‘Off World’ A Quest for Identity

CANADA (Sasha Stoltz Publicity): Mateo Guez is no longer Off World, yet it is the name of his independent movie, in which he wrote, produced, and directed. Shot last year at a dump site in the Philippines, it will be the opening gala film for the 10th annual Reelworld Film Festival on April 7-11 in Toronto.

“It’s a very touching movie about a young guy in his twenties looking for his roots, it’s a contemplative and meditative piece” said the award-winning French-born Mateo.

According to him, Off World is about a quest for identity, where the main protagonist Lucky, adopted by a Canadian family, returns to the Philippines to find the family he never knew he had — where his journey to Smokey Mountain, one of the largest dumpsites in the world, will change him forever.

Hailed as “a brilliant creative force … to be reckon with”, Mateo has worked with director Bernardo Bertolucci in the 2004 film The Dreamers starring Michael Pitt as an American film student involved in an torrid triangle with a brother and sister in 1968 Paris. His film L’Ultima Notte earn kudos in festivals all over the world that includes Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

After being very touched and moved due to a recent trip in Manila, Mateo took a tremendous risk in filming Off World: maxing out $70,000 in credit cards for a 14-week shoot in expensive Super 35 film format, leaving him $300,000 in debt in the end. Producers, Mateo said, wouldn’t be interested in something like this because Off World is no blockbuster. The film is a character piece with a social message, the antithesis of plot-centric, big-budget movies with big names, car chases, special effects, sex/romance, profanity, and larger-than-life heroics. Mateo said that Lucky’s story in Off World is also our story — which we should enjoy, love, and live life to the fullest, no matter what.

“I name the movie Off World because the Philippines is on the East Side” he continues. “When people look at Africa or some other third world countries, it’s off world for them. It’s very important to me to balance that point of view. For example, here in North America, we are considered economically better off but many of us are ungrateful and unhappy; there, in Smokey Mountain, they have very little but still have hope and faith. I think we have so much to learn. It’s about bringing awareness to the world.”

“My goal is to be the voice of these people, a way for them to be heard and have the chance to be help. With some visibility like ReelWorld film festival, We may make a difference.”

The 10th Annual Reelworld Film Festival will take place in Toronto from April 7-11 with regular screenings at the Canada Square Theatre and gala screenings at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Garrett Godwin is an entertainment journalist, who writes for NewsBlaze about television and people in the entertainment industry, from his home state of Michigan. Contact Garrett by writing to NewsBlaze.