July 2018: Round-Up

August 2, 2018


In memory of Alice Guillermo (1938 – July 29, 2018)

July 2018 is a month of struggle for the Filipino people. This month, military forces under US-Duterte administration continued to inflict development aggression to its people, especially the Lumad, who once again evacuated their ancestral lands last July 16 due to threats of the military. This development aggression against the Lumad allows mining companies to operate in their ancestral lands.

Aside from this, human rights activists and religious leaders were arrested in General Santos City. They were just doing their program consultations for the Lumad . The height of this month’s struggle is the solidarity walk during United People’s SONA, the people’s show of force against the tyrannical rule of US-China-Duterte.

It is also this month that anti-worker, union-busting forces continue to pillage the working class of its rights. The another violent dispersal of striking NutriAsia workers last July 30, 2018 marked the manifestation of the full installation of bureaucratic capitalist fascism in the US-China-Duterte Regime. Contractual laborers of NutriAsia, PLDT and Jollibee and their supporters are demonized, hurt, beaten, dispersed, imprisoned, humiliated and neglected by these capitalists and state-sanctioned forces. Meanwhile, the courts continue to favor the unjust practices of the capitalists by reversing DOLE order to regularize the workers, adding more insult to the injury.

The worsening contradiction in Philippine society today emerging from every worsening gap between the proletarian working class and the ruling class, the people and the State, will eventually lead to a seizure of power. The people will come to know their place. As we transition to August, another month of struggle, and to the latter part of the year, it is our task to sharpen these contradictions by affirming the revolutionary culture that continue to burn in these dark times.

Support workers’ plight!

No to contractualization!

Boycott NutriAsia Products!

Boycott Jollibee Brands!

US-China Out now!


JULY 2018 | Best Reads of the Month

This month, I have not read extensively read non-thesis materials except for a few blurbs and articles shared in the social media. Here are some of the worth titles I’ve read last month.

  1. The Fate of the People’s War: An Interview with Jose Maria Sison by Denis Rogatyuk
  2. The Geology of Morals – A Neomaterialist Interpretation by Manuel Delanda
  3. or, on being the other woman by Simone White

Some thesis-related essays I read last month:

  1. Metaphysics and the Critique of Metaphysics by Alain Badiou
  2. The False Movements of Cinema by Alain Badiou
  3. Preface of Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II by Alain Badiou


JULY 2018 | Favorite Films of the Month


Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

This month of June is a downtime for me. I am even less engaged with cinema than before. This is largely due to the two conferences the bookends the beginning and the end of the month. In between breaks, I continued to read my related lit list for thesis while writing my conference papers as well as my thesis proposal. Surprisingly, I managed to watch some of the best films I have seen this year so far, thanks to the great curation of the film screenings at the 10th Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference.

The most surprising re-watch this month is Arbi Barbona’s Tu Pug Imatuy (2017). I have actually seen this film thrice on different screening venues last year, and I have not made up my mind mainly because I had so many questions for Arbi Barbona. I think my main contention before was the form itself. Barbona’s approach to independent filmmaking techniques is not new. It borrows its approach to framing and staging from other films. Under no circumstance will this be a conscious effort of re-inscribing a new modality of cinematic expression. However, what makes this film uniquely transformative and transgressive is its politics of representation, which can be attributed to Barbona’s impressive mastery to invest on body and landscape as indices of political expression. In a way, the body or bodies in Tu Pug Imatuy is the site of political expression; secondary to it is the landscape.

Bodies in film in general are mainly purveyors of movement. It articulates a certain non-linguistic expression that we can call gestural expressions. Movement occurs in the physical world because of certain  structural, material stressors. In the cinematic medium, bodies, their movement, their stresses, are arranged in a dynamic form that also annuls the very form of bodies from a material perspective. For example, in a typical medium shot, the actor’s body is usually displayed visually from the hip-up. The feet no longer involved in the expression of the body. What we have is a continual annulment of the body-as-image along the axis of temporal passage. This phenomenological impurity is what makes film, according to Badiou’s essay The False Movements of Cinema, incapable of inscribing truth as image in the present. Badiou actually acknowledges cinema’s paradoxical capability for truth, that it can only generate truth as false truth. For Badiou, cinema allows the appearance of the Idea in the sensible. However, this appearance is annulled by the passage of cinema.


Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

In Tu Pug Imatuy, the constitution of bodies and landscapes, and their tensions in between, also actuates each of their disappearance. Barbona’s manipulation of the medium, which we can call his own grammar, is punctured by messianic time, a materialist dimension of time that announces the possible scientific redemption of the oppressed. In the film, Barbona, through bodies and landscapes, creates a monad of a revolutionary subject, wherein their narrative orchestration is a cross between ecological disaster and development aggression. Between these crises is the metaphysical plane of indigenous cosmology that grounds our revolutionary subject as a sector of its own. Barbona knows that the political and ideological delineations among ideologies that run in the film: the indigenous resistance, the armed rebellion and the state forces, which are a result of class pressures. They are ideologies in series, each with a different material determination.

What Tu Pug Imatuy draws upon is the truth of fortitude and solidarity of the oppressed in an on-going class war, which can only be won by affirming the class contradiction. The class war for Barbona does not comprise entirely of two opposing homogeneous factions, but rather a composition of contradictory differences among people and classes.


Tu Pug Imatuy (2017)

Tu Pug Imatuy succeeds in articulating these lines of thought with messianic awareness of the cessation of the body and landscape by forces of tradition, a tradition of fascist order. For Walter Benjamin, in his essay Theses on the Philosophy of History, he made mention of the necessary critique of progress and its organization around the concept of the homogeneous, empty time. Development aggression of mining companies as depicted in the film is a clear sign of the presence of homogeneous, empty time that creates a fascistic metaphysical fantasy that through these industries of progress, the country will reach an economic progress. Tu Pug Imatuy offers a revolutionary counter-intuitive theological solution, one that is also materialist: that the geological landscapes shaped by natural physical forces will eventually pull down mankind by force from its monolithic metaphysical concept of progress. Mining companies, and capitalism in general, will fall to their own grave and so will governments of men.


Faces, Places (2017)

Aside from Tu Pug Imatuy, one of the best films I’ve watched this month is Agnes Varda’s Faces, Places (France, 2017). Faces, Places is the French filmmaker’s response to Emmanuel Levina’s words in his essay Ethics and Infinity: ‘[T]he face is what forbids us to kill.’ In Faces, Places, Agnes Varda explores the ethics of the image and the human face, or the image-as-human-face. The face as image served as a site of political expression. If Barbona used bodies and landscapes to express his own politics of representation, for Varda, the face served as a image of communitarian ideal, serving as an index for the communities’ reason for co-existence. Varda, together with his visual artist collaborator JR, vlcsnap-error997crafts the face of the people in the community as a focal concentrationary point of radical empathy. For Varda and JR, the image-as-face reactivates the mirror of a community that has lost its own self-reflexivity and self-awareness because of capitalism’s alienation of the human eye.

In one instance, Varda and JR entered a manufacturing company. They took a picture of the workers on different shifts. They hope that the group photo would put together the workers as one whole organism. Since they have been divided by time shifts, departments, and different divisions of labor functions,vlcsnap-error493 these workers are unable to form a social bond with other departments. They are isolated and alienated in their labor. By virtue of a collective face, Varda and JR has reinforced the communitarian ideal by reaffirming the social relation that binds laborers. The film’s weakness, however, is its lack of orchestration of the face along the lines of class contradiction. Like many French art films, it resorts to identity politics, perhaps for the same reason why the film draws largely on contemporary themes of art and design. At the end of the film, the topics became personal: Varda’s struggle to compensate for her failing eyesight and memory.



Faces, Places (2017)

During the 10th ASEACC, I have also seen Anucha Boonyawatana’s Malila: A Farewell Flower (Thailand / 2017), a Thai gay film with an unusual subject: the rite of Bai Sri Su Kwun alongside some form of existential Buddhism. This is what cuts the film in half, almost a perfect homage to another work of a Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (2004). The first half, a rekindling of two lovers Shane (Sukollawat Kanarot) and Pitch (Anuchit Sapanpong) through a dazzling portrayl of the rite of Bai Shi Su Kwun; the second half, Shane’s struggle for transformation into monkhood.

malila (1)

Malila: The Farewell Flower (2017)

Like Tu Pug Imatuy, Malila: A Farewell Flower also orchestrates an annulment of the body. Its most provocative different is its departure from politics towards the metaphysical domain, as if Boonyawatana wants to transgress the body’s physicality by abstracting it as a phantom. The relation of Shane and Pitch can be described phantasmal, out of time, yet they enclosed. It is as if they rekindle as ghosts within a specificity of a place only they can access. This transcendental place has a similar structure to Brokeback Mountain in Brokeback Mountain (2005), the prairie grass and the bedroom in Maurice (1987) and Call Me By Your Name (2017), Buenos Aires in Happy Together (1997), the farm’s boundary in God’s Own Country (2017) and in many imaginary places in many gay films that fulfill the intention of inscribing a transcendental space that exclusively devoted to homosexual practice. The structure of this transcendental space follows the theoretical lining of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s essay Epistemology of the Closet: a lining constituting the juridical boundary between heterosexual and homosexual worldviews. Malila uses this theoretical lining to enclose bodily expression of love between Shane and Pitch outside of tradition. In a way, it is an inside of an outside.

Malila the farewell flower Film Still30(Sukollawat Kanaros)

In the other half of the film, we are drawn to a type of duality: a duality of life and afterlife, wherein the body, the corpus, serves as the expression of the metaphysical tension between these two. Shane is now an established monk serving alongside another monk. They are stationed in a far-flung forest area of a country-side where, due to the recent political crises in Thailand, corpses are dumped. In one scene, they saw a body. His companion, a monk who had been in the region and had more experience than him, asked Shane to de-objectify the body by reciting over and over again the words that it is dead. This is a test of moral endurance. At first, Shane repelled the dead body. But eventually, he learned to fight through disgust and transcended the material. The body become dematerialized and took the form of his loved one, Pitch. Afterwards, in a beautiful ending, Shane removed his garments and swam in a lake naked, an act of  cleaning and transformation. The transformation process is actually Hegelian. Between the object, BEING, and the transcendental plane of the concept, NOTION, the ESSENCE, via representation, must be worked on, must be labored on, in order to reach its full expression. Essence negotiates the division between Being and Notion. In some way, Shane’s method of transcendence is situated in the entangled link between life and after-life, between the real and the conceptual. It is through this dialectical process that Shane can fully access the Truth of Life which is also Death.


Aside from Malila, we also watched Sunya (2016) by Harry Dagoe Suharyadi, a nonlinear film concerned with the geopolitics of spirits. Often times, the dynamics of repetition in the editing render the film as a series of iterations of a single narrative. These several iterations create tensions of impenetrable proportion. Its inaccessible film grammar reminds me of the films of John Torres, in a particular Ang Ninanais (2010), that  also depends on a loose string of narratives. In Sunya, we encounter body doubles and possessed bodies. They fight through the duplicity of their existence as phantoms and as humans, often entering a kind of rehearsal for a ritual. No central image can been seen in the film, what is repeated is always annulled by its own prescencing. If Malila is about transcendence from the material, Sunya is the liminality between material and spirit.


Magnolia (1999)

Aside from these four films, I also rewatched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) and surprised to find it a more complex film than before. Magnolia interweaves different plot lines strewn by one narrator. Without the narrator’s command, Magnolia would actually looked like an experimental narrative film since these plots are diverging. Each plot is connected to the other by a ‘chance’, but by chance, as Anderson understands it, the plot intersection becomes a diffential relation. Chance is a synthetic difference. It synthesizes the narrative relation while also maintains their exclusivities, their non-contiguous relations.


