Meet Matthew Libatique, the Filipino-American Cinematographer Nominated for an Oscar This Year
January 23, 2019
Last night, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 90th Oscars. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma lead the pack with 10 nominations each. Bradley Cooper’s romantic musical drama “A Star is Born” follows with 8 nominations. One of which is for Matthew Libatique, a Filipino-American cinematographer who has been producing prolific work in Hollywood for 20 years. His photography work for A Star is Born has won universal praise, and is often praised as the film’s best technical achievement out of the main Oscar categories (picture, directing, and acting).
RELATED READS: 2019 Oscar Nominations Announced! (The Full List)
Growing Up Pinoy
Libatique was born to Filipino-American parents in Queens, New York. Since his youth, Libatique was interested in photography, eventually working at a film laboratory in New York City. His father gifted him a Nikon camera before he passed away when Libatique was only 25-years-old.
Proud of his Filipino heritage, Libatique has stated in numerous interviews that he still cooks and eats Filipino food regularly, pinakbet being his favorite. He furthered his studies in photography after graduating from the California State University Fullerton. His master’s degree for cinematography is from the AFI Conservatory.
He started his career shooting numerous music videos for artists such as 98 Degrees, Dru Hill, Jay-Z and The Cranberries. He met auteur Darren Aronofsky in 1998, who offered him the job to photograph one of his early films called Pi. Today, Libatique is one of Aronofsky’s frequent artistic collaborators.
Picture Perfect Years
After Pi, Libatique made his mark in Hollywood as cinematographer of the highly praised Darren Aronofsky picture Requiem for a Dream (2000). He was nominated for several awards for his work on the film. He followed up the movie with a number of mainstream Hollywood-fare, but continuously worked with Aronofsky whenever he made a film.
In 2010, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan proved to be the biggest hit for both director and his frequent cinematographer. Libatique was nominated for his first Academy Award for the film. Also that year, he lensed Marvel’s super hit Iron Man 2.
Other notable films on the cinematographer’s resume include F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton (2015), Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq (2015) and divisive cult film Mother! (2017). This year he returns to the Oscar race with A Star is Born (2018), the romantic tale about tragic love in Hollywood. Critics have noted Libatique’s use of light and framing during the concert scenes as highly commendable. He is up against Robbie Ryan for The Favourite, Lukasz Zal for Cold War, Caleb Deschanel for Never Look Away, and Alfonso Cuarón for Roma.
Pinoys and Their Oscar History
To date, only four people of Filipino descent have been nominated for an Academy Award, with only one winning the prestigious honor. Matthew Libatique ties with Frozen (2013) composer Robert Lopez for Filipinos with the most nominations, having two each. Lopez also holds the record for a Filipino with the most wins, winning two Oscars for his original songs “Let It Go” from Frozen (2013) and “Remember Me” from Coco, both co-written with his wife. The Fil-Am composer is also an Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner, making him the only Filipino to be part of the exclusive EGOT club.
In the acting branch, only Hailee Steinfeld has been nominated for her work. The supporting actress True Grit (2010) nominee is one-eighth Filipino. The original screenplay category has also had a Filipino nominee. Ronnie del Carmen was nominated in 2015 for his work on the script of Pixar’s Inside Out.
We wish Matthew Libatique the best of luck this upcoming awards season!