Get to know the filmmaker behind the country’s longest and slowest films
Cinemalaya 17 launches Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur
In this issue, Lav Diaz shares an anecdote on the a local film that influenced him the most. He described the night in the mid-1970s when he was going to watch Lino Brocka’s Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag at a local theater. Rains greeted him while walking so he stopped by a carinderia called Nining’s. A foreigner named Mr. Luther was there drinking, waiting for someone. The white man was fetched by a local, Jack. Then a beautiful Filipina came by incorrectly calling Lav, Jack. He told her she was mistaken and he was on his way to watch Maynila.
Lav wrote, “Nang gabing yun, pagkatapos kung mapanood ang Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, sinabi ko sa sarili ko, isang araw, kung papalarin, gagawa rin ako ng pelikula (That night, after watching Maynila, I told myself, one day, if given the chance, I would direct a film).”
To this day, he wonders what happened to the woman at Nining’s. “Nasaan na kaya siya? Saang langit kaya siya nagmula? (Where is she now? Which heaven did she come from),” writes the 2021 FIDMarseille jury head.
Today (Aug. 16), Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur edited by Parichay Patra and Michael Kho Lim will have an online book launch via the CCP and Cinemalaya Facebook Live at 4 p.m. as part of the festivities of the ongoing Cinemalaya 17 Philippine Independent Film Festival 2021.
In the book, Lav’s fascination with Maynila was mentioned on pages 66, 180, and 191.
DLSU Professor Emeritus Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. pens After Brocka: Situating Lav Diaz in Philippine Cinema stressing that Lav is “leading his generation toward new heights.” Philippine national cinema is still defined by the works of Brocka, Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo de Leon of the 1950s fame. But the fifth generation of filmmakers where Lav belongs now have the right to succeed the likes of Brocka et al. The 62-year-old filmmaker tried to make pito-pito films under Regal Films but his “attitude, perspective, and ambition were counter-mainstream.”
His succeeding films became organic, shot in real-time and the length was not important for his art. I remember watching the eight-hour film, Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, 2016) inside Greenhills Cinemas and it was the first time for me to eat a rice meal inside a theater during a break! Hele starring Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz received the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.
The Idyllic Chronotope and Spatial Justice in Lav Diaz’s Melancholia by Katrina Macapagal discusses the dramatic film that “spatially demonstrates the struggle for living and persisting.” She proposes the theory of the “’slum chronotope’ as that which operates in Philippine urban cinema, foregrounding the dialogic relationship between the fictional world and the world from which the slum imaginary is created.”
The use of deep-focus framing, long takes and wide shots of Sagada aligns with Macapagal’s observation of the chronotope of the idyll that also builds the theme of haunting.
The black-and-white, non-linear narrative film produced in 2008 centers on a prostitute, a pimp, and a nun while looking for life’s meaning and into the disappearances during the Marcos dictatorship. The eight-hour film got the Horizons prize at the 65th Venice International Film Festival.
Distributing the Cinema of Lav Diaz by the book’s editor, Michael Kho Lim, tells the auteur’s advantage of securing distribution deals for his critically acclaimed films. His meditative work might not be a box-office success. Sometimes there are even no commercial theatrical run in the country but Lav continues to create his arthouse films even while in worldwide pandemic. “Diaz’s more conventional films have enjoyed commercial theatrical releases because they are distributed by a major studio that can consistently supply films,” says Michael. “One way of looking at the film distribution achievement of Lav’s films is that many people did not expect that some of his long (slow) films would get a commercial theatrical run even if they were only playing at selected theaters for a limited time. Screening unconventional films at conventional venues is a breakthrough in that sense.”
Film enthusiasts hope that theater owners respect Lav’s films by screening them straight, without intermissions. But the slow cinema movement icon is also aware that his niche audience might not stay during the entire screening schedule. In the book, Michael volunteers a winning compromise from the filmmaker. “In instances where screening intervals are necessitated, Diaz identifies the scenes where the gaps would take place so the film is not cut abruptly,” the Cardiff University, UK lecturer writes.
When we asked Lav if he read the book, “Nakupo, magtatago na ako. Nakakapagpaumbaba (Gosh, I will hide. This is humbling),” he said.
The 232-page book is a modern academic approach to cinema. It has been quite a long time for us to read an analytical book about a current filmmaker’s career, well-researched by scholars. Some entries might be “heavy” for an ordinary moviegoer/reader but the book is still worthy to look at.
Visit https://artbooks.ph/ to pre-order the book.
Today, Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur edited by Parichay Patra and Michael Kho Lim will have an online book launch via the CCP and Cinemalaya Facebook Live at 4 p.m. as part of the festivities of the ongoing Cinemalaya 17 Philippine Independent Film Festival 2021.