Isle of Dogs (2018)

Another film worth mentioning is Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs (2018). On the surface, it is admirable animated work, with a lot of perkiness, resemblances to old Japanese movies, and a dead-pan comedy that will actually make you smile. Its narrative is actually no longer new and simplistic, which is the main problem of the film. It tries hard to actually cover-up this lack of narrative depth by actually playing with design and language. All in all, the film may won hearts, but it does not offer something beyond its eccentricities. Like most of Anderson’s movies, Isle of Dogs has yet cross the line of the sublime. Yet, as a typical film for entertainment, it can surely satisfy the viewer’s needs.

The lesser of the eight films that I have watched are Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) and Every Day (2018), two American films that are uniquely horrendous in their own ways. I’m just tired of watching over and over again the narrative of the white supremacist American ego unfold before my eyes. Both of these films are direct depictions of such white supremacist ego, but as an underlying theme: the underdog narrative of American society problematized in the lens of deviancy (Ant-Man) and identity politics (Every Day). Contemporary American cinema lacks self-reflexivity and depended for the longest time on narratives about the quest of white supremacist ego in affirming oneself as either the underdog, the hero, the family man, or anti-hero. The agenda has always been to aestheticize violence and celebrate identity politics, all this at the expense of withholding its class dimension.


The July 2018 Film List


Transformative and Transgressive (5/5)

Tu Pug Imatuy (‘Right to Kill’ / Arbi Barbona /  Philippines / 2017)

Best of the Best (4.5/5)

Faces, Places (Agnes Varda & JR / France / 2017)

Very Good (4/5)

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Anucha Boonyawatana / Thailand / 2017)
Sunya ( Harry Dagoe Suharyadi / Indonesia / 2016)
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson / USA / 1999) – rewatch

Good (3.5/5)

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson / USA-Japan / 2018)

Unbearable (1-2/5)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed / USA / 2018)
Every Day (Michael Sucsy / USA / 2018)



Isle of Dogs (2018)


JULY 2018 | Anomalous Materials

nutriasia 2

Another month has passed, another violent dispersal of striking workers of NutriAsia. The worsening contradictory divide between the proletariat and the bourgeois in the Philippines is now under the radar of the public. When will this class war ends? We linger in social media as witness to this worsening contradiction expressed in different forms (as counter-propaganda, as memes, as agitprop infographic materials, as snippets of videos among others), while also beholden by social media’s contradictory and anachronistic structure. The contradiction is here to stay, we have to continue agitate this equilibrium to shift its course.

  1. Violent Dispersal of NutriAsia Workers by NMN Marilao
  2. Apur Sansar / The World of Apu (1959) dir. Satyajit Ray. by Cinema Mon Amour, a page about worldwide cinema
  3. Sad CGI by Megat Syamim
  4. IOF Spraying Shunk Liquid (Dirty Water, Raw Sewage) on Palestinian Homes
    IOF [ Israeli Occupation Forces ] by Mozafar Najafi
  5. Police Shots Peaceful Farmers Demonstrators in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh by Muazzam Malik
  6. Israeli Occupation Forces [ IOF ] shower Palestinian anti occupation protesters with a barrage of tear gas and sound bombs by Mozafar Najafi


Two Conferences in a Month!

6th D&G Conference

July 2018 was a busy month for me. I attended two major conference: one held in Naga, Philippines (6th Deleuze and Guattari in Asia International Conference) and the other one held in Yogjakarta, Indonesia (10th Biennial Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference).


D&G Conference at Naga City, Camarines Norte

One of the striking differences between the two conferences is their ordering of panel presentations. Deleuze and Guattari (D&G) Conference is your typical conference with plenary speakers and parallel presentations. In contrast to D&G, ASEACC is a conference that does not have a parallel panel presentation. The same audience witness the panel presentations in one venue (See conference schedule).  In ASEACC, the audience can give full attention to the dynamics of the conference without ever to leave the venue. This actually activates the social movement of ideas, allowing participants to form social relations over time, meaning more friendships, more time to talk about each other’s papers.

The D&G conference, however, is separated to four parallel venues splitting the audience into small groups, decreasing the point of contact among participants. In a way, D&G conference model is more socially alienating than ASEACC. Both conferences offer diversity of topics, but in terms of focus, ASEACC designed its conference such that (1) it has a practioners’ panel, giving voices not only to the theoretical corpus of filmmaking, but also the practical side, the makers of the films themselves, (2) it has a community immersion program, wherein participants travel to a nearby cultural hub to engaged with the local culture, (3) it has a film showing component that features films relevant to the theme with the filmmaker/director present. All of these for a conference fee of P3,200 for ASEAN student. In terms of value, ASEACC’s model offers more promise than the D&G conference model.

I think all academic conferences should be designed with a priority in establishing solidarity among peers while also engaging with praxis and integrative community immersion. I cannot think of any other conferences I have attended in the past that feature such components other than ASEACC. I also suggest that any conference on Marx, Lenin or Mao must have a community immersion component as well as a panel on community organizers from different sectors. I think it would be very important especially since all these thinkers advocate praxis.

July is finally over, but I cannot rest. I have a thesis proposal to write.


ASEACC at Yogyakarta, Indonesia


August is Thesis Proposal Writing!


Mid-August is almost here. I dedicated the whole month of August to thesis proposal writing for the reason that, it has two long weekends and probably more chances of having work suspension due to bad weather. After attending three conferences this year (Marx @ 200, D&G, ASEACC), I have already solidified the track of my thesis. The methodological framework is clearer now compared to what I had in mind a year ago. I really appreciate the feedback I had on my papers from the three different conferences. and to friends who continually give me advice. As of now, I’m now a quarter length of my expected word count for my thesis proposal. I’m more determined to finish it than before. The goal is to make the proposal simple yet also expansive, queuing from Alain Badiou and Karl Marx’s style of writing.

See you next month!


Support workers’ plight!

No to contractualization!

Boycott NutriAsia Products!

Boycott Jollibee Brands!

US-China Out now!









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Research Log 3.0: Mind-Maps & Detours

June 19, 2018


from Agnes Varda’s Visages Villages (2017)

For the past few weeks, I have been engaged in the following activities:


It has been a year ever since I collected ebooks in my Mendeley software. It’s my e-library. For the past few weeks, my goal was to run through everything I collected for the purpose of sorting out literature in their respective fields and disciplines. In total, I have 127 books to sort in my computer related to m thesis, not to mention the external books and printed reading from course works.

Critical Literature Review

Aside from sorting activities, I also did a critical review of some of the related literature to my thesis. So far, I have read the following essays and introductory chapters of the books

  1. Gerstner, D. A. (2003). The Practices of Authorship. In D. A. Gerstner & J. Staiger (Eds.), Authorship and Film(pp. 3–25). New York and London: Routledge.
  2. Koepnick, L. (2017). The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  3. Henderson, B. (1980). The Long Take (1971). In A Critique of Film Theory(pp. 48–61). New York: E.P. Dutton.
  4. Derrida, J. (1994). Dedication and Exordium. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International(pp. xv–xvi). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

All of which can be found here in my blog.



Aside from reading, I also developed a mind-map for my thesis to help me assess the potential pathways of going through its framework. But there must be a caveat in doing this. It must not pre-empt or close the maps from creating other new pathways, but rather work out the contradictions that also confront the work. The mind map provides a way to write the thesis in an orderly manner, constructing a schema of arguments that serve as guides to different operations, concepts and methods to go through.

Detour 1:  “….aporetic limit…”

One of the key concepts in my thesis design is the search for aporetic limits. This is something I coined in my concept paper I showed to my adviser. After reading the opening parts of Derrida’s Specters of Marx, I felt a sudden apprehension of not actually being able to get something related to my thesis. I wanted to read something related to aporetic limit. Google algorithm led me to the book ‘Derrida and the Political’ by Richard Beardsworth, who used the exact term ‘aporetic limit’. Beardsworth (1996) wrote:

‘Rather than dwelling with the aporia of need, Marx effaces the aporia by positing the remainder of the difference between particularity and universality as the universal class of the proletariat. Marx therefore develops the aporetic ‘limit’ as a sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The gesture is Hegelian, even if Marx simultaneously simplifies Hegel’s idea of an absolute state by ‘positing’ the social universality of one class. Marx’s reduction of the aporia of need prolongs and simplifies Hegel by making unrecognized violence into an ontological principle of class struggle. The modern period of revolutionary politics which justifies political violence in the name of a social subject ensues.’ (p. 95)

Let us first discuss the meaning of aporia in relation to how Beardsworth reads Derrida. Aporia is an uncontrollable position that manifest at the time of decision, action, writing, expression, and deployment. In his reading of Derrida, for Beardsworth, derrida-and-the-politicalaporia emerges from the displacement of transcendental discourses like philosophy with empirical discourses like human sciences (anthropology, social science, etc.). An aporia is ‘neither is philosophy or outside it, one from which the future of thinking and practice is thought’ (p.5).

An aporia is what negotiates and re-inscribes, for Beardsworth, the metaphysical notion of transcendental and the empirical. It is where Derrida locates the ‘necessity of judgement and the promise of the future’ (p. 5) Beardsworth further elaborates two qualifications of an aporia: (1) it necessitates one to make a decision and judgement, (2) it necessitates one to make a decision not in the present but in the face of contingency. An aporia therefore ‘inaugurates a philosophy of judgement and a thinking of justice in relation to time.’ (p. 5)

One can see Beardsworth ambivalent position with Marx’s project. There is an attempt to privilege the concept of aporia contra Marx’s paradoxical deployment of the reversal of Hegelian dialectic. The paragraph quoted above is written under the heading of Modern Political Fate and the Suppression of the Event of Time. It starts with the elaboration of how Hegel’s last work Philosophy of Right suppresses aporia. He said: ‘The aporia of dialectic ‘is’ the aporia of time’ (p. 91). This originates from the suppression of time under the logic of dialectic, leading to a paradoxical point where recognition becomes misrecognition, in which truth (time itself) is hidden.

In the previous paragraph, Marx enters as a bad example of download (1)deploying the concept of aporia. Beardsworth wrote: ‘Marx is certainly right in the Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State to criticize Hegel for deriving the institutions of the social whole from a presupposed idea. But he gives the wrong reasons when he argues for the reversal of Hegelian idealism and for the practical and revolutionary development of the material existence of the people’ (p. 94). Beardsworth outwardly state Marx’s wrong move is the appropriation of Hegel’s dialectic: ‘The problem in Hegel is not the idea of the idea; the problem is the: logic of this idea. This logic, the law of contradiction, is repeated in Marx’s materialism, turning his thinking of ‘matter’ into a logical idea.’ (p. 94) Beardsworth accuses Marx of suppressing time within the philosophy of history. Beardsworth state: ‘His very attempt to go beyond philosophy, plunging it into the matter of socio-technical history, remains metaphysical when he inscribes his thinking of time and practice within the Hegelian logic of contradiction.’ (p. 94)

Beardsworth, however, does not accuse Marx entirely of the faults of Hegel. He considers Marx’s constitution of the dialectical relation between the proletariat and the ruling class as the aporetic limit in itself, as a ‘sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat’. What he points out is the replication of the logic of contradiction(?) in relation to Dialectical Materialism. Afterwards, Beardsworth move towards a moralization of violence with regards to depoliticization, or the erosion of political ontology, of nation-states. There is actually a dialectical materialist rationale behind these erosion of political ontology, that has nothing to do with the aporia that Beardsworth is trying to posture. It is the result of class struggle which is the politico-material manifestation of what he tries to efface as the logic of contradiction(?). Mao said that in his essay On Contradiction: ‘The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook.’ Beardsworth fails to reconcile that logic of contradiction is not a logic per se of coming to terms with reality but system of thought (a law) that allows us to think of nature and social conditions not as One but always Two. And in the recent iteration of Badiou, a Three.

