Cover John Arcilla wins the Volpi Coppa at the Venice International Film Festival September 2021

Erik Matti's expanded version of the 2013 blockbuster film, 'On The Job', received a 5-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival—here's why it's not for the faint of heart

Erik Matti's film, On The Job: Missing 8, wowed the crowd at its recent premiere at the Venice International Film Festival and ended with a five-minute standing ovation for its blatant and compelling portrayal of deeply-rooted corruption in the Philippine government.

Yesterday, the film's first hour (as well as its blockbuster 2013 prequel, On The Job) premiered on HBO Go. The remaining episodes will begin to be available for streaming on the said platform on September 19.

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Picking up from the last events of On The Job, the sequel follows the Senate trials of Gen. Pacheco (Leo Martinez) who was running for senator in the upcoming elections. His reputation was marred after the bloody death of NBI Agent Atty. Francis Coronel (Piolo Pascual). Coronel left corroborative evidence against the said general, exposing him as the mastermind behind the crime syndicate that hires Bilibid prison inmates as assassins.

HBO Go is releasing the sequel in parts. And as of the last episode, it's revealed that a provincial city jail runs the same crooked business and it's alluded that the local city mayor, Pedring Eusebio (Dante Rivero), is the man behind it.

Corruption, lust for power, heinous crimes, betrayal of trust and allegiances. . . all these are explored in the sequel just as much as in the original film. But what sets it apart is its portrayal of the traditional mass media being held on a leash by people in power, and how social media reacts to everything that is happening in the country.

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The sequel also focuses on "Manong" Sisoy Salas (John Arcilla), a local radio news anchor and co-founder of a local newspaper in the fictional town of La Paz and his intricate journey in the deceptive political maze of Eusebio.

For his stupendous performance, Arcilla earned the highly coveted acting award, Volpi Coppa (Volpi Cup), placing him in the ranks of the world's finest actors. Also in the film is Dennis Trillo, playing the role of Roman, an inmate hired as a gunman, who also gave a commendable portrayal that diverts from his matinee looks.

Read more: John Arcilla Wins Best Actor at the Venice Film Fest

Special participation of the country's foremost dramatic actor, Christopher De Leon, takes centre stage in the third episode of the series (which serves as the beginning of the sequel), as Manong Sisoy's estranged best friend Arnel who is trying his best to salvage not only the financial position of the local newspaper they've co-founded but as well as the reputation and dignity of his fellow journalists.

On The Job: The Missing 8 is a gripping, fictional take on actual events in our political circus but hits close to home with its depiction of how the broken system destroys our personal relationships among friends and families.

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Spoilers ahead**

The series claims to be inspired by true events. When the 2013 film hit the theatres before, speculations about its authenticity have sprouted as the idea of having inmates as hired assassins seemed like a far-fetched insinuation. However in 2016, with President Rodrigo Duterte's infamous war on drugs, the idea became truer and truer by the day.

But more than that, the sequel bravely reflected the events that made headlines and primetime news in recent years. We see Leo Martinez as Gen. Pacheco repeating the lines of disgraced businesswoman, Janet Napoles, during her trials: "I invoke my right against self-incrimination", and parodying the viral memes from past senate hearings.

But the most heart-wrenching allegory in the series is that of high officials' countless crimes against the Media, the so-called "Fourth Estate" and "watchdog of the government". It was sickening to watch the series portray loyal and blind supporters of crooked officials, while the subtly-executed scenes of violence against humanity were furiously revolting. The Maguindanao Massacre in 2009 during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a haunting memory that will seep into the viewers' minds as the third episode nears its end.

Read more: Ramona S. Diaz's "A Thousand Cuts", And Two More Filipina-Directed Films Are Eligible For Best Picture Nomination

If there is one message that echoes resoundingly in the series is that there is power in voting during the elections. The true power is with the people.

Read more: How To Register To Vote Before September 30 Deadline

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