LOS ANGELES - On the eve of the Academy Awards, Matthew Libatique, the Filipino cinematographer of "Black Swan" won the best cinematography prize in the Independent Spirit Awards held in Santa Monica, California.
Libatique, the top Filipino-American creative talent working behind the scenes in the US film industry today, is also in the running for the best cinematography honors in the Oscars which takes place Sunday evening (Monday in Manila). It is his first Academy nomination.
The lensman's win in the Independent Spirit Awards, which recognizes excellence in films with budgets under $20 million, is his second. Libatique won the trophy for the first time with "Requiem for a Dream," one of his earliest films with his frequent collaborator, Darren Aronofsky.
Libatique told the Inquirer by phone that his second triumph was sweet because the last time he won was in 2001. "It took a long time for me to get back," he said. "The first award happened early in my career. So I don't take this recognition for granted." The filmmaker added that he loves indie cinema and what it stands for so he valued the honor. "I identify strongly with the independent filmmaking community."
He shared that in his acceptance speech, he gave special thanks to his wife, Magela Crosignani, who is also a cinematographer, and their two children.
"Black Swan" dominated Saturday's awards, winning in all the categories in which it was nominated - including Best Feature, Best Director (Aronofsky) and Best Actress (Natalie Portman). The film pulled an upset over "Winter's Bone," considered the frontrunner with seven nods but which won in only two categories.
Sthanlee B. Mirador, the Filipino-American photographer who covered the awards held by the beach, told the Inquirer, "When Matthew walked into the press room after he won, he had this huge smile on his face. He came up to me, shook my hand, gave me a hug and said to me, 'We did it, man!' I replied, 'Take home the Oscar tomorrow.' He simply smiled and shook my hand again."
Mirador said that Libatique was visibly ecstatic when "Black Swan" won in the other categories. In his category, the director of photography beat Michael McDonough, "Winter's Bone," Adam Kimmel, "Never Let Me Go," Jody Lee Lipes, "Tiny Furniture" and Harris Savides, "Greenberg."
In the Academy Awards, Libatique, 42, one of the youngest members of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), is competing against veterans - Roger Deakins, "True Grit," Wally Pfister, "Inception," Danny Cohen, "The King's Speech" and Jeff Cronenweth, "The Social Network."