With this, it is necessary to rescue aporia from the clutches of Beardsworth’s overdetermination of its metaphysical opposition by sublating it (via a negation of negation) and turning it upside down as a materialist concept. It might as well be important to read aporia in relation to a strand of thinking that can only be extracted from a Maoist lens of looking at contradiction, but also taking into account the historical importance of Derrida’s impetus to locate it at the conflicted area of materialism and idealism. Is there a way to appropriate aporia in class struggle? Beardsworth was close. He inscribed it as the sublatable opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To transform aporia into a tool for analysing aesthetic objects, this requires another long post.

Detour 2: In Search of Marx’s Method on Film Analysis, or ‘What if Marx was a Film Theorist?’


This month of June, in between eczema flare-ups and restless weekends, I managed to gather a lot of books about the dialectical materialist methodology. In  German Ideology, in the part where Marx disses Max Stirner, Marx deploys a close reading of Stirnex’s texts, in particular his most contentious Ego and His Own, the progenitor of anarchic individualism and, to some extent, poststructuralism,  Marx was very much attentive to Stirner’s textual inscription, often making fun of Stirner’s use of metaphysical concepts etc.

Close reading can be done in films: frame-by-frame analysis, stylistic analysis, etc. But all of which has to be extended first from the base criterion of cinematic time. Cinematic images have to be analysed as temporal continuum, not as framed presences. Massumi’s idea of topological movement in Parables of the Virtual comes to mind.

The problem however is relating this temporal continuum to the story world, which contains some of the most interesting positions, expressions etc. that may reveal the ideological implications of the film. If viewed from a dialectical materialist perspective, it requires one to relate film style or film form in relation to the modes of production (the base) and the ideological superstructure. It is a basic problem in Marxist epistemology, specifically, the problem of the relation of the particular and the universal.

I have collected different references that might probably illuminate a method on ideological analysis of the aesthetic mode of production. Books like Dance of the Dialectic: Step in Marx’s Method by Bertell Ollman; a collection of essays titled Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice edited by Ewa Mazierska and Lars Kristensen which conceives the relation of cinema and Marxism from a post-Soviet historical moment; H.T. Wilson’s Marx’s Critical/Dialectical Procedure; and countless of essays that bear the term ‘method’, ‘dialectical’ and ‘materialist’ like Peter H. Sawchuk’s Dialectical Materialist Methodologies for Researching Work, Learning, Change: Implications for Class Consciousness, authors Cassia Baldini Soares, Celia Maria Sivalli Campos, and Tatiana Yonekura’s article Marxism as a theoretical and methodological framework in collective health: implications for systematic review and synthesis of evidence, and the article titled In the shadows of the dialectic method: Building a framework upon the thoughts of Adorno and Gramsci by Ulrich Hamenstadt, all of which provide you some groundwork from which you can explore dialectical materialism.

But the challenge is ‘converting’ the method as an epistemological tool to analyse films and non-filmic materials. One of the candidates for such a method is political economy of film. However, political economy is more interested in looking at the bigger relations, the industrial relations of people, not so much on the close analysis of the content.

My dilemma is actually rooted in creating a method that would bridge the universal (ideological space) with specific (the story world, the film, the modes of production of the film). Such an attempt to account for a more comprehensive while also looks at the detail led us to the next section, Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process.

Detour 3: Crystallizing my Methodology via Badiou’s essay Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process


Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process, published in his recent work The Age of the Poets, was an unexpected find. Last month, when I was preparing my presentation paper for Marx @ 200, I encountered Badiou’s essay via Karlo Mongoya, fellow Marxist scholar who also reads Badiou (see his blog here). Since my essay last month is about contesting Deleuze’s notion of affect and art as autonomous, Badiou’s essay came in a surprise since Badiou is a Marxist and, assuming he had read Marx, he also knows the importance of accounting any phenomena, object, idea or a thing, as a product of social forces and relations. Badiou is a materialist dialectician, with Maoist and Lacanian influences, and would probably have read Deleuze. Deleuze is however not a materialist, but a transcendental empiricist, who emphasizes the primacy of pre-anthropocentric multiplicity – the plane of immanence – that continuously re-organizes reality. If Badiou would eventually come across the autonomy of art in Deleuze and Guattari’s book What is Philosophy?, it would most likely resonate in this essay. However, Badiou’s essay was written twenty-five years or so years before the publication of What is Philosophy?, hence, the tangent would just have been accidental.

When I read Badiou’s essay The Autonomy of Aesthetic Process, a month after accessing it, to be exact, last June 29, it felt as if all my crises about the political ontology of film style, ideology, and the author has been resolved. Badiou’s essay is an introduction to a methodology towards an analysis of representation, maybe his own methodology of doing aesthetic analysis.

His essay starts with a problem: the lazy approach of Marxist analysis of arts that assigns art work as a reflection of ideology of class. This is not Deleuzian territory. Badiou’s essay creates a corrective approach to ideological analysis. There is an obvious adaptation/appropriation of Althusserian notion of ideological apparatus as ‘a homological relation that it is supposed to maintain with the real of history’ (p. 111).

What Badiou attempted in this work was to appropriate two works of two thinkers: Mao’s critical program in Yenan Lectures and Pierre Macheray initial, unfinished attempt to think beyond the idea of art as ideological form.

First, Badiou takes on Mao’s project as part of the corrective mechanism: ‘to study the development of this old culture, to reject its feudal dross and assimilate its democratic essence in a necessary condition for developing a new national culture.’ (p.113) From there, he derives nine statements on the relation of art, ideology and science.

In the first statement, Badiou negates the usual Marxist line of critique on art as an ideological form, because, for Badiou, art’s specificity of its aesthetic process decenters the specular relation of the closed infinitude of ideology. For Badiou, ideology is a homological concept, which is a clear adaptation of Althusserian ideology as an enveloping relation. (p. 112)

In the second statement, Badiou marks the break between science and art. For Badiou, art does not affect knowledge. However, unlike ideology, Badiou states that art is closer to science than ideology because both art and science produces reality effects. However, what differentiates them are their products: art produces imaginary reality while science produces real reality. (p. 112) For Badiou, the usual lazy Marxist approach to art works as either theoretical or ideological forms must be liquidated. In light of truth, signification in the artwork is not enough to check artwork’s concealed transhistoricity and prophetic value. Hence, he proposes a proper way of looking at ‘art, as the ideological appearance of the theoretical, the non-true as the glorious envelope of the true’ (p. 113). This notion is affirmed by Lenin. Badiou therefore conclude that ‘We cannot declare at the same time that there is a democratic essence to feudal art and that this art is a purely ideological reflection, with a universal vocation, of the ‘lived experience’ of the dominant class. We cannot observe that art produces the true on the basis of the false and declare, as in a certain socialist realism that in the final instance theoretical truth conditions aesthetic validity’ (p. 114). This severs the binary opposition between art and science/ideology.

Badiou then adapts Mao Zedong’s response to this problem. In order to assess the relation of aesthetic object to the dominant class, Mao introduces four matrices of analysis: (1) class being – the class where the writer belongs, (2) class-stand or class position – the general space of the problematic of the write, or the political position for which the writer stands. For Badiou, this is the space of questions. (3) class-attitude – the approach of the writer in answering the problematic, for Badiou, this is the space of answers; (4) the class-study or class-culture – the structure of the theoretical realm, the one that structures the class stand of the writer, or in simpler terms, the power relations that structures one’s stand. For Badiou, Mao’s response to the problem is a particular decentering between aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology. This leaves us a question: what is the relationship among aesthetic process, historical reality and ideology?

Badiou then brings up Pierre Macherey for offering an answer. Macherey posits that aesthetic process is irreducible to ‘theoretical grasping of reality’ or ‘ideological process’ (p. 116). Macherey concludes that ‘the artwork is not what translates ideology, nor what effaces it: it is what renders it visible, decipherable, insofar as it confers upon it the discordant unity of a form; exposed as content, ideology speaks of that whereof it cannot speak as ideology: its contours, its limits’ (p. 117). For Badiou, the ideology functions as a closed infinity of a specular relation, ‘a closed infinity that cannot show its closure without breaking the mirror in which it is reduplicated.’ (p. 117)

In his third statement, Badiou further clarifies the relationship of ideology and art as ideology that produces the imagination of reality, and in return, art produces ideology as imaginary reality (p. 117). Summarily, Badiou notes that ‘art repeats in the real the ideological repetition of this real. Nevertheless this reversal does not produce the real; it realizes its reflection.’ (p. 118)

Badiou proposes a decentered relation between historical reality and the aesthetic process. Reading Macherey, he proposes four matrices that structures the relation: (1) the real – the global historical structure i.e. the capitalists, the proletarian class, the bourgeois, etc. in displaceable power relation, (2) the ideologies – always in series, fragmentary reflections brought about by the ensemble of pressures upon the class they represent.’ (p. 118); (3) the author – not a creative subjectivity, but a concept of place, a point of view, where Mao’s concept of class being, class stand, class attitude and class structure applies. For Badiou, the author is not a psychological concept, but a topological one. (4) the work – a donation of forms, an exhibition of limits.

Badiou however discovers the flaw in Macheray’s conception of the relation. For Macheray, the form of the art work’s presence is ideologically produced. For Badiou, this misconceives the presence effect of the artwork which, for Badiou, is the materiality of the artwork itself. This led Badiou to conclude that aesthetic process comprise of the double articulation of the signification of the artwork and its presence effect as an object of material culture. Ideology’s reversal is assigned to the signification effect, while the historical real is related to the presence effect.

Since this requires Badiou to synthesize a statement on separable ideological contents, which contains the following conditions:

  1. It produces in and of itself a complete effect of signification, without any enclaves
  2. It has a logical structure of a universal proposition
  3. It is not tied contextually to any subjectivity

Badiou gives an example by analysing Robert Musil’s unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities. From his analysis, Badiou comes up with four types of statements. Three of which do not fulfil the criteria of separable statements: (1) the I-statement of the speaker (X [d(y)]), which is enclaved in a context, with singular proposition. For Badiou, this statement does not contain any effect of signification, (2) the d(X) statements, which are descriptions of characters and objects in the story, does not have any universal proposition, (3) the X(S) statements, statements with universal proposition, but tied to a subjectivity in the novel.

For Badiou, the only statement that fulfils the three conditions are of the type S (example: The voice of truth is always accompanied by fairly suspect parasites, but those who are most interested want to know nothing about it.)

A brief segue on cinematic ‘statements’. We can actually classify shots in terms of Badiou’s classification of statements: (1) the I-statement stands for the subjective shot of the characters, (2) the d(X) statements stands for establishing shots, (3) X(S) statements stand for shot/reverse shot of a film, while the S statements stands for master shots where there is full coverage of the mise-en-scene. Hence, in cinema, a separable ideological shot involves one that is not (1) a subjective shot, (2) not an establishing shot, (3) not a shot-reverse shot, but rather a mise-en-scene shot from the third person perspective. This is an insufficient comparison, however, since Badiou formulated his theory in terms of literature, which he termed as novelistic discourse.

Badiou also reminds us that the raw materials for the production of aesthetic products are already aesthetic, hence incapable of ‘aestheticizing ideological elements’. This led Badiou to formulate the theory of aesthetic mode of production (theoretical aesthetics).


