Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil

 GlauberRochaBlackGodWhiteDevilBlack God, White Devil (Glauber Rocha / Brazil / 1964)

July 24, 2017

Dearest Raju and Fernando,

Greetings from the Land of Engkantos!

How are things there in Argentina and in Brazil?

Before I begin and before any proper inauguration, I would like to enact an incision: that this letter be subdivided into several reflection points.

Knowing Brazil/Argentina through Cinema

I only know Brazil and Argentina through cinema and pictures. My favourite Argentinian film is the landmark film of Getino and Fernando E. Solanas titled The Hour of the Furnaces (1968). If you haven’t seen this film, I suggest you go see it. It is one of the films that had a vision to change the world through cinema. Its main paradigmatic practice is to constitute a revolution through image, and perhaps a revolution from the image of cinema, for The Hour of the Furnaces also combats the bourgeoisie’s mode of production by deploying the guerrilla approach to filmmaking. In the same way, the film also shatters the dominant cinematic image of its time in an ontological sense via deterritorialization i.e. all signs point towards a deterritorialization of the image through dialectical practice of editing.

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The Hour of the Furnaces (Getino & Solanas / Argentina / 1968)

Lisandro Alonso is also an unforgettable figure in Argentinian cinema. He and Lav Diaz have similar approaches to duration, although Alonso has a more ambiguous and sparser style in narrative. I like La Libertad (2001) for its straightforward depiction of a day in a life of a proletarian woodcutter. There is a simplicity to it that blurs the boundary of documentary and narrative film. The camera provokes an elaborate and impenetrable silence as means of disclosure, of worlding, of existing.¬†Jauja (2014) is also a beautiful film by the same director, but I don‚Äôt know much about its Argentinian roots.¬†I remember watching it with eyes wide open, anticipating its idiosyncrasies and anachronisms. I can‚Äôt seem to make sense of its incongruities. Maybe the beauty of the film lies in its incongruities, pauses and ellipses. There is a scene where Gunnar Dinesen (played by Viggo Mortensen) sleeps on rock starring at the heavens. There is ‚Äėinfinity‚Äô to that image that I want to re-experience again. I remember thinking that that scene has something to do with love, with longing, or an infinity of longing perhaps.

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Jauja (Lisandro Alonso / Argentina / 2014)

I have also seen a recent Argentinian film titled Taekwondo (2016) by Argentinian born filmmakers Marco Berger and Martin Farina, a film that explores male bisexuality. It might be one of the very few films I have seen in my waking life that cinematically explores bisexuality, and I liked it.

From what I have seen,¬†Taekwondo is labyrinth of bodies. The male body in the film transforms into a generalized spectre, a site of struggle of sexuality. What I liked about the film is that it withdraws from the penetrative approach of contemporary gay films by exhuming the liminal power of the body to question the politics of visibility of LGBTQ cinema. In withdrawing from penetrative paradigm of gay identity politics, the film reconstructs a ‚Äėminotaurian dilemma‚Äô of bodies and orientations. In the end, Theseus, in parallel to the character of German (played by Gabriel Epstein), will slay the minotaur, in parallel to the character of Fer (played by Lucas Papa), at the center of labyrinth with a kiss.

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Taekwondo (Marco Berger & Martin Farina / Argentina / 2016)

As with Brazilian Cinema, I can only think of two unforgettable cinephilic experiences. The first one was watching Walter Hugo Khouri’s Noite Vazia (Men and Women, Brazil, 1964) which had a profound lingering effect on me. I can’t think straight for days. The other one was watching Glauber Rocha’s A Idade da Terra (The Age of the Earth, 1980). The Age of the Earth violated my vision of the world. It is pure deterritorialization of cinematic image. These two films were transformative experiences that troubled my senses to its very end. Rocha’s other films Entranced Earth (1967), Black God, White Devil (1964) and Antonio Das Mortes (1969) were also memorable. Rocha’s idiosyncratic and militant approach to filmmaking is somewhat unique yet formally similar to how some contemporary Filipino filmmakers would approach editing, mise-en-scene and narrative. Khavn dela Cruz is one Filipino filmmaker I can think of that channels the same energy as Rocha’s caustic style. Yet, they diverge in terms of stylistic restraints. I can talk more about this topic, but it will be too much for this letter.

 note-vazia-1965-01-1-gi0FfBTop: Noite Vazia (Walter Hugo Khouri / Brazil / 1964) | Bottom: The Age of the Earth (Glauber Rocha / 1980)

I wonder if Rocha, Khouri, Getino and Solanas’ approaches to film style remain influential in the contemporary cinema of Argentina and Brazil. What’s happening now in your respective locales in terms of moving image production?

