SINE CABOLOAN

The independent cinema of the Pangasinan province, Philippines

Archive for June, 2012

Tuhog Bilang Estetika by Rolando B.Tolentino published at pinoyweekly.org

Tuhog Bilang Estetika ni Rolando B. Tolentino
Rebyu ng Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved, Christopher Gozum, 2011)

Interesante ang ginagawa ni Christopher Gozum: mga pelikula sa Pangasinese; sa katunayan, sinasabing ang kanyang unang pelikula, Anacbanua (2009) ang unang pelikula sa wikang ito—pinagsanib na mga tula, voice-over, basag na naratibo, at shots ng ordinaryong buhay. Itong sumunod ay ang Lawas Kan Pinabli, black-and-white, pinaghalong interviews sa mga OCW sa Middle East sa dokumentaryong stilo, at paglalakbay at dramatikong sandali dahil may hinahanap roon ang lalaki.

Hindi pagpapatakbo ng fiksyonal na naratibo ang tinutuhog ni Gozum, tulad ng maraming indie filmmakers. Konseptual ang mga pelikula: nagtatahi’t naghahabi ng mga stilisadong eksena (black-and-white, grainy shots, repetisyon, voice-over at katahimikan, gamit ang rehiyonal na wika) dahil may nais bigyan-diin na konsepto hinggil sa formasyon ng identidad at pagkatao, komentaryong sa buhay at panlipunan, o sa masalimuot na afekto ng fragmentasyon at alienasyon.

Sa isang workshop sa kritisismo sa sining, sinaad ng arkitekto na “tuhog” ang tila estetika ng mga artista—sa limitadong resources, nakakayanang gumawa ng mas malaking resulta’t dating. Nagustuhan ko ang kanyang sinabi at inisip kung ano ang aplikasyon nito sa pelikula.

Ang produktibo sa pakikipagtunggali ni Gozum sa pelikula ay ang paggamit ng Pangsinese at ang karanasang isinasaad ng wikang ito para maging dalumat ng mas malaking bagay at karanasan: unibersalidad ng pagkatao sa materialidad na karanasan, tulad ng lalaking naghahanap sa ibang lugar ng makakatumbas sa kanyang pagmamahal; karanasang pambansa, tulad ng mga OCW na nagkakaroon ng iba pang relasyon sa kanilang paglalayag sa ibang bansa; karanasang rehiyonal, tulad ng paghalaw sa titulo mula sa folk song ng lugar, ang humahabi sa kwento ng pagbabago; o personal, tulad ng karakter sa pelikula na hinahanap ang sarili sa pamamagitan ng pakikipanayam sa kahalintulad na identidad (kapwa OCW).

Mahalaga ang ganitong mediasyon ng filmmaker hinggil sa wika, lalo na itong hindi pa nabibigyan ng kultural na artikulasyon sa pelikula. Wala nang Ilokanong pelikula, o sa marami pang wika sa bansa. Wala pang pelikula sa Waray, Sambal, at Chavacano. Sa katunayan, sa paisa-isang pelikula hinggil sa katutubo (Aeta at Palawanon, halimbawa), mas nabubuo na nitong media ang nosyon ng pambansang pelikula.

Mahalaga si Gozum sa nosyon ng pambansang pelikula dahil naipapasok niya ang mga aspekto ng karanasan ng rehiyon at rehiyonal na wika bilang bahagi at katuwang ng formasyon ng bansa. Ang marami sa kanyang kahanay sa indie cinema ay sa direksyon ng karanasan ng laylayan ng sentro (tambay, mamamatay-tao, tirador, at iba pa), na ang partikularidad ay may direktang akses sa pagkabansa. At kung gayon, mas madaling mahatak para sa isang global na art film market.

Kung nanggagaling sa rehiyon, kailangan naman ay itong pinakadahop (ang figura ng katutubo, batang katutubo, at mga marginalisado). Ang nagiging kumpetisyon ay paramihan ng pagkaetsapwera, at kung gayon ay mas exotikong paksa’t tema para sa art film festivals. Mismong ang formulasyon ng naratibo sa indie cinema ay naging produkto na kinakalidad na ng mga boutique producer (funders at art film festivals) sa bansa.