Badiou conceives the aesthetic mode of production as double articulation of the presence-effect and the effect of signification, or the production of film-as-material and film-as-diegetic-material. I asked my thesis critic, media studies expert Ma. Diosa Labiste, on the significance of this finding. She said that this is the basic process of representation. She is also critical of the one-to-one relation of ideological series and the effect of signification and the presence-effect and the historical real, and suggested that I should Derrida Sending: On Representation, which provides another perspective in looking at the process of representation as decentered by time itself. Derrida is always critical of the deployment of presencing in the process of representation. And perhaps, in reading Badiou’s essay alongside Derrida’s notion of representation, we may be able to grasp a critical notion of representation that would undo its very notion.


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ANNOUNCEMENT | 10th Biennial Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC)

I will be attending the 10th Biennial Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC) to be held at Program Pasca Sarjana (postgraduate), ISI YOGYAKARTA, Jl. Suryodiningratan No. 8 YogyakartaDIY 55143Indonesia on July 23-26, 2018. That is this coming week. I will present my paper titled Metaphysics of Long Duration in the Cinema of Lav Diaz.

Adrian D. Mendizabal, University of the Philippines-Diliman



This paper seeks to problematize the concept of long duration in contemporary phenomenon of slow cinema as exemplified by the cinema of Lav Diaz. The main rationale for this film philosophical research is to categorically assess the metaphysics of long duration as deployed in the Diaz’s cinema as a form of dematerialization and sublimation of cinematic time. In order to demystify the metaphysics of long duration in Diaz’s cinema, this research uses the critical framework of dialectical materialism, as espoused by the praxiological synthesis of Marxism, to enunciate a potential material basis of long duration.

My presentation is tentatively scheduled on the third day. I will be attending the conference with friends, colleagues, previous teachers and fellow academics.

See you in Yogyakarta!

For more details about the conference, you can visit their Webpage or email them at imanda@gmail.com or contact@aseacc.org.

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Join KAMPUHAN! Join the Fight Against Contractualization!

A repost!

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Labor groups to slam Duterte’s failed promises over endo
5-day anti-endo protest camp to be mounted in Mendiola leading to Duterte’s third SONA

July 18, 2018 (Wednesday) 09:00 AM onwards

09:00 AM – March from PLDT Protest Camp (Welcome Rotonda) to Mendiola
10:00 AM – State of the Workers Address, Mendiola Bridge, Manila
11:00 AM – Set-Up and Mounting of the Protest Camp and Tents
01:00 PM – State of the Women’s Address, Mendiola Brudge
06:00 PM – Solidarity and Cultural Night (Start of Overnight Vigil), Mendiola Bridge

Leading to the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 23, various labor groups will mount a 5-day anti-contractualization protest camp at the doorsteps of Malacañang Palace in Mendiola Bridge, Manila starting tomorrow to remind and slam Duterte’s failed promise to end contractualization. The goup will air the true State of the Workers in Mendiola tomorrow to show that instead of regularization, massive termination of workers were being executed amid standing DOLE compliance orders for regularization including PLDT, Jollibee among many others.

The Kampuhan Kontra Kontraktwalisasyon is a culmination and gathering in Mendiola of various workers campouts held by different labor groups in the past months including terminated workers of Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), sardines workers of UniPak in Slord Development Corporation, Manila Harbour Center among others.

The 5-Day campout will serve as the workers protest center leading to Duterte’s SONA where they will discuss various labor and people’s issues during their 5-day campout.

Photo Opportunities Available

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Nine in Twenty-Nine: Let me Count the Ways


Today is my birthday, so let me count the ways… 

1. In Solidarity with the Working Class.

Today is my birthday, and like all days, I choose to celebrate it as a day of solidarity with the Filipino working class, especially with the contractual workers of Jollibee and PLDT who got laid off. Let us not tolerate these unjust acts of exploitation and sabotage to non-tenured workers. I’m inviting all workers, especially contractuals like me, to join the fight against all forms of contractualized labor. Join Aklasan, the Nationwide Movement against contractualization!


2. Buhay pa ba kayo?

I also invite you to join the UP Diliman’s Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (UP CONTEND) to  their pre-SONA assessment of Duterte’s 2nd year presidency tomorrow. This open to the public and its free.


3. Basket-Brawl

Yesterday’s game between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australian Team was one historic (fist) fight. Why do brawls happen like this? The answer would be, in sports, the desire to kill each other has been there all along, but it is repressed by the governmentality of the game. The civil society has staged sports events ever since to practice non-combat battle, to illegitimatize the war machine that fuels combats and oppositions. The result is a full conversion of that body without organs of combat into a fascistic desire, leading to brawls like this. As Deleuze and Guattari (1983) said: ‘Desire can never be deceived . Interests can be deceived , unrecognized, or betrayed, but not desire. Whence Reich’s cry: no, the masses were not deceived, they desired fascism…’ (p. 257)


4. A Gift

My dearly beloved partner Bencio gifted me (although I offered to pay half the price) the promotional package of Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints, a two-year subscription to their journal plus a bunch of freebies, for only P3,000.00. We ordered it last week. The package came yesterday morning. Thank you so much @bencio for gifting me this! This would be a great addition to my library.


Photo from the Philippines Studies

5. Basketball Fandom

One of the free journal issues in the promotional package of Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints is the 2010 issue on basketball fandom. I have chosen this book/journal as my book companion for the day in light of the farce that happened yesterday. I’m quite surprised to find out that the journal issue has only one article on basketball. The rest are studies in sociology, linguistics, politics and book reviews. Is this some sort of a ‘statement’? Indeed, arts and humanities and media studies lack publications on popular forms of sports. I wonder, is there ever a systematic study of the representation of sports in Philippine Cinema?


6. Every Day

Yesterday, the last film I watched as a 28-year-old in an Orion Pictures Release, Every Day (2018), directed by Michael Sucsy. Its about a boy named ‘A’, a ‘somebody’, a spirit, who wakes in a different body everyday. He falls in love with a high-school girl named Rihannon. Every Day explores the concept of disembodied multiplicity of consciousness. A‘s rare talent to remember all the consciousness he possessed is actually impossible. Michael Sucsy and his team has shown this impossibility by actually making it transparent, or seamlessly possible. Like George Melies who has fooled us with his dancing headless man in The Four Troublesome Heads (1898), Sucsy uses Hollywood’s overworn continuity style to hide and conceal the violence of the transference and possession of another spirit in a body. While William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) has shown us the ecstasy of possession and the agony and somatization of the body in the presence of the unknown, Every Day has suppressed these excesses, transforming the whole idea of disembodiment and possession as a phenomenon of the everyday, within the safe confine of common sense. This new subgenre in sci-fi films should be called normalized sci-fi, a subgenre that refuses to show the bodily and experiential excesses of its raw material by appropriating bourgeois subjectivity (i.e. bourgeois family, bourgeois relationships) in normalized spaces of expression. The film is an adaptation of David Levithan’s best-selling book Every Day. (1/5)


7. Mumsh Zizek’s Weird Kitchen. 


8. Anomalous Material of the Day: Mayor Anthony Halili’s Kill Shot

In the Philippines, you can be shot and killed in your most dignified (standing) position. In Tanauan City Mayor Halili’s case, you can die while singing the national anthem. In the video caught yesterday, one can see the whole local government unit singing the national anthem. It is a mandatory rule in the Philippine government for officials and employees to hold and attend a weekly flag-raising ceremony every Monday of the week. As soon as the lyrics of the song reached ‘lupa ng araw…‘, a sniper hiding beneath the bushes a hundred fifty meters away from the scene fired a bullet that went straight to his heart. Then chaos ensued. Around 8:45 AM, he was declared dead. Tanauan City Mayor was known as the ‘Walk of Shame’ mayor of Batangas, parading criminals around his city as a spectacle of shame. This is a glaring reminder to all of us on the extent of the culture of impunity thriving in the present political climate.


from here.


9. Experimental Film in the 21st Century & Class Struggle

Bhakti (Ernesto Baca / Brazi / 2018). It’s 21st Century and somewhere in Brazil, experimental filmmaker Ernesto Baca still uses Super 8mm film as his medium of experimentation. The subject of his film is practices of Hinduism. For a moment, it reminds me of Glauber Rocha’s The Age of the Earth (1980).

When digital arrived, the global capital has continuously homogenized the landscape of media towards a medium that would allow its full control of the means of production. The Super 8mm film form, which is used in Bhakti, in the desertified landscape of the digital, may constitute sort of Bergsonian resistance against the homogenized control of capital. However, if viewed from the socialist paradigm, Super 8mm is not the most strategic medium for class struggle. Its counter-revolutionary attempt to de-socialized the means of production prevents the transfer of its praxiological content from one active agent to another. Digital medium, because of its low production cost, forms a more strategic vanguard aesthetic position against the ruling class for its socialized status. Super 8mm, on the other hand, does not, by any means, confront the true opposition between the proletariat and the bourgeois as it is decentered from the social body. It constitute entirely of a new mode of production that displaces itself from the contradictions of society. What it does actually is to create a bifurcation, a new aesthetic regime that builds on nostalgia politics and restorative media archaeology. This bifurcation path is actually of a futural form of politics that needs to be reassessed.

That is all for now. Till then…


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ANNOUNCEMENT | 6th Deleuze & Guattari Studies in Asia International Conference

6th D&G Conference

I will be attending the 6th Deleuze and Guattari Studies in Asia International Conference to be held in Ateneo De Naga, Naga City, Camarines Sur on July 5-7, 2018. That is this coming week. I will present my paper titled Deleuze, Marx and Cinematic Time: Towards a Temporal/Durational Materialism. 

Deleuze, Marx and Cinematic Time: Towards
a Temporal/Durational Materialism
Adrian D. Mendizabal, University of the Philippine Film Institute, UP Diliman



This paper will attempt to enunciate a provisional concept of temporal/durational materialism emergent from the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (& Felix Guattari), hereby designated as D&G, and Karl Marx. The relation between Marx and D&G is commonly rooted in the two-volume texts of Capitalism and Schizophrenia namely Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. D&G appropriates Marx’s critique of the political economy of capitalism reinventing Marx’s idea of production (i.e. desiring-production, desiring machines, etc.). However, only a few have established the relation between Deleuze’s Cinema 1: Movement-Image and Cinema 2: Time-Image books and Marx’s dialectical and historical materialism (DHM). This paper will attempt provide a working relation between Deleuze’s categorization of cinematic temporality in Cinema 1 and 2 and Marx’s concepts of production and labor time. The paper will also provide arguments on how this key relation provides a rethinking Marx’s DHM materialism as a temporal materialism, which Deleuze and Badiou implicitly adapts in some of their works.

My presentation is tentatively scheduled on the third day. I will be attending the conference with friends, colleagues, previous teachers and fellow academics.

See you in Naga!

For more details about the conference, you can visit their Facebook page or email them at deleuze.in.naga.2018@gmail.com.