The period of the 1960s in Latin American cinema was revolutionary. Third cinema emerged during this period as collective effort to decolonize Latin American culture and resist the cultural imperialism of the United States. How’s the Third Cinema project in your respective regions now? Is the tradition of militant filmmaking, as inaugurated by Getino and Solanas, still practiced among militant filmmakers?

In return, I would like also to know if you have an idea of the Philippines, Philippine cinema, or militant cinema of the Philippines. What’s the recent Filipino film you’ve watched? Also, a question to Raju, if you come from India, what circumstances led you to reside in Brazil? How long have you resided in Brazil? Has transferring to another country affected your subjectivity as an Indian-born cinephile/film critic?

Correspondence: An Epistemology of Arrival

The geographical and cultural distance between Philippines and Argentina or Brazil poses a challenge especially on the subject of knowing the other. I guess cinema provides a translational advantage, a bridge that allows for distances to appear closer, yet some areas in your culture still remain untranslatable. There are still images left to be interpreted, contextualized, and re-imagined. Transcultural dialogue is more important now than ever. With neoliberalism and US cultural imperialism dominating distribution networks of cinema around the globe through Hollywood, we must not let a day pass without rallying for what is at stake in this dialogical space of cinema. The disappearing cultural specific heritage, proletarian subjectivity and collective memory are now threatened to be erased by instantaneity and synchronicity as operated via a globalized capital disseminated at an infinite speed. Correspondence, as I see it, is a radical refusal of instantaneity and synchronicity. It reintroduces again the concept of delay, or knowing in delay, through a form of a letter.

In correspondence, the question of ‚Äėknowing‚Äô and ‚Äėarriving‚Äô collapses into a duality; as if, for a moment, to ‚Äėknow‚Äô what is there from a distant is also to ‚Äėarrive‚Äô there prematurely. Is knowing also a form of colonization?¬†Correspondence, as I understand it, is a means to ‚Äėarrive‚Äô as well as to ‚Äėknow‚Äô a place outside of oneself. To correspond is to arrive in¬†a place outside only to¬†know¬†that one¬†is always already too late. In correspondence, we are always late. Time has passed: for in arriving, or for a letter to arrive, some of us have already departed. We cannot be in same place at the same time, yet technologies such as instant messaging allow us to appear as though we are synchronic: in two places at once. Correspondence, on the other hand, recognizes the limit of the distance between two points, two locales, two worlds, two cultures, two temporalities. It is governed by the law of the Two, which, for Alain Badiou, constitute the dialectical alternative of One. Correspondence restores the difference and the untranslatability of one culture from another.

To enter into the activity of correspondence, which, for now, will be through a ‚Äėletter,‚Äô is to come to terms with the vulnerability of exposure, of arriving at a place exposed, or arriving towards an exposure of the self. It has occurred to me that writing a letter would not be as easy as I thought it would be. Since the letter is a form of public correspondence, there is a risk of exposure. There is a risk of exposing too much of myself, too much of my world. Can a letter be a means of overexposure? Cinema, on the other hand, has its own of means of exposing the world. Cinema can also be a letter of exposure (or overexposure)¬†in its own way.¬†To expose through exposition, on the other hand, for a letter is also an exposition of oneself,¬†is also, in itself, a movement, a positioning, a posturing, a step ahead. To ex-pose —¬†as a movement¬†from one pose to another — is an¬†ex-position — a displacement, a change in position. Indeed, correspondence is both an exposure and an exposition, jointly and separately, one and the same.

There is a life out here in the Philippines that is worth a book or a poem or a film, but a letter of correspondence would not suffice to expose even the surface matter of phenomena and reality I see through my eyes. Hence, the term encounter offers a heuristic path towards knowing the other without risking exposure and colonization. Thus, in correspondence, we only write encounters.

