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Matthew Libatique become the first Filipino to receive AFI awards

May 6 ------ The American Film Institute (AFI) presented the 49th AFI Life Achievement Award to Nicole Kidman, the first Australian to receive the award, and the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, also the first Filipino to receive the award.  


It was one of the most glamorous and high-profile events we have attended this year what with celebrities like Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, Zoe Saldana, Zac Efron, Aaron Sorkin, Mike Myers, Morgan Freeman, Miles Teller, Cynthia Erivo, Barry Jenkins, Lee Daniels, David E. Kelley, Joey King, Mimi Leder, Edward James Olmos, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jane Seymour, Brian Tee, Lulu Wang among others arriving at the transformed Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars.  


"Matthew Libatique is one of our generation's defining voices in the art of visual storytelling," said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. "Now, AFI is honored to shine the light on him – celebrating his impact on the art form and the pride he brings us as a graduate of the AFI Conservatory." Libatique, who is behind such films as "Maestro," "A Star is Born," "The Whale," and "Don't Worry Darling," was born to Filipino immigrant parents Georgina "Dina" Jose from Lucena and Justiniano "Johnny" Libatique from Dagupan. 


He acknowledged his family present that evening. "My mother Dina is here tonight," he said. "My mother and my late father Johnny came to this country in the late '60s from the Philippines in search of the American dream. And I'm here to tell you that through myself and my brother (David) who's also here, they found it. I love you guys. I owe you everything. "My kid Ezekiel is here tonight as well, and my daughter Audrey in New York, I love you guys with all my heart. It's not easy having a DP dad. It really isn't. I miss so much, way too much. I'm proud of you guys. You guys make everything worthwhile for me. Finally, to my very beautiful wife, Mary Ellen, thank you so much for all the sacrifices. You follow me around this crazy world and this crazy business. You are my best friend and my muse. I love you." 


The 55-year-old Director of Photography also acknowledged his schoolmate and best friend, director Darren Aronofsky, whom he met on his third day at AFI, as one of his favorite collaborators ("Pi," "Requiem for a Dream," "The Fountain," "Black Swan," "Noah," "Mother!," "The Whale"). According to Gazzale when he introduced Libatique, "Darren Aronofsky, who was also a recipient of this same medal, said of Libatique, 'He was from Queens, I was from Brooklyn, worlds apart, but we spoke the same language.'" Libatique also thanked his directors. He said, "A multitude of thanks to the directors John Favreau, Bradley Cooper, Spike Lee, and the late Joel Schumacher, all of whom I've been able to make multiple films with. And then there's Darren. Talk about the right time, and the right place. I sat next to Darren Aronofsky on day three of AFI. And we started as spores in this incubator called AFI Conservatory. And we've gone on to have this amazing collaboration throughout our career. Literally going from boys to men. Wherever you are, man, I just want to give you a big hug. I love you." 


The Schaffner Alumni Medal recognizes the extraordinary creative talents of AFI Conservatory Alumni who embody the qualities of filmmaker Franklin J. Schaffner: talent, taste, dedication and commitment to quality storytelling in film and television. Aside from Aronofsky, other past recipients include Lesli Linka Glatter, Siân Heder, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kaminski, Mimi Leder, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Melina Matsoukas and Rachel Morrison. 




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