Ang look-and-feel ng indie films ay nakapaloob na sa hulma ng kung ano ang indie cinema: poverty-sex-violence ng abject subjects na kinunan sa idioma ng neorealismo (dokumentaryo, jagged camera, grainy, natural lighting) na a-day-in-the-life-of. Dahil dito, maraming inobasyon ang hindi ipinapaloob: aktwal na dokumentaryo, konseptual na pelikula, experimental, teasers na gawa ng politikal na film collectives, at iba pa.

Sa maikli nitong kasaysayan, nagkaroon na ng tier-ing ang mismong indie cinema: ang kapasidad nitong maggrado at mag-etsapwera ng mga produkto, o makapanlaglag ng mga hindi lubos na umaakma sa naturang template nito. Isa rin ito sa mga tinutuhog na impetus ng mga tulad ni Gozum. At ang produktibong nagagawa nito ay ang hindi pa nagagawa sa indie cinema, maging sa pambansang pelikula.

Ang nosyong ng “hindi pa nagagawa” ay mabigat na pasanin dahil nangangailangan ito ng komitment sa mga bagay: sining, rehiyonalidad, orihinalidad, kapasidad na makaugnay sa mas malalaking mga bagay, at paninindigan bilang indie filmmaker bilang tunay na may “independent spirit” (metapisikal na nosyon pero ang materialidad ay makikinita sa mga gawa).

Kaya tatagal pa ang indie cinema ay hindi dahil sa kapasidad ng nakapaloob na rito (ang mga institusyon nito) na ipagpatuloy ang karanasan kundi dahil sa mga nasa labas nito na makagawa ng hindi pa nagagawa, at matuhog ang estetika ng hindi pa nagagawa. Ito ang pagsasapelikula para sa hinaharap, na ang gawa ay pagtataya sa malinaw na posisyonalidad para sa kapakanan sa inaakdang bukas.

http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2012/05/tuhog-bilang-estetika/

“Encounter: New Filipino Cinema” presented by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco June 7-17,2012

“Encounter: New Filipino Cinema” presented by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco June 7-17,2012

Depending on who you’re listening to, you might have been told that Filipino cinema is in the middle of a revolution, or on the cusp of one, or has already gotten stale. Or maybe nobody’s ever told you anything about Filipino cinema. This is understandable. We are a small archipelago on the other side of the world, and aside from our seemingly endless supply of talented singers, we rarely make the news.

But if you’ve been told anything about Filipino cinema, it’s probably true. We are in the middle of a revolution, and on the cusp of one, and we’ve already gotten stale. The truth in this country is always complex, and our cinema seems to reflect it.

The last decade or so has seen Filipino cinema die and be reborn. At one point, the country was home to one of the most prolific film industries in the world. The country has a surprisingly long history in filmmaking, and by the 1950s, we had entered a golden age of cinema. In the 1970s, we had our own New Wave, defined by socially relevant films driven by accomplished dramatists. By the 2000s whatever filmmaking tradition the country had was largely considered comatose if not dead. A lack of quality, combined with greater competition from Hollywood and the Asian economic crisis, pretty much sank much of what people thought of as the local filmmaking industry.

And then a lot of things suddenly started happening. In 2000, Raymond Red won the Palme d’Or for his short film Anino. In 2001, Lav Diaz released the 5-hour Batang West Side, which seemed to indicate that Filipino film still had the capacity to be bold and challenging. Digital filmmaking entered the picture, which made production a lot more affordable. New festivals opened up, each with their own corresponding grant system, giving would-be filmmakers venues to fund their ideas. Filipino films traveled the world and won all sorts of awards. Brillante Mendoza won the best director prize at Cannes for Kinatay. Pepe Diokno and Lav Diaz received honors in Venice. And so on.