July 1, 2017

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June 2018: Round-Up



From Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (Wang Bing / China / 2002)


June 2018 | Best Reads of the Month

Aside from watching films, going to work, going to the gym, and writing a great deal of other things for thesis, I also find time to read non-thesis related articles. I don’t think there has ever been a time this month that I actually tried to read a fictional work i.e. novels, short stories, poetry. I’m way too much invested in non-fictional writings. As much as I would love to read great works of literature, I’m tied and committed to academic books and articles related to my thesis. Occasionally, I also read non-thesis related writings. Here are of some of them:

  1. The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process by Alain Badiou
  2. Art Won’t Save Us by Anna Khachiyan
  3. Marx’s Commodity-Fetishism & The Crisis of Contemporary (Conceptual/Post-Conceptual) Art by E. San Juan [Plenary Speech During Marx @ 200 Conference]
  4. Ranciere and Cinema by Diagonal Thoughts
  5. On the Role of Agitation and Propaganda by Paul Saba
  6. Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art by Alain Badiou
  7. Art in Order: Anatomy of Film List by David Heslin

JUNE 2018 | Favorite Films of the Month



Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara / Japan / 1964)

My cinephilia experience this June is a downer. Most of the films I’ve watched came from Hollywood. They were disappointing, except, of course, for Hereditary, which is an outstanding example of classic horror film that did not rely so much on art cinematic devices (i.e. the way Lynch would do it) and used a great deal of its mise-en-scene, deployment of cinematographic movement, editing and sound to construct a ‘flat’ (as in a flat ontological  sense) dimension of demonic haunting, refined by Toni Collette’s otherworldly facial register, Milly Shapiro’s otherworldly presence and Alex Wolff’s superb acting. The narrative fluidity resembles that of a bath tub slowly being filled with water until it horribly overflows at the end. It is weird that the film has no flashbacks or flashforward. It seems to hinge its nonlinear temporal dimension on the photographic (the photo album), the scuptural (Annie’s miniature art project) and the uncanniness of a somnambulistic experience (Annie sleepwalking). Physical forces from other dimensions disrupt the order of its filmic world. This makes the film incredibly exhausting and mentally draining as it assigns the index of the image as is, in a literal sense of the everyday. It’s as if we are the subject of the demonic haunting like Rosemary, in  the film Rosemary’s Baby (1968), when she looked at her baby for the first time.


Hereditary (Ari Aster / USA / 2018)

Teshigahara’s masterpiece Woman in the Dunes is by far the most transgressive and transformative film I’ve watched this month. The desert, the bodies and the spatial tension altogether created this labyrinthine landscape that epitomizes capitalism’s inescapable tendency towards the desertification of the world. Another great film I’ve watched this month is Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town (1948). It is a melodrama masterpiece from post-Sino-Japanese War China that actually exceeded my expectations in terms of style. Several shots were well-rehearsed long takes that involve multiple framing and re-framing. And it surprised me how the woman subjectivity practically dominated the space of discourse of the whole film. The heroine plays a double role as an omniscient narrator of the film and as the character itself.


from Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu / China / 1948)

I have only seen one Filipino film this month, Treb Montreras’  Respeto (2017), which I reviewed in advance for NYAFF 2018 for VCinema. Respeto is technically commendable, but like many Philippine independent films that came out in the past years, it lacks  sharpness in terms of deploying its political critique.


The worst film I’ve watched this month is Rampage. As much as I like its more-than-real humanization of the animal via CGI, I don’t think it has something to offer to the viewers more than the adrenaline rush one feels when Dwayne Johnson moved beneath the battle of giant animals: a giant wolf, a giant albino gorilla and a giant mutated crocodile. The idea of giantism as an cinematic trope in science fiction movies is better explored when a much larger social dimension is explored. The good example of this is Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which is a better film than his Best Picture winning film.

I have also seen two compelling South Korean films I Saw the Devil and The Chaser, which are both about serial killers. While they both have different market pressures, South Koreans do better films compared than their Hollywood counterparts these days. Albeit their differences in their captured markets, Koreans deploy aesthetics in a more nuanced way without relying so much on CGI. They usually build their stories on existing socio-economic condition of Korean society and is not afraid to highlight the class contradictions in their society.

Between I Saw the Devil and The Chaser, the former has a more formally conscious approach in executing its action scenes: well-staged, well-rehearsed scenes, precise and almost perfect framing that heightens the mood. It has also a well-written screenplay. The latter, The Chaser, has an elliptical and unruly narrative, which makes it more interesting that the straightfowardness perfection of I Saw the Devil. The Chaser is interested in exploring dimensions of falseness, miscommunication and the decenteredness of reality. Both of them are testament to Korean Cinema’s commitment to high aesthetic standards for their popular films.

I have also seen two queer films Close-Knit, a Japanese film about a non-traditional family in which a transgender woman assumes the mother of the household, and Love, Simon, an American film about a teenage boy coming out to the whole school. Both are inspirational films, nothing fancy or nothing out of the box. Both deal with societal pressures and notions of acceptance. In Close-Knit, there was scene that paid a sweet and tenderly tribute to Ozu’s Late Spring (1964).

Between the two, Close-Knit is a more body-conscious film, while Love, Simon has a particular commentary on the impact of social media (i.e. postsecret blogs, Facebook, etc) in the construction of gender discourse. Both films ended up affirming the status quo in the end.



Close-Knit (Naoko Ogigami / Japan / 2017)

The June 2018 Film List


Transformative and Transgressive (5/5)

Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara /  Japan / 1964)

Best of the Best (4.5/5)

I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon / South Korea / 2010)
Hereditary (Ari Aster / USA / 2018)

Very Good (4/5)

Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu / China / 1948)
The Chaser (Na Hong-jin / South Korea / 2008)

Good (3.5/5)

Respeto (Treb Montreras II / Philippines / 2017)
Close-Knit (Naoko Ogigami / Japan / 2017)

Fair (2.5-3/5)

Love, Simon (Greg Berlanti / USA / 2018)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Simon West / USA / 2001)

Unbearable (1-2/5)

Ocean’s 8 (Gary Ross / USA / 2018)
A Wrinkle in Time (Ava DuVernay / USA / 2018)
Life of the Party (Ben Falcone  / USA / 2018)
Blockers (Kay Cannon  / USA / 2018)
Tomb Raider (Roar Uthaug / USA / 2018)
Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Wes Ball / USA / 2018)
Rampage (Brad Peyton / USA / 2018)


I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon / South Korea / 2010)


JUNE 2018 | Anomalous Materials of the Month


The violent NutriAsia dispersal

[digital encounters in the web, evental sites of ruptures, exclusionary digipoiesis]

June 2018 is a violent month for the Philippine working class. There were around three or four major labor issues circulated in Philippine social media sphere. The most prominent was the strike and violent dispersal of the NutriAsia workers and the protest of laid-off contractual workers of Jollibee. Aside from these issues that provided self-reflexive ruptures in the Philippine social media sphere, the internet is also filled with non-sequiturs, farce, parodies and comic  reliefs that provide occasional disruption and paradoxical play to our everyday. Here are some of my selection of ‘Anomalous Materials’ for June 2018:


JUNE 2018 | AgitProp Corner of the Month

June has passed and the People’s movement is still stronger than ever, even if government institutions like NEDA, DFA, DOF and NHA have purposely downplayed and undermined the role of people’s movement in the democratic process. Agitations and propagandas are necessary in revealing the contradictions of the bureaucratic capitalist machinic system that continuously robbed the working class of their right to live a decent life. According to Lenin:

Only agitation can reveal on a broad scale the real state of mind of the masses, only agitation can make for close co-operation between the Party and the whole working class, only making use for the purposes of political agitation of every strike, of every important event or issue in working-class life, of all conflicts within the ruling classes or between, one section of those classes or another and the autocracy, of every speech by a Social-Democrat [communist] in the Duma [parliament], of every new expression of the counter-revolutionary policy of the government, etc.–only work like this can once again close the ranks of the revolutionary proletariat, and provide accurate material for judging the speed with which conditions for new and more decisive battles are coming to a head.

(“The Assessment of the Present Situation,” CW, Vol. 15, pp. 278-279.)

Meanwhile, below is a collection of selected AgitProp (and accidentally AgitProp-like) materials that circulated online this month.

To read more about AgitProp, Paul Saba wrote a very good article in the journal Revolution in 1978 titled On the Role of Agitation and Propaganda


Diary, Notes, Sketches for JUNE 2018


There was a wide release of Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson / US-Japan / 2018) in select Philippine theaters during the first week of June. The premiere happened last Wednesday, May 30, 2018. I missed it.


June 3. Congratulations to my friends Epoy Deyto and Donna Wendy Idano Deyto for their new baby girl.


Pujita Guha Hanoi Talk

Fellow Lav Diaz scholar Pujita Guha gave a talk on Lav Diaz at Hanoi DocLab last June 15, 2018. Here is her Abstract for the Talk:

In his 2016 Berlinale Award winning 8-hour epic, Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) Filipino film auteur Lav Diaz intersects three narratives panning out in the forest, in the wake of the Katipunan Revolution of 1896-97. The first narrates Gregoria de Jeus’s search for the last remains of her husband, the Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonafacio; the second, Jose Rizal’s fictional protagonist Simoune’s escape into the forest; and the third, the impish horse-demon Tikbalangs who toy with the unwary visitors of the forest. A history fabulated with myths, and a history little known, the forest, I argue, arrives as a crucial site to imagine Filipino histories that are evidenced outside existing discourse. Akin to the fragmentary and opaque histories the film tackles, the forest too does not thrive as a linear space that can be easily tendered to human enquiries – it is dense and labyrinthine, a meandering landscape playing a dyad of light and dark, known and unknown, visible and invisible.

Reading from the film then, this presentation undertakes the act of re-configuring the forest as typically understood in modernity. Considered a virginal space which is someplace else, removed from the violent intrusions of history – a sublime isolated landscape often – I re-imagine the forest as a space that is lived and encountered materially, lived through all its density. The forest, then, both expands the concept of history outside of the human while enfolding its own traces of history. It is a witness to the secret, untold histories that are enacted there, consequently becoming an archive of the same. The forest becomes a crucial space that this project traverses: a closed world where anti-colonial revolutions meet pagan-animistic cultures, shamans meet with military personnel, and objects acquire magical lives of their own. As a dense, vexing landscape the forest allows one to closely introspect an entanglement with different species, enter into a world where objects, vegetal, animal or mineral, begin to speak alike. To this effect, the paper introspects the interaction between the social/cultural, the historical and the fantastic, the natural and the cultural even.


June 5. Remnants of Lynch. It’s been a year since Twin Peaks: The Return debut in American Television. I have always had it on the back on my mind ever since, especially the song Shadows by Chromatics.



June 30, 2018

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The Big Continent: Asian Cinema Challenge


from Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers (1989)

June 17, 2018

Last night, in the middle of my critical literature reviewing and catalog organizing for my thesis on Lav Diaz, I chanced upon a good film challenge in Letterboxd. It’s called The Big Continent: Asian Cinema Challenge. It requires one to watch one Asian film of a particular category (see categories below) per week. Each category corresponds to a list of films in Letterboxd.

I figure this Asian Cinema Challenge would be a great way  to generate more content for this blog and, given ample time and resources, this would encourage me to write more reviews for VCinema, provided that I will not review a film already listed in VCinema’s database.

Below is the list of categories per week and my selected films for viewing and/or review. I will start with Week 1 this week and will possibly jump to other categories, depending on the availability of the films.

Wish me luck!


A Note on ‘Film Challenges’ and the New Kind of Cinephilia

Film challenges are a form of cinephile’s game that usually forces one to watch films grouped in categories (by nation, by geography, by obscurity). It has an allotted time to finish (usually hosted in per annual basis) and requires the participant to log his progress . In online film websites like MUBI and Letterboxd, film challenges are usually staged to promote a certain genre or politics of films. The ones I appreciate are film challenges that champion underappreciated non-canonical films, especially films from the peripheries of the world. Have you seen a film from Bangladesh, or Bhutan, or Kazakhstan? Do you know auteurs from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon? from Colombia and Chile? from Finland and Iceland?

These film challenges are rallying for a new kind of inclusive cinephilia that does not focus entirely on filmic canons established by institutions. In an egalitarian sense, this new kind of cinephilia wants to circle the globe several times in search of the new: new alliances, new archives, new unknowns, new underdogs, new  forms and styles, regardless of nationality or spoken language. We might as well call it as exploratory cinephilia, a cinephilia driven by a continual sense of exploration, which can only happen in the digital era in which there seems to be a kind of geographical collapse in digitized commodities like films. File copies of films can be easily accessed in online digital archives. Peer-to-peer access has allowed fellow cinephiles to transfer file copies of films (usually ripped from DVD and BluRay copies) from one area of the globe to another with ease. The only factor would be internet accessibility. In today’s cinephilia, the space of the internet has constituted its global village, its space of existence. It has totally atomized and reterritorialized cinephilia in the privacy of one’s home. Spectatorship has indeed changed its face since the dawn of the internet. Digital exploratory cinephilia has continuously grew in the past decade in film sites like MUBI, Letterboxd and even in Facebook and has become, in itself, a captured audience to a new form of screen capitalism in the guise of Netflix, Hulu, MUBI, IFlix that offers a new experience of cinema in the small screens of LED TVs, laptops, and smartphones.

