one motion picture currently in post-production and another in development for later in the year. Both very different from Quezon’s Game. But there is another historical picture on the horizon, very exciting.
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