This might sound like an amazing decade for Filipino film, but the truth is a little more complicated. The grant systems are arcane and often involve some sort of creative interference, which makes the idea of independent film a little suspect. The mainstream studios still mostly churn out formulaic dreck, and audiences continue to reward them for it. Meanwhile, it’s difficult to find a venue willing to screen the films that win acclaim abroad. The only independent films to consistently make a profit are a new wave of badly made gay exploitation films, which seem to have no artistic ambitions beyond sending a parade of naked bodies on screen to serve as background to a culture of cinematic cruising. When one says “indie” in the Philippines, most people will think you’re referring to these exploitation films, of which there is a new one almost every week.

So it goes. There is a revolution, but it hasn’t really changed things yet. It is an ongoing struggle that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. But there are reasons to be optimistic. The last couple of years of Filipino cinema have been truly exciting, and there’s a vague sense that we’re on the verge of something profound.

The last couple of years have seen the return of the documentary film to our shores. Driven by affordable cameras that can roll nearly endlessly, a small group of documentarians has arisen to capture the strangeness of the nation. Corinne (aka Monster) Jimenez’s Kano: An American and his Harem was a work five years in the making, and the result is an astounding exploration of the darkness of a man’s soul, and the society that gave him a home.

The truth is becoming a theme in the country, with new movies purposefully blurring the lines between reality and fiction in fascinating ways. The return of the documentary seemed to coincide with a series of movies that blend the form in varying degrees with narrative fiction. Antoinette Jadaone’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay crosses the line between truth and fiction so readily and easily that it makes the distinction irrelevant. Christopher Gozum’s Lawas Kan Pinabli makes the separation clearer with distinct segments, but uses that distinction to make audiences question the very idea of truth. It is a form that we seem to be remarkably comfortable with, the postmodernity casting vibrant shadows that resemble the country’s complicated relationship with reality.

The other regions of the country are beginning to tell their stories as well. The Philippines is much more than imperial Manila, and filmmakers from Cebu, Bacolod, Pangasinan and dozens of other places are starting to have their voices heard, creating a more vivid picture of the diversity of the archipelago.
And most heartening of all is the development of a true independent industry.

Filmmakers are separating themselves from the grant systems and just going at it on their own. This has led to a wide berth of films that can’t be defined by a single characteristic. Jade Castro’s Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings co-opts popular forms of mainstream cinema to tell a deeply subversive tale that serves as commentary on the country’s macho culture. And thankfully, it found success with local audiences, beating out both local mainstream releases and Hollywood blockbusters.

What is it that is going on in Filipino cinema? It’s a difficult to question to answer. It has died and it has been reborn. Then it might have died again. It won favor abroad then went out of fashion. It is being ignored at home, even as some films find an audience. The mainstream is becoming irrelevant, while still remaining the most powerful force in the industry. Filmmakers are coming out of nowhere and disappearing just as quickly. There are angry filmmakers, and talented filmmakers willing to work within the system. People are making bigger films and smaller films and projects that are a little harder to define. Everything is happening all at once, the story as convoluted and strange as everything else in this country. But through this struggle, a lot of great movies are emerging, and all of it is worth watching.

Philbert Ortiz Dy is the resident film critic of Clickthecity.com and a writer-at-large for Esquire Philippines.

Five Filipino Films That Deserve A Global Audience by Don Jaucian from The Philippine Star

Five Filipino Films That Deserve A Global Audience
By Don Jaucian (The Philippine Star) May 26, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Unknown to many, Philippine Cinema has prospered despite the flagging support of the general viewing public. Since the early 2000s, brave storytellers like Lav Diaz and Raya Martin have released a steady stream of films that have carved out a distinct perspective of our myths and stories. Producers and filmmakers like Raymond Lee and Jade Castro shun mainstream and indie categorization for the sake of clear-cut narratives that are both accessible and more endearing than most big studio drivel, as depicted in films like Endo and last year’s hit Zombadings:1 Patayin sa Shokot si Remington.