Lav Diaz’s Cinematic Duration as Object of Study

I would like to share to you a little background of my writing and research life. I am twenty-eight years old. I live in Manila for more than ten years now. For now, I am not affiliated in any film journal or publication, but occassionally I do published some of my articles in magazines and film journals. The latest would be an article on Hegel and Lav Diaz in NANG Magazine Issue 2. I am also actively engaged in a film organization Cinema and Moving Image Research Assembly (CAMIRA). I am in-charge of organizing activities of the film organization in the Philippines.

As for my studies, I am currently finishing my MA Media Studies (Film) degree at the University of the Philippines Film Institute with key interest on film philosophy. I am now in my thesis stage with Lav Diaz’s cinematic duration as my main object of study.

I have been doing research on Diaz’s cinema since I started my MA degree in 2014. My interest in Diaz’s cinema does not come entirely from an appreciative perspective, but rather from a critical one. Diaz’s cinema has amassed a wide range of critical debates on various subjects of his cinema with film reception as one of the main areas of contestation. My thesis will focus on the problematic issue of Diaz’s long durations.

 maxresdefaultDeath in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2007)

With running time up to eleven hours long, and, on average, clocking at six to eight hours, his films no longer belong to the general criteria of entertainment cinema. In Diaz’s cinema, I consider cinematic duration as site of constraint generative of a new ontology, epistemology, ethico-politics and aesthetics of cinema.

Diaz’s eurocentric audience also poses a problematic politics of reception. One of my cinephile friends from Italy, Renato Loriga, expressed his distaste on European cinephilia’s instant positive appraisal on Diaz’s cinema after winning three successive major awards from the top European film festivals of Locarno, Berlin and Venice in the span of three years. Renato told me that the Italian critics, especially those who have ignored some of his early long-form works in the 2000s, were suddenly appreciative of his cinema because of the awards he won. Diaz was almost suddenly under the radar of critics, scholars, producers, distributors and the media, earning him a title as one of the world’s most renowned filmmakers.

While legitimizing his position as one of the forminable Asian auteurs that penetrated the European cinephile culture, the limited turnout of Filipino audience in most of his screenings in the Philippines proved contradictory. Diaz’s high cultural capital and idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking opened debates, critical appraisal and critiques in his home country. During the onset of his popularity, Diaz’s long duration was dismissed as anti-people and anti-audience for its demand for long endurance and extreme durative work from its audience. Diaz’s duration can be seen as a totalitarian conditioning of opticity. This and other problematiques would constitute the core problems of my thesis.

A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz

Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)

IMG_6717One of my book finds in Lav Diaz’s library- Kubler’s The Shape of Time. I wonder if he ever read this.

My archival research on Lav Diaz will not be possible without the big help of Hazel Orencio who first sent me a message inviting me for a Lav Diaz-related event in Singapore this coming August 2017. This prompted me to ask if she has some of Diaz’s primary documents to back-up my historical research on him. Two Sundays ago, we agreed to meet in Diaz’s apartment in Marikina, Metro Manila where Diaz is residing. He’s on a three-week break in the Philippines before heading back to the United States. Marikina is a suburban city adjacent to Quezon City where I live, just two jeepney rides away from my place.

Since my study is historiographic in nature I asked Lav Diaz if he could provide all the primary documents in my checklist. These include scripts, production notes, behind the scenes photographs and videos, rushes, cinematographic devices, lighting equipment, sound equipment, old photographs from childhood, school records, birth records, etc. So we initially level off in terms of conducting my research. We also run through my checklist to identify the documents’ location. Diaz is not fond of storing photographs. He said I should ask his regular film crew like Larry Manda, his cinematographer and collaborator since 1998, and Cesar Hernando, production designer of Batang West Side (2001), to locate some the production/behind the scenes photos of his films. Diaz also suggested to visit the archive of the comics publisher Altas Publishing¬†to check on some of his works. Diaz mentioned that he did two graphic novels. One of which is titled Prinsipe Maru. He also suggested to check the archive of PTV4, a local government-owned TV channel, for his works in television during the late 1980s (post-EDSA People Power). If one of you is aware of Diaz’s history, the earliest version of Heremias¬†(2006) was an educational video he did for the TV Program called Balintataw, which can be found in PTV4.

His personal archive in Marikina contains mostly old scripts, old but highly important miniDVs containing the raw files of his mid-2000s works. All digitized raw files of his post-Good Harvest works are there. His digital cameras are also there. His editing station is also there. Hazel told me that Diaz only edits his films in one area ‚Äď his editing room, a small room with a Mac computer and a small single bed. Ever since they transferred in Marikina, he never edited outside the confines of this editing room. This must be a very special place.