The problem is no one has problematized this form of digital capitalism yet. The political economy of such a screen culture has yet to be written as it involves a foray into digital humanities which is a very young discipline in the academe.



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Reading with Derrida: Specters of Marx (pp. xv – xx)

(Mis)Reading in Translation Series: Derrida

June 3, 2018


A screen capture from the film Ghost Dance (Ken McMullen / USA / 1983)

Jacques Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence is perhaps one of the most enigmatic and problematic, and also one of the most original philosophical assertions I have read in years. There is no direct way to learn about Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence and deconstruction without falling into the abyss of circuitous language and playful questioning that demand from the reader to question oneself in process and in relation to the question-at-hand.

978-0-226-14326-2-frontcoverIn my years of philosophical research, Derrida’s essays proved to be a linguistic roadblock in my goal to fully understand his idea of time. I have tried reading his essay Ousia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time from the book Margins of Philosophy where he first inscribed his idea of the critique of metaphysics of presence, yet I found myself thrown in a world of mixed neologisms and circuitous questioning that opened more questions resulting to a feeling of dread, alienation and incomprehension that I happily coined as theoretical shock. In the middle of the essay, there was no other way to go but to course through the text, without full comprehension.

In reading Of Grammatology, one also experiences a similar dread. Spivak made it sound urgent when she wrote the Preface. She laid out the political compass of the work. But when one gets into the main text, one 419Rmj1OdyL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_suddenly feels lost in abstruse language. One has to make a choice: either to quit reading and recover by reading a secondary text instead, or to plow through the dense passages that seemingly mocks the reader for having known so little. Differance is another essay that confuses me. It seems as though, to read Derrida, one has to read what he had read. All the magisterial and authoritative texts he particularly reference to in his texts are part of the labor of reading Derrida. This creates more complication because of the voluminous contextual layers and relations that exist between Derrida’s texts and the magisterial and authoritative text he cite and attribute. The reader of Derrida would have to choose whether to navigate his text alone or explore the complex web of relations and expanded politics of Derrida’s texts and his subjects.

In this series, I will attempt to read Derrida’s Spectres of Marx: The State of the Debt, The Work of Mourning, and the New International (1994) page-by-page in order to extract a productive relation between Marx and Derrida and to flesh out one of the key concepts I want to develop in my thesis, the notion of aporetic limits that undermines both the metaphysics of presence and metaphysics of long duration.

Introduction. What is Specters of Marx?  


The book Spectres of Marx was given as a two-part plenary speech in a multinational multidisciplinary conference titled “Whither Marxism? Global Crises in International Perspective” conducted in April 22-24, 1993 at the University of California, Riverside. The conference was organized by Bernd Magnus and Stephen Cullenberg, both UC Riverside professors of philosophy. The paper delivered by Derrida were re-edited, translated and repackaged and published in book form as a cultural product.

The book is also Derrida’s first sustained engagement with Marx and Marxism. It is also about ghosts, spectres and the untimely. It is also about justice and responsibility, of the future-to-come, and of the irretrievable past. My reading is not an attempt at mastering the text, but a matter of coursing through, a visitation to the text from the outside, for the spaces of its inscription. “What is Spectres of Marx?” is a also a question posted too soon, that this paragraph lends itself to its own deconstitution.

Part 1. A Dedication to a South African Communist



Chris Hani. Image Source

Bibliographic Note: Derrida, J. (1994). Dedication. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (pp. xv–xvi). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.


One name for another, a part for the whole: the historic violence of the Apartheid can be treated as a metonymy’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xv). This is first line you will read in the book when you open Specters of Marx at its ‘Dedication’ page . Let me repeat again, ‘one name for another, a part for the whole’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xv). Have you notice Derrida’s mode of qualification? There is a particular element of measuring and partitioning (‘a part for the whole’), of substitution (‘one name for another’) and of putting something into order: to substitute and yet to put into order as if nothing has happened. The second phrase goes: ‘[the historical violence of the Apartheid can be treated as a metonymy’(Derrida, 1994, p. xv).  At its full stop, this phrase completes the sentence. We have a full picture of what Derrida is talking about.

Metonymy is an idiomatic expression operating by means of substitution: suits instead of business executives, pen instead of the written word, being a helping hand instead of being a helper. One word, replaced for another in a seemingly disproportionate operation of substitution and replacement. We glide further into the text only to reveal, in the process, that the metonymy Derrida wants us to understand is the on-going and countless crises in the world after the dissolution of socialists states in Soviet Union and other parts of the world, and the coming of the Gulf War in the Middle East. For Derrida, the crisis and historic violence of the Apartheid stands for all of the atrocities of happening in the world when Derrida was delivering this paper in April 22nd of 1993. Today, one could easily think of the violent Gaza protests in the Palestinian-Israeli border as a metonymy of the violent times. Derrida puts it in most urgent form, bearing a battle cry: ‘At once part, cause, effect, example, what is happening there translates what takes place here, always here, wherever one is and wherever one looks, closest to home. Infinite responsibility, therefore, no rest allowed for any form of good conscience’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xv). For Derrida, the metonymy is now a causal translational relation wherein what is substituted is now more or less felt, seen, re-experienced across different milieus. With this ontological reality unfolding, the stakes are higher, and therefore one must be vigilant at all times.

The Assassination of a Man, a Communist: Chris Hani


Protester during the death of Chris Hani. source

Derrida proceeds: ‘But one should never speak of the assassination of a man as a figure, not even an exemplary figure in the logic of an emblem, a rhetoric of a the flag of martyrdom’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xv). In this paragraph, Derrida first laid out his thesis of what a man’s worth is. He find it unpleasant to figure a man who has just been assassinated as an emblem, a hero. Derrida felt this is something impermissible in the face of justice.

Derrida’s thesis: ‘A man’s life, as unique as his death, will always be more than a paradigm and something other than a symbol. And this is precisely what a proper name should always name’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xv) presents a glaring warning to those who have always put forward the emblematic image of a man who has just died.

Afterwards, Derrida narrates a story from memory: ‘I recall that it is a communist as such, a communist as communist, whom a Police emigrant and his accomplices, all the assassins of Chris Hani, put to death a few days ago.’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xvi) Notice how he places Chris Hani in the middle of the sentence not as the main subject (‘a communist as such, a communist as communist’) but part of the clause supporting another object. In this instance, there is an attempt at redrawing the line of naming. Derrida was careful not to put Chris Hani’s proper name in vain, not to commemorate a figure, or constitute a paradigm on behalf of his life or death, but to name him in passing. In Derrida’s process of reaffirming an ethical way of naming, he is also, in relation to Marx, reconstituting the subjectivity of communism, the party (‘a minority Communist Party riddled with contradictions’ [Derrida, 1994, p. xvi]), and its othering during the democratization process of post-Apartheid Africa via Chris Hani’s reversal from a heroic figure to a figure of dissent, ‘dangerous and seemingly intolerable,’ which caused Chris Hani his own life.

Spectres of Marx pays tribute to Chris Hani, his memory, his ghost and the ghosts of other Marxists, Communists, of Marx, of communism, reaffirming again, yet indirectly, Marx’s untimely relevance not as a figure, or an emblem, but a specter.


Part 2. An Exordium on the Untimeliness of Justice


Bibliographic Note: Derrida, J. (1994). Exordium. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (pp. xvii–xx). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

An exordium follows the dedication, as if, in the beginning, Derrida subjects us, the readers, to a complete rupture, showing us the real ethical stakes of the book, the people who died, assassinated, in the name of an ideological belief. He announces this before going in, before coming to terms with the complexity of the issue. Between the book’s exordium and its dedication page is a bridge of knowledge that one has to cross. There is a necessary adjustment, a necessary step-back, which can be both rattling and unsettling. From dedication to exordium, one leaps from reality to philosophy.

The word exordium is a lesser known term for introduction or opening chapter. It somehow positioned as an outside text, serving as both a preface and an introduction.

01-Specters of Marx-Marginal Notes-Adrian Mendizabal

My annotations on Specters of Marx (p. xvii)

Derrida’s exordium in Spectres of Marx is essentially an introduction to the untimeliness of justice. However, like most of his writings, he starts from the most unlikely beginnings, a question about living: ‘Someone, you or me, comes forward and says: I would like to learn to live finally. Finally but why?’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xvii). There is a seemingly vast distance between the idea of justice and the idea of living, but for Derrida there is a strange connection between the two.

Derrida further interrogates the question he posted:

‘To learn to live: a strange watchword. Who would learn? From whom? To teach to live, but to whom? Will we ever know? Will ever know how to live and first of all what “to learn to live” means? And why “finally”?’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xvii).

For some who are not familiar with Derrida’s writing, this linguistic convolutions are taxing, if not frustrating. Question after question, the reader and the author are engaged in an internal debate, that neither of them are willing to surmount. The purpose of Derrida’s circuitous questioning is actually simple. He posted a statement, not coming from him directly, but from ‘someone’ in order not to presuppose his subject. In asking questions, he does not foreclose the argument. A period closure would render an argument open to essentialist attack, and Derrida, being so careful, being true to the deconstructive forces already at work in the text, being so ethically conscious, opens the argument into an active site of questioning. A statement, a strange watchword ‘to learn to live’ is now being interrogated in several facets: the subject (‘who would learn?’), the origin of knowledge (‘from whom?’), the recipient of knowledge (‘to whom?’), an assurance of knowledge transfer (‘will we ever know how to live… what “learn to live” means’), and an element of time (‘why “finally”?’).

All these are further qualified in different scenarios in the course of the text. By paragraph, Derrida reifies different locutions of the watchword ‘to learn to live.’


First Qualification: ‘To learn to live’ Without Context

01A-Specters of Marx-Marginal Notes-Adrian Mendizabal

First qualification of ‘to learn to live’

In this passage, Derrida presented the nil condition of the watchword ‘to learn to live,’ that is, to view it without context, by itself, as self-positing. The watchword is more or less empty if viewed without context, or if viewed out of context. We are already hinted that this particular detour to context is entirely referenced to his old essay Signature Event Context: ‘a context, always, remains open, thus fallible and insufficient’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xvii). It goes without saying that context is insufficient in clarifying the meaning of ‘to learn to live’. Hence, this requires Derrida to move further, by placing the watchword beyond context and writing.

Second Qualification: ‘To Learn to Live’ from a Position of Authority

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Second Qualification of ‘to learn to live’

If uttered from the lips of the master, meaning from a position of authority, it becomes an asymmetrical address. It can only matter if uttered from a dominant perspective (a father, a teacher, a master) addressed to a point of subjugation (a son to a father, a student to a teacher, a slave to master). Derrida considers this relation as a form of violence. It comes in three forms: learning as imparting the logics of experience, learning as a form of education, or a learning as a form of taming or training. Derrida now qualifies to learn to live within the logistics of power, answering three of his questions: the subject, the origin of knowledge and recipient of knowledge. But this is not the final configuration that Derrida wants to bring to us.