Film critic Philip Cheah even noticed the strong lead of the Philippines in the new wave of Southeast Asian films. “Filipinos themselves don’t realize the nexus of creativity that they exist in. They groan at the thought of how far behind their cinema is. But any outsider would be rendered breathless at the amazing power of their independent spirit. I know I was blown away when I watched last year’s crop of new indie films at the Seventh Cinemalaya film festival. There were tons of new films and after the regional wave of 2010, you could say that the empire (or the country’s center) struck back! The Manila-based directors rallied and released a surge of great films. But it’s not a real competition anyway. Filipinos know that they were born to create.”
With the emergence of films like Yam Laranas’s The Road in the international circuit as well as screenings of small-budget gems like Antoinette Jadaone’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (the most critically acclaimed local film of 2011) in film festivals abroad, it’s truly an exciting time for Philippine cinema. The numbers of local releases may have dwindled but it’s undeniable that there are more quality films being produced.
Just in case you need more convincing, here is a list of recent films, including shorts and full-length, that deserve a wider audience not just locally but elsewhere in the world.

Tundong Magiliw (Tundo Beloved)
Dir: Jewel Maranan
Unlike other films that deal with poverty, Jewel Maranan’s Tundong Magiliw refuses to slither down Tundo’s infamous image. Instead, she captures an intimate portrait of a family struggling to make ends meet, and witnesses a birth that foretells a future riddled with its own emotional baggage and promises.

Mapang-akit
Dir: John Torres
Torres’s take on the aswang myth wanders from the idyllic into a poetic play of the supernatural. Made from outtakes of a collaboration with a Danish filmmaker, Mapang-akit creates its own language while still grounded in cultural quirks of a hushed town haunted by a grim spell.

Big Boy
Dir: Shireen Seno
Big Boy approximates the glories and pitfalls of childhood in a swirl of hallucinatory images. Seno’s film, based on the experiences of her father, evokes the traps of our labyrinthine remembrances, where faces and names blur but the emotional resonance resounds stronger than ever. Timmy Harn and Gym Lumbera’s Class Picture, a short film that recaptures the fading pleasures of the titular photograph, should serve as a companion piece.

Sakay sa Hangin (Windblown)
Dir: Regiben Romana
Sakay sa Hangin immerses us into the rich culture of the Talaandig tribe as we follow the tribe’s musician on his quest to save his dying heritage. Romana’s film reminds us that our country holds more riches than what our school textbooks have shown us and that music will always be a universal vessel of peace.
Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)

Dir: Christopher Gozum
Mixing fiction and documentary, Lawas Kan Pinabli shatters the heroic notions about overseas Filipino workers. The film is divided into several interviews with OFWs in the Middle East whose harrowing experiences stem from their dream of better lives. But the film also shows how some Filipinos knowingly break rules and cultural norms to fit their misguided intentions, not realizing there are realities far bigger than themselves until they eventually hit rock bottom.

“Diaspora Is Such A Lonely Word” by Dodo Dayao from Piling Piling Pelikula

DIASPORA IS SUCH A LONELY WORD
5.21.2012

Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)
Directed and Written by Christopher Gozum

That melancholia of displacement running like a hum of current throughLawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)poeticizes the OFW experience partially as a maddeningly obtuse but gorgeously dreamlike reverie of transience and separation anxiety and the longing that comes from it: a man, nameless and fictional, searches aimlessly, possibly fruitlessly, for his missing OFW wife in a foreign country tellingly fraught with secret perils, the very same foreign country, it turns out, that Christopher Gozum has been working in all these years as an OFW.

Rising above one’s station is the aspirational default of the Filipino have-not, and working abroad their go-to golden ticket, the Middle East their Canaan. And the way we ritually valorize OFWs as unsung, working class heroes is not just out of how they significantly boost the economy like a periodic sugar rush but also, and mostly, for the backstory of tremendous sacrifice they go through to get where they are. Rags-to-riches is the true opiate of the masses and everybody loves a melodrama of struggle that pays off in dividends.