¬†IMG_6518Diaz’s Panasonic DVX-100 camera he used in the mid-2000s.

Also, I was surprised to find that all his filmmaking equipment and all his awards fit into one bookshelf, no more and no less, although I haven’t seen the Golden Lion, the Silver Bear and Golden Leopard. ¬†This includes his cameras, lighting equipment, sound equipment, tripods, and lenses. Diaz was also not fond of displaying his trophies in glitzy cabinets and display tables. Instead, he places his trophies alongside his equipment without any distinguishing space for both types of materials. One is mixed with the other. Some of the trophies even have missing pieces.This only shows that Diaz is not really much after the awards.

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MiniDV tapes of Heremias 

Diaz is currently using a Sony A7s camera for his two upcoming films. This full-frame camera provided Diaz’s the necessary sensitivity to both light and darkness. He used this to shoot his previous film  Ang Babaeng Humayo. This is quite different from how Diaz organizes his shoots with his Panasonic DVX100, which he used to film the latter half of Evolution of a Filipino Family (2005) until Butterflies Have No Memories (2009). Panasonic DVX100 uses miniDVs while Sony A7s uses memory card. Although both are digital in terms of coding, they vary differently in terms data management principles and storage.

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Diaz as the current archivist of his cinema

Diaz does not use sophisticated sound devices except for a simple boom microphone in some of his films. Most of his sounds are live sounds using his cameras’ respective microphone. He also rarely does sound editing or sound design. He also does not use sophisticated lighting equipment, just a few LED lights he used for the night scenes in A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (2016). Other than that, all his light comes from natural sources.

This is ground zero of my Lav Diaz research. I wish to share more of my findings in the next letters. I wonder, have any of you seen a Lav Diaz film? What is your experience like? What do you think are the similarities and differences of Lav Diaz and Lisandro Alonso in terms of their approaches to slow cinema? Do you consider Lav Diaz’s cinema as slow cinema?

I am quite excited to hear from you two.

Yours truly,

Adrian Mendizabal
Manila, Philippines
July 24, 2017

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Consultation Notes #1: Nick Deocampo

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A one-page consultation note during my initial meeting with Filipino film historian Nick Deocampo when I asked him to be reader/critic of my MA thesis on Lav Diaz.

This pretty much gives you a clue about the chaos of the relations going on in my thesis.

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In Cinema, Catastrophes Await Us

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First published in Kino Punch Issue 5, May 2017.

The Quest(ion) of the End

             What does cinema leave behind?

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The question, by its form, inaugurates a catastrophe ‚Äď a birthing of an open space, an open time, an alterhorizon, alterverse. If cinema indeed leaves us ‚Äėnow‚Äô, or will leave us in the near future, or has left us already, proceeding as if all forms of moving images, all visological and auditory epiphenomena, and all objects associated with the idea of ‚Äėcinema‚Äô have vaporized into nothingness, then what crisis await us? As a spectral being coming from the future of post-cinematic era, I come to ask: what life awaits us after cinema? Or to paraphrase the question: what is the post-cinematic condition?

            The disappearance of cinema, or the end of cinema, presents us an unbearable condition of existence. What initiates this essay into coming to being is the intolerable philosophical possibility of the rapture of cinema emergent from the process of absencing, or the process of coming to nothing, of moving towards the end, haunting the organicity of being. As Heidegger wrote in Being and Time, life, or existence, is partly or wholly conditioned by one’s death. The question of cinema leaving us also constitutes an eschatological or phenomenological rapture, a question of death in itself. As witness to this becoming-nothing of cinema, we also depart from the plurality of what might be, or the plurality of things to come. At the end of what might be the end of cinema, we are left within a labyrinth of ruins, a citadel of death, a sea of anomalous materials and an archive of catastrophes, waiting for the specter to return from the dead. If cinema indeed ceases to exist, there will be an archive, yes, but what kind of archive?