Third Qualification: ‘To learn to live’ as a Border between Life and Death

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Third Qualification of ‘to learn to live’

Derrida further draws us to his circuitous method of investigating a phrasal remark, the watchword ‘to learn to live,’ to partially bring us to a definitive clarity. In this section, Derrida positions his qualificatory investigation, first, in terms knowing if one can learn to live ‘from oneself and by oneself’. The question of living by oneself sparks the Marxist idea of the importance of social relations in one’s life. Indeed, Derrida stresses: ‘To live, by definition, is not something one learns. Not from oneself, it is not learned from life, taught by life. Only from the other and by death.’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). Marx initially noted that human essence is not an abstraction, but rather ‘it is an ensemble of social relations’ (Marx, 2002, para. 10). Derrida is partially hinting on Marx’s notion of the necessity of social relations (‘only from the other’) in a Levinisian sense (‘the other’), before reinscribing the notion of ‘death,’ which is by part influenced by Heidegger.

Fourth Qualification: ‘To learn to live’ as a Category of Justice

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Fourth Qualification of ‘To learn to live’

This is where Derrida reorients the inquiry of ‘to learn to live’ within the category of justice. Derrida arrives at this momentous idea of justice from a series of paradoxical remarks. Earlier in the text, Derrida arrives at a point that ‘to live’ means one cannot learn it from oneself but only from other and by death. Now, Derrida points us to a paradoxical fact that ‘one does anything else but learn to live, alone, from oneself, by oneself’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). However, Derrida put this in a way that returns to the necessity for a just society to live for each other: that one can be alive for oneself in a just way ‘unless it comes to terms with death. Mine as (well as) that of the other’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). This is how Derrida sees justice: as an ethics in relation to censure of life, or death. Only in the absence of life can one think of justice.

Fifth Qualification: ‘To Learn to Live’ as Spectral Category (Between Life and Death) 

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Fifth qualification of ‘to learn to live’

We have come to the initial crystallization of Derrida’ notion of justice by coining the idea of the spectre. In this initial remark, Derrida interrogates the notion of learning just living as one that can only be situated between life and death. One must note that ‘to live’ is different from ‘learning to live.’ One is a productive activity, while the other involves a production of knowledge. ‘To live’ in itself is an activity that neither requires justice or ethics. But ‘learning to live’ is not a simple activity. What Derrida wants us to understand is that it is itself a form of ethical question that can only be answered if one comes to terms with death. Hence, Derrida places this ethical question between life and death, not only in terms of life, but of death, and hence, the appearance of the spectre.

The spectre is a powerful figure or metaphor or symbol in the book and has many meanings, many forms, and many temporalities. Its impermanency provides Derrida a pliant trope to reconfigure his arguments with spectrality. More or less we can describe Derrida’s method as one that possesses liquidity: the capacity for each argument to fit in different ‘containers’ or categories.

In this passage alone, spectre is defined and qualified in several ways, that is has (1) no substance, (2) no essence, (3) no existence, (4) is never present as such (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). If one is wondering about the temporality of our watchword ‘to learn to live,’ Derrida, in this part, has shown us that the question of time, since it bears the spectrality of ghosts, neither living nor dead, is ‘without a tutelary present,’ out of joint (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii).

Derrida leads us further to conclude that ‘to learn to live’ is actually to ‘to learn to live with ghosts, in the upkeep, the conversation, the company, or the companionship, in the commerce without commerce of ghosts’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). This is the just way of living: to live with them (ghosts). At this part, Derrida further moves towards an important remark: ‘No being-with the other, no socius without this with that makes being-with in general more enigmatic than ever for us’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii). The importance of ‘with’ and ‘with-ness’ or togetherness with the other is always underscored in ‘learning to live.’

Derrida also points out that ‘learning to live’ with spectres also involves ‘a politics of memory, of inheritance, and of generations’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xix). At the point, Derrida effaces history, which is important to Marx. Is being-with spectres also a coming to terms with the politics of history? Derrida steps back from the position of history to memory, inheritance and generations, as those which concern ethics.

Derrida on the Spectrality of Justice

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Derrida on the spectrality of justice

In this passage, Derrida reaches a culminating remark where he would eventually create a relation between spectres and justice. In some sense, we are also given a new subjectivity of spectres: ‘… certain others who are not present, not presently living, either to us, in us, or outside us…’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xix). The spectres that Derrida particular refer to now are others who are excluded in the metaphysics of presence, meaning, if we are allowed to extend this to the material conditions of society, those people excluded, erased, alienated from the ruling class discourse. In this sense, in a capitalist system, the proletariat is the specters of the ruling class, and they are not ghosts, but people absented from the ruling class discourse, yet they haunt the capitalists’ industrial complex precisely because of their potential to seize the means of production from the bourgeois enterprise.

Derrida also speaks of justice, but instead of coining justice from a definitive stance i.e. from its etymology and historical provenance, he reframes it in the face of its absence: ‘Of justice where it is not yet, not yet there, where it is no longer, let us understand where it is no longer present, and where it will never be, no more than the law, reducible to laws or rights’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xix). Derrida, at this point, insists on speaking about justice in the face of its absence, in the face of something beyond the idea of ‘justice’ enforced by laws and rights. He is spectralizing justice.

He goes further by spectralizing the notion of ‘speaking of ghosts’: to speak of ghosts ‘from the moment that no ethics, no politics…seem possible and thinkable and just that does not recognize in its principle the respect for those other who are no longer or for those who are not yet there, presently living, whether they are already dead or not yet born’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xix). Derrida, at the point, further clarifies the ethical significance of speaking of ghosts (or perhaps the untimely): that it can only be possible to speak of them, if there is a respect for those subjects that are not yet existing or has already ceased to exist.

This somehow points us to the importance of responsibility in relation to justice. Derrida finally culminates with his constitution of his concept of spectral justice:

‘No justice—let us not say no law and once again we are not speaking here of laws—seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead, be they victims of wars, political or other kinds of violence, nationalist, racist, colonialist, sexist, or other kinds of exterminations, victims of the oppressions of capitalist imperialism or any of the forms of totalitarianism.’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xix)

Derrida’s notion of spectral justice is hinged on the notion of responsibility that goes beyond the constitutional justice enforced by law (‘we are not speaking here of laws’). Derrida therefore expands the idea of justice as encompassing infinitude of responsibility inclusive of those who are not outside the scope of the constitutional legitimacy. What is unique in Derrida’s idea of justice is it contains an untimely temporal signature (‘non-contemporaneity with itself of the living present’), an order of time that seem to disenfranchise the law’s constitutional metaphysics of presence.

The Inclusive Infinity of Spectral Justice

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Inclusive infinity of justice

In the next passages, Derrida further explores the temporality of this spectral justice. For there to be an inclusive justice, it must be conceived ‘beyond therefore the living present in general… and beyond its simple negative reversal’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xx). The time of justice is therefore a spectral moment, ‘furtive and untimely’, ‘no longer belongs to time’, ‘beyond the living present,’ or from a certain infinity outside of the present.

The Empirical or Ontological Actuality of Justice

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Epistemological or Ontological actuality of justice

In the concluding paragraph, Derrida inscribes his provisional notion of justice. But before that, Derrida asks two clarificatory questions. First concerns the persona who should commit to the obligation of justice. Derrida puts forward a spectral justice that answers to ghosts, but he also asks to whom is the commitment of the obligation of justice due. Derrida also asks in the second clarificatory question is a typological one: a justice that answers for itself other than life.

Derrida resolves these questions by constituting the empirical or ontological actuality of justice:

‘this justice carries life beyond present life or its actual being-there, its empirical or ontological actuality: not toward death but toward a living-on [sur-vie], namely, a trace of which life and death would themselves be but trace and traces of traces, a survival whose possibility in advance comes to disjoin or dis-adjust the identity to itself of the living present as well as any effectivity.’ (Derrida, 1994, p. xx)

Derrida is now refiguring justice’s empirical or ontological actuality as a trace, a non-presence remainder, a surviving figment that disrupts the identity of the living present. Hence, Derrida insists that the actuality of justice requires one to reckon with the spirits.


Conclusion: Is Spectral Justice Possible in Cinema?


A screen capture from the film Ghost Dance (Ken McMullen / USA / 1983)

We ask therefore: is it spectral justice possible for cinema? If indeed cinema is marked by a ghostly apparition, according to Derrida’s interview with Cahiers du Cinema: 

‘The cinematic experience belongs thoroughly to spectrality, which I link to all that has been said about the specter in psychoanalysis—or to the very nature of the trace. The specter, which is neither living nor dead, is at the center of certain of my writings, and it’s in this connection that, for me, a thinking of cinema would perhaps be possible. What’s more, the links between spectrality and filmmaking occasion numerous reflections today. Cinema can stage phantomality almost head-on, to be sure, as in a tradition of fantasy film, vampire or ghost films, certain works of Hitchcock . . . This must be distinguished from the thoroughly spectral structure of the cinematic image. Every viewer, while watching a film, is in communication with some work of the unconscious that, by definition, can be compared with the work of haunting, according to Freud. He calls this the experience of what is “uncanny” (unheimlich). Psychoanalysis,  psychoanalytic reading, is at home at the movies. First of all, psychoanalysis and filmmaking are really contemporaries; numerous phenomena linked to projection, to spectacle, to the perception of this spectacle, have psychoanalytic equivalents. Walter Benjamin realized this very quickly when he connected almost straightaway the two processes: film analysis and psychoanalysis. Even the seeing and perception of detail in a film are in direct relation with psychoanalytic procedure. Enlargement does not only enlarge; the detail gives access to another scene, a heterogeneous scene. Cinematic perception has no equivalent; it is alone in being able to make one understand through experience what a psychoanalytic practice is: hypnosis, fascination, identification, all these terms and procedures are common to film and to psychoanalysis, and this
is the sign of a “thinking together” that seems primordial to me.’ (de Baecque, Jousse, & Kamuf, 2015, p. 26)

Can cinema allow us to inscribe a justice that particularly deals with ghosts: neither living nor dead, ‘without a tutelary present,’ out of joint (Derrida, 1994, p. xviii)? It seems that, in the purview of our (mis)reading of Derrida’s exordium in Specters of Marx, untimely justice is possible in cinema. It is one of the technological mediums (seance instruments of sorts) that is capable of conceiving representational forms of traces (traces of the past or the future), historical traces, monstrous traces, traces of the future, traces of the past, traces of the untimely, unknown, and most especially, if seized from its capitalist mode of production, cinema can conceive the subjectivity of the proletariat, the most revolutionary of all specters.



de Baecque, A., Jousse, T., & Kamuf, P. (2015). Cinema and Its Ghosts: An Interview with Jacques Derrida. Discourse, 37(1–2), 22. https://doi.org/10.13110/discourse.37.1-2.0022

Derrida, J. (1994). Dedication. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (pp. xv–xvi). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

Derrida, J. (1994). Exordium. In P. Kamuf (Trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (pp. xvii–xx). New York and London: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.

Marx, K. (2002). Theses On Feuerbach. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm


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Literature Review 2.0: The Long Take


a GIF from Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (2012)

Announcement of a New Blog Series: In this new blog series called Critical Literature ReviewI will be featuring a series of annotated bibliographies grouped per topic. I have already posted a summary review of David A. Gerstner’s essay The Practices of Authorship. Each literature review piece or annotation will basically contain three parts. The first part provides a brief summary of the main arguments of the book. The second part evaluates the book’s strengths and weaknesses, method of presentation and other elements. The third part is the assessment of the usefulness of the book in relation to my research on Lav Diaz. The bibliographic format to be used is APA. For more information on the critical literature review, check a handout here. All my literature reviews can be found here.



The Long Take: A Cinematic Style? Or an Aesthetic Condition of Contemporary Culture?