The bruising subversion here is in the way it dispiritingly, and shockingly, lays bare how steep the cost of that sacrifice can get, and how they often are each other’s worst enemies. It’s not all blight, no. The sequence with the transplanted rockhound is, if nothing else, soothing. And there is a bracing loveliness to everything. But, give or take one or two, the real-life OFWs in the numbing, revealing interviews that intersperse the cul-de-sac detective story, and meld ghostly narrative with brooding documentary until the joins dissolve into each other, are, in varying degrees, victims: of workplace mishap, of mistaken identity, of abandonment, of treachery, of the malfunctions in our cultural psyche. This is not the public face of the OFW-as-hero, with his head held high all robust with hope and friends with the future, but rather its evil twin, slinking in the shadows, looking away if you gaze at it too closely. Diaspora is such a lonely word and Lawas Kan Pinabli is at turns a begrudging valentine to that loneliness. Diaspora is also a necessary evil, or at least an evil we have made necessary. And the ruination of these OFWs, as well as their desperation in the face of it, is the horribly disfigured face it refuses to show the world.

Five Filipino Films That Deserve A Global Audience
By Don Jaucian (The Philippine Star) May 26, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Unknown to many, Philippine Cinema has prospered despite the flagging support of the general viewing public. Since the early 2000s, brave storytellers like Lav Diaz and Raya Martin have released a steady stream of films that have carved out a distinct perspective of our myths and stories. Producers and filmmakers like Raymond Lee and Jade Castro shun mainstream and indie categorization for the sake of clear-cut narratives that are both accessible and more endearing than most big studio drivel, as depicted in films like Endo and last year’s hit Zombadings:1 Patayin sa Shokot si Remington.

Film critic Philip Cheah even noticed the strong lead of the Philippines in the new wave of Southeast Asian films. “Filipinos themselves don’t realize the nexus of creativity that they exist in. They groan at the thought of how far behind their cinema is. But any outsider would be rendered breathless at the amazing power of their independent spirit. I know I was blown away when I watched last year’s crop of new indie films at the Seventh Cinemalaya film festival. There were tons of new films and after the regional wave of 2010, you could say that the empire (or the country’s center) struck back! The Manila-based directors rallied and released a surge of great films. But it’s not a real competition anyway. Filipinos know that they were born to create.”

With the emergence of films like Yam Laranas’s The Road in the international circuit as well as screenings of small-budget gems like Antoinette Jadaone’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (the most critically acclaimed local film of 2011) in film festivals abroad, it’s truly an exciting time for Philippine cinema. The numbers of local releases may have dwindled but it’s undeniable that there are more quality films being produced.

Just in case you need more convincing, here is a list of recent films, including shorts and full-length, that deserve a wider audience not just locally but elsewhere in the world.

Tundong Magiliw (Tundo Beloved)

Dir: Jewel Maranan

Unlike other films that deal with poverty, Jewel Maranan’s Tundong Magiliw refuses to slither down Tundo’s infamous image. Instead, she captures an intimate portrait of a family struggling to make ends meet, and witnesses a birth that foretells a future riddled with its own emotional baggage and promises.

Mapang-akit

Dir: John Torres

Torres’s take on the aswang myth wanders from the idyllic into a poetic play of the supernatural. Made from outtakes of a collaboration with a Danish filmmaker, Mapang-akit creates its own language while still grounded in cultural quirks of a hushed town haunted by a grim spell.

Big Boy

Dir: Shireen Seno

Big Boy approximates the glories and pitfalls of childhood in a swirl of hallucinatory images. Seno’s film, based on the experiences of her father, evokes the traps of our labyrinthine remembrances, where faces and names blur but the emotional resonance resounds stronger than ever. Timmy Harn and Gym Lumbera’s Class Picture, a short film that recaptures the fading pleasures of the titular photograph, should serve as a companion piece.

Sakay sa Hangin (Windblown)

Dir: Regiben Romana

Sakay sa Hangin immerses us into the rich culture of the Talaandig tribe as we follow the tribe’s musician on his quest to save his dying heritage. Romana’s film reminds us that our country holds more riches than what our school textbooks have shown us and that music will always be a universal vessel of peace.

Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)

Dir: Christopher Gozum

Mixing fiction and documentary, Lawas Kan Pinabli shatters the heroic notions about overseas Filipino workers. The film is divided into several interviews with OFWs in the Middle East whose harrowing experiences stem from their dream of better lives. But the film also shows how some Filipinos knowingly break rules and cultural norms to fit their misguided intentions, not realizing there are realities far bigger than themselves until they eventually hit rock bottom.