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Government Corruption and Violence: The Ideological Analysis of Erik Matti’s on The Job

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Philippine Films had progressed through the years, jumping from one specific genre to the next. It started in 1897, through the emergence of the so-called “silent films”. These films, shown in black and white, were able to present and influence the people’s culture and beliefs during that period. Through time, different changes in the films became evident, such as its color and themes. They were able to shed light upon certain issues in the country, like the colonization of Spain and Japan, the World War, and the controversial Martial Law.

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The first Philippine films were initially introduced by foreign industrialists, as well as the Western colonizers like America and Europe. Documentary films were presented in Manila in 1897, along with the influx of silent films. In 1912, films about Jose Rizal emerged, with rising of artists like Edward M. Gross and Albert Yearsley. This had motivated local artists in entering the filmmaking industry in the Philippines, for them to be able to voice out their stories the way that these artists did. This had escalated during the “artistic breakthrough” of films in the golden age of the Philippine Cinema in the 1950s, where the cinematic techniques of filmmakers had developed.

However, this breakthrough had deteriorated with the arrival of foreign films with “violence and soft-core sex” as their main themes. These films were produced with a high budget and mainly aimed for a higher profit. This had resulted to the decline in the production of local films, not only because of the shift in the market’s preference, but also due to the lack of artistic motivation of the filmmakers to create films that will cater to the demand of the public.

At present, Philippine films, mainly focusing on mainstream films, are mostly profit-oriented and commercialized. Also depicted as the “Third Golden Age of Philippine Cinema”, this era promotes the diversity in style and genre of filmmaking. Indie films, which have a relatively lower budget funding and are mostly sponsored by private institutions or organizations, are starting to get recognition in different film festivals and other film institutions. Different filmmakers are taking this opportunity to create contemporary films with genres and themes that cater to the demand of the new generation.

Ideological Film Theory

The Ideological Film Theory is rooted in ideology, a “body of ideas reflecting the social needs of an individual, group, class, and culture”. In 1796, this term was coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy. This also focuses on our social understanding of the world, as well as the beliefs present in our society and how these shape our culture. Through the formation of ideologies, we are able to recognize the explicit and implicit meanings manifested in films, and how they were able to present these meanings. In exposing them to different perspectives regarding a certain culture or political belief, people would be able to easily interpret symbols and meanings associated with certain ideologies in films. Also, these ideologies may represent the filmmaker’s own beliefs, with the main goal of expressing oneself as well as the stories that they wanted to share.

Through the ideologies present in the film, we can form certain “assumptions” which explain the truthfulness of a certain value or belief. Considering that these assumptions are universal, we tend to associate them with the existing values and beliefs in our society, thus being able to compare the film’s ideologies to the reality of our own culture. This may also help us in evaluating the things that we should value, as well as our motivations in establishing our own beliefs. Hence, using different “narrative techniques and rhetoric devices”, films would be able to fully describe the true meaning of ideology.

Erik Matti’s On the Job

On the Job is a crime-thriller film directed by Erik Matti, which illustrated different social issues faced by the country. This included issues on government corruption, violence, and abuse of power, among others. With a simple story plot and a bit of suspense, this film was able to highlight the different political crimes and atrocities present in the Philippines. Its central theme focused on government corruption and violence, represented by the conflict between politicians and policemen. Daniel and Mario, the main characters in the film, are paid to perform different crimes outside of prison due to certain orders from their boss Thelma. Because their life depended on it, they had to willingly follow their commands in order for them to provide for themselves and for their families while they are in prison.

One of the ideologies present in the film is the abuse of power and government corruption, presented by the politicians who strive to protect their image and to hide their crimes from the general public through manipulating the police force. This was made possible by paying prisoners to kill those who are trying to reveal their secrets. It can be seen how this ideology explains how powerful politicians can be when it comes to controlling different institutions in the country and manipulating people into performing heinous crimes and covering their corrupt acts. Also, politicians have control over people in the lower classes, because they have the power to manipulate them through the use of money, which is a necessity for these people. For example, General Pacheco’s desire to earn a higher position in the government urged him to perform such actions for him to be able to gain more support from the general public.

This can also show how unjust the society is in the treatment of the lower class, wherein they always get on the wrong side of the justice system. The parallelism between Daniel and Atty. Coronel’s actions explained how “dirty” and unjust the political system is and the reality that those who prefer to do what is just ends up on a tragedy. This can be explained by the deaths of the two characters as well. It can also be seen how Joaquin Acosta remained in his position and had not been promoted despite all his efforts in solving different cases and in maintaining a just attitude among the police force. Hence, it is evident how government corruption and abuse of power affect different social classes and manipulate people’s beliefs and perceptions regarding the justice system and the government in general.

In addition, the film showed how violence remained rampant in the society, not only due to the influence of drugs but also because of different motivating factors that lead people into harming others. This ideology had formed a notion that violence is “normal” and that it is inevitable. In the film, different forms of violence were shown, which was mainly represented by the heinous crimes performed by the Mario and Daniel. Also, it can be seen how Daniel was trained to be an assassin, sacrificing innocent people in order for him to handle his uncertainties and “be ready” to take part in a bigger crime outside the prison. Because of this, he would be able to pass the job on to the succeeding generation of prisoners. This just shows how violence is an innate characteristic especially to those who were born in slums or has experienced violence and abuse in their early years. It explains how these values shape the people’s perception of violence in the society as well as its effects on one’s own values and beliefs.

Another example is Mario’s desperation to keep his job inside the prison, which motivated him to kill his partner Daniel. Because he had a family to support, and he knew that it would be dangerous for him to be back outside of prison, he had chosen to commit another crime to extend his stay. Also, the fact that his daughter already resented him and that his wife had already cheated on him despite his efforts of keeping his family intact became another motivation for him to stay in prison. This explains how the desperate tendencies of a person in complicated situations influence the way they act toward others. It can also be seen how these tendencies can shape one’s beliefs, considering that there is no other choice but to resort to violence, thus reiterating that violence is indeed inevitable and is innate to a person.

Government corruption and violence had been prevalent in the country, as well as the notion that these are inevitable and cannot be changed. The unjust political and justice system also adds up to the complications that give a negative effect on the society. Moreover, one’s perception and belief about a certain issue or concept can easily be affected by the changing values of a person as well as the people around them. Hence, the ideology of violence and corruption in a society can create certain tendencies that make a person resort to committing heinous acts against others and change their perception of the world.

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In conclusion, there are certain ideologies in films that help us form a deeper understanding of the values and beliefs of a certain society. On the Job had been able to describe how these ideologies affect the lives of people as well as their behavior and perception of social issues, specifically regarding government corruption and violence. Moreover, the characters in the film were able to present the different instances that influence a person’s life whenever they encounter injustices in relation to the government and politics, as well as in dealing with violence in a certain type of society. Lastly, it can be said that the Ideological Film Theory can help us understand the society more as well as the different elements that may influence one’s values and beliefs.

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Government Corruption and Violence: The Ideological Analysis of Erik Matti’s On the Job. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 27, 2023, from
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