Majority of literature in cinema has generally viewed long take as a stylistic device. Andrei Bazin’s essays “The Ontology of the Photographic Image” (1960) and “Evolution of the Film Language” (1968) are two of the inaugural essays that problematize the aesthetic practice of long take in relation to realism. The aesthetic practice of long take, whether used in contemplative cinema to deploy affects of emptiness, ennui and languor or used as a means to orchestrate complex cinematography, constitutes a smaller subset of a bigger set of stylistic devices used predominantly in art cinema and commercial cinema for several reasons. In today’s media culture, the long take has been appropriated in different platforms, in particular, amateur instructional videos in Youtube, surveillance footages, pornographic video productions among others. The digital platform has rendered the long take as a new stylistics to deploy spectacle. Hence, in this series of text, we will see how the concept of the long take is deployed in several writings.


The Intrasequence Cut: The Long Take Between Bazin and Eisenstein


Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): Brian Henderson’s example of a film with intrasequence shot, where editing play no expressive role

Bibliographic Note: Henderson, B. (1980). The Long Take (1971). In A Critique of Film Theory (pp. 48–61). New York: E.P. Dutton.


In Brian Henderson’s essay titled The Long Take (1971), the idea of the long take is drawn from a classical film theory perspective. Henderson (1980) says

‘the true cultivation and expression of the image… requires the duration of the long take (a single piece of unedited film that may or may not constitute an entire sequence). [L]ong take… permits the director to vary and develop the image without switching to another image… Thus the long take makes mise-en-scene possible.’ (p. 49) [Emphasis mine]

A Question of Film trheoryHenderson wanted to create a film theory that does not exclusively privilege either Bazinian notion of long take, which is associated with his temporal realism, or Eisenteinian notion of montage. He wanted to create a theory that would deploy both principles halfway. However, Henderson’s idea is not the definitive long take we are after. For Henderson, the long take is not primarily the length of the shot. It interacts with the montage, but not in the way that it privileges the montage’s rhythm or the autonomy of the long take in itself.

Henderson (1980) defines this new idea as the selective cut, or the intrasequence cut, or the mise-en-scene cut, to distinguish it from the montage cut or the long take in a Bazinian sense. An intrasequence cut ‘does not relate, arrange, or govern the whole of the piece it joins; it merely has a local relationship to the beginnings and ends of the connecting shots…’ (p. 54).

Assessing the Intrasequence Cut

Henderson’s ideas are weakened by his incapacity to think beyond the stylistic dilemma of Bazinian-Eisensteinian aesthetic complex. Henderson is a typical film theorist caught in between a web of generalizations centering on aesthetic figure of the director-as-auteur and their corresponding styles on mise-en-scene and montage. Henderson flippantly weighs in on the lack of theoretical grounding of a set of films that falls between Bazin and Eisenstein. Henderson was not able to account, like many aesthetic theorists, the material dimension of the long take and its industrial relation to the whole production of the image. As a stylistic device, its capability to generate new theory of cinema is insufficient as it lacks a systematic distinction that would easily differentiate it from a rhythmic montage or a Bazinian long take. Henderson has not fully show its autonomy as a stylistic device nor its general relation to whole discourse of the production of cinema.

Usefulness in my Research

Lav Diaz’s style of editing may be something close to Henderson idea of the intrasequence cut: a paradoxical stylistic cut that is both autonomous and related to the other shots. However, due to Henderson’s delimitation that the long take as not necessarily related to the length of the shot, I am led to conclude that Diaz’s stylistic category is something more complex than the facile relationship between Bazinian and Eisensteinin categories. In Lav Diaz’ cinema, we also have to look at the technological aspect and the material conditions that allows for such a style to thrive.


from Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2013)

Since the research aims to unmask the metaphysics of long duration, one has to ask first how does style contributes to the formation of metaphysics of long duration. Long duration here constitutes the general artistico-politics of slow cinema, in particular, the cinema of Lav Diaz. Remember however that the project is a materialist critique of the metaphysics of long duration. It reassembles the old time debate between materialism and idealism that Marx deployed in his readings on Feuerback, Proudhorn, Max Stirner. The best way to approach this is to constitute first the process of mystification in slow cinema by analyzing aesthetics categories, styles, narrative structure, and political content of the films. The research questions should be:

  • How does the process of mystification of slow cinema occur?
  • What are the contradictions and limitations (the aporia?) of these metaphysics of long duration?
  • What is the dialectical materialist opposite of long duration?

The general framework, as I see it now, after writing my paper presentation on Marx contra Deleuze, is to extrapolate the debate of materialism vs. idealism and apply it within the framework of slow cinema.





The Long Take as Effigy of the Wondrous

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Lutz Koepnick’s example of the long take as expression of the wondrous

Bibliographic Note: Koepnick, L. (2017). The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.


In Lutz Koepnick’s recent book The Long Take: Art Cinema and the Wondrous (2017) takes on the notion of the long take closer to Lav Diaz’s approach. However, Koepnick’s notion of long take is still problematic.

For Koepnick, ‘that contemporary moving image practice often embraces long takes — extended shot durations and prolonged experiences of moving image environments — as a medium to reconstruct spaces for the possibility of wonder’(Koepnick, 2017, p. 1). Unlike Henderson who sees long take as a style situated between Bazin and Eisenstein, 978-0-8166-9588-1-frontcoverKoepnick constitutes the long take in a larger socio-historical fabric. For Koepnick, the long take is transmediatic, no longer local to cinema, but moves across various media platforms and spaces of spectacle. All these long takes share an ‘effort to rub against today’s frantic regimes of timeless time, against today’s agitated forms of viewership and 24/7 spectatorial self-management’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 1).

As cinematographic style, Koepnick traces the prominence of long take in the 1990s when international arthouse filmmakers like Lisandro Alonso, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pedro Costa, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tsai Ming-Liang and others were recognized in the global arthouse market as a new force of filmmaking (Koepnick, 2017, p. 2). One of the key words in Koepnick’s book is wonder or the wondrous. For Koepnick, the long take is the ‘effigy of wondrous, the focal point to rethink notions of art cinema today’ (Koepnick, 2017, p.3). His goal is to ‘emancipate the long take from the grip of recent cinephilia (Koepnick, 2017, p.3).

The Wondrous

Koepnick defines the wondrous ‘as experience of something that defies expectation but need not to be encountered with fear, restless action or speechless defensiveness’ (Koepnick, 2017, pp. 1-2). The wondrous commands ‘a certain absence of expectation and a deliberate postponement of reaction, activity and interpretation…existing outside the realm of the will, defers any demand for instant reply and communication, and defies impatient efforts of narrative integration’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 8). The wondrous, for Koepnick, is a perceptual event: ‘Wonder happens suddenly. It ruptures the fabric of time, yet unlike the traumatic experiences of shock, the wondrous neither overwhelms nor petrifies the senses’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9). Although a wondrous event ‘disrupts temporal continuity, it requires time and duration’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9).

In introducing the idea of the wondrous, the goal of Koepnick is not to reduce long take ‘as a palliative to the ills of contemporary speed’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 4). He does not look at long take as a candidate to promote slow life agenda, nor does it physically slow down the speeds of the twenty-first century. Instead, Koepnick looks at the long take as one that ‘distends time, derails the drives of narrative and desire, and hovers above the border between film and photography’ (Koepnick, 2017, p. 4). Koepnick seems to zero-in on the politics of the long take in relation to contemporary notions of attention. However, Koenpick delimits his notion of the long take as not related to extended-shot durations intended for choreography of complex actions, or intended as performative space, or a space for deployment of special effects (Koepnick, 2017, p. 9).

Assessment of the Long Take and the Wondrous

While it prods on a new idea of the wondrous, Koepnick’s notion of the long take is a step back in terms of inclusiveness. It has identified its class position by privileging the wondrous as exclusively identifiable with art cinema. He outwardly declares it in one paragraph, and let me quote in length:

My interest, in other words, is in long takes that result not in spectators shouting, “Wow, how the heck did they do that!,” but in viewers who may find themselves investigating possible relations among the different temporalities on screen, the temporal orders of the projection situation, and the rhythms of their own physical and mental worlds. My interest is in moving image work that embraces extended- shot durations as a medium to provide a space not for mere spectacle and astonishment but for reconstructing spaces for wondrous looking in the face of its ever- increasing disappearance.

(Koepnick, 2017, p. 10)

In this passage, Koenpick’s bourgeois position as a writer becomes clear. While he is critical of the ever disappearing spaces of contemporary culture, he still does not overcome his own class contradiction. Consistent to our materialist stance on art cinema, Koenpick is guilty of concealing the role of the proletariat in the production of the long take and its spectatorship. He effaces the proletarian subjectivity by jumping over them with his words ‘not in spectators shouting, “Wow, how the heck did they do that!”’. The exclusion of mainstream cinema is a major loophole in Koenpick’s privileging of the wondrous in art cinema. While no true opposition exists between art and mainstream cinema, Koenpick has not fully looked into the problematic category of the wondrous in relation to its complicity with class ideology.


The wondrous, if we are to put Koenpick’s politics in the context of cultural markets, is close to the affect produced by commodity fetishism. The exacting materiality of the wondrous, as only limited to art cinema’s deployment of the long take, tells us that it is nothing different to the affect associated with media fetishism. I therefore argue that Koenpick’s idea of the long take is a form of art cinema fetishism. However, I will suspend for a moment this assessment as I will have to read the rest of the work and see if this position is held throughout the work.

Usefulness in My Research


Koepnick’s notion of long take has overlaps in Diaz’s aesthetics. Diaz’s aesthetics fits in the mold of Koepnick’s privileging of art cinema. Diaz’s cinema has never been fully integrated in the proletarian struggle of Filipinos. His cinema has gained recognition in Europe, in arthouse film festivals like in France, Berlin, Venice, Fribourg among others. Diaz’s orientation towards the art market, which reached its peak when he collaborated with bourgeois elite producers of Manila in 2012 for his film Norte, the End of History (2013), recently opened many doors to Diaz in a financial sense. However, unlike Koepnick, Diaz’s long take is built on a theological position of temporarility that he rigorously sought throughout his career: a liberation theology that instrumentalizes technology and long duration as both emancipatory forms of pedagogy for the spectator.

Koepnick has focused his profiling of the long take in relation to the economy of attention from the perspective of the art cinema spectator. It is a phenomenological rendering of the long take. However, Diaz’s long take is positioned from an aesthetic-political sense, not in a phenomenological sense, as in Koepnick’s the notion of the wondrous.

In order to calibrate our critique for Diaz’s long take and long duration metaphysics, the positionality of our approach would comprise constituting first the material base of the long take: its mode and means of production. To establish this, we have to constitute the political economy of long take in the Philippines and how films like Lav Diaz’s oeuvre are marketed by cultural agents in the West.

Clarification of Position: Subjecting Auteurism to Dialectical Materialist Critique


Jean-Luc Godard on the set of Made in USA., photographed by Bruno Barbey, 1966 (From here)

In my earlier post regarding theories of authorship in film, I mentioned that Lav Diaz’s authorship must be constituted within an expanded framework beyond the politics of representation. The framework that I’m referring to is the dialectical and historical materialist framework which looks beyond the politics of representation by reconsidering the importance of material conditions, the distribution of capital, and the intensity of market exchange, in the production of a cinematic product. Aside from the political economic consideration, dialectics of history is important in looking at auteurism in relation to the works of Lav Diaz. What are the historical forces that constituted the cultural status of Lav Diaz as an auteur? And, in the process of questioning, we must also look into the larger social fabric that constitute the conditions of the long take and auteurism. We must look at the long take in a dialectical and historical materialist manner, and this can only matter, in a dialectical sense, if we reify the metaphysics of long duration of Diaz and a negation of such metaphysics. The negation of such metaphysics is a materialist form of duration – time as material.




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