The Invisible End of National Cinema

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† In Patrick Campos‚Äô seminal book The End of National Cinema, the terminus of arrival is not the end but a Nietzschean curl. It is the end that severs from itself from ending. When Campos wrote the words: ‚Äė[‚Ķ] the end of national cinema, which is independence,‚Äô[1] what actuates is an end that circles back to the beginning ‚Äď the eternal return of the same. Yet, if indeed the end of national cinema constitutes the arrival of independent cinema, then what catastrophe awaits us? Or, what catastrophe awaits us if we sever ourselves from the idea of ‚Äėnational cinema‚Äô? In the shorelines of forgetfulness, Campos inscribes a catastrophe we cannot see. Indeed, the concept of ‚Äėnational cinema‚Äô can only signified from a particular formalization and politicization of discourse within a institutional hegemonic apparatus. In the shorelines of forgetfulness of everyday life, the idea of the national cinema is under the threat of constant erasure. National cinema no longer belongs to people. Institutions and capitalists markets have decimated its revolutionary potential as an instrument of proletarian revolution. Through the processes of disembodiment, standardization and rationalization, national cinema only became a tool that reaffirms state power, reinvigorates and replenishes the Capital, and refurbishes the ideological state apparatus of the ruling class elite.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Cinema became an instrument of hegemony: the eye of the state and the topos of capitalism. Campos attributes the disappearance of the ‚Äėnational‚Äô within these movements of deterritorialization, as can be seen in Southeast Asian Cinema. What Campos imagines is a transitionary end of national cinema as it transforms into transnational cinema. The dissolution of hegemonic borders of power of these ‚Äėnation-state cinemas‚Äô proves that the idea of national continues to be reconstituted even in its post-national and trans-national sense. What can be gleaned from Campos on this cultural transformation is a remnant of an unseen catastrophe synthesized by the triumphal machinations of the neoliberal political economy and cultural imperialism. Indeed, cinema has already undergone many invisible catastrophes since its birth in 1895 ‚Äď many ends, many Nietzschean curls ‚Äď disappearing and reappearing in several parts of the world under different historical and socio-political contexts.

Anthropocene and the End

            Invisible catastrophes precludes bigger ontological catastrophes. If cinema indeed leaves us, vision and visuality has to be reconstituted, uprooted, and destroyed along with the obliteration of the visual logic of the moving image. This reconstitutional process is prefigured arguably with the crisis of anthropocene, although Lyotard’s solar catastrophe might constitute the apocalypse that will eventually extinguished cinema in an eschatological sense. The crisis of anthropocene, however, appears to be the most imminent global catastrophe cinema has to go through. Its currency and global significance as the eschatological standard necessitates a productive confrontation. So what kind of catastrophe awaits in cinema in the age of anthropocene?

      Anthropocene refers to the crisis of over-determination of human agency in managing the limited natural resources of the planet. The crisis of the anthropocene narrativizes the productive-exploitative peak of human activity. It paints an image of an ecological and geological catastrophe signaled by the encroachment of global warming and the genocide of populations due to human-induced environmental disasters. Anthropocene is the eco/ego-logical fall of the human. In the age of anthropocene,, cinema’s materiality and industry, constituted by these productive-exploitative industries i.e. semi-conductor industry, plastic industry, silicon industry (for the lens) and telecommunications industry, will be irrecoverable and delimited. The material erasure of cinema comes also with its imminent erasure in the global subjectivity of things, actualize by the logic of the anthropocene that, up to now, continues to deconstitute cores and centers of subjectivity, deterritorializing, de-subjectivizing and ahistoricizing bodies, gestures, identities and forms.

What is a cinema without material? A ghost.

The End as Catastrophe of the Commons

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Diaz‚Äôs film The Day Before the End (2015), like Campos‚Äô book, also indexes the ‚Äėend‚Äô as a catastrophe, but this time, what Diaz attempts to paint is the ‚Äėend‚Äô as catastrophe of the commons. Unlike Campos‚Äô book that implicitly constitutes the ‚Äėend‚Äô as the invisible deterritorialization of hegemonic centers through the globalized capital, Diaz‚Äôs film reflects on the heretical condition of the linguistic end of the human. In the film we see three poet-heretics of different locutions. What Diaz vaguely paints is the image of the Tower of Babel in polysemic disarray. Like Jean-Marie Straub and Dani√®le Huillet‚Äôs sirens in From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979), these three heretical sirens signal the end as the triumph of silence or perhaps the end of human speech. The three heretical sirens (played by Hazel Orencio, Noel Miralles, and Noel Sto. Domingo) are figures of the human at the edge of the anthropocene, grappling perhaps the last subjective utterance of the human. Here, in Diaz‚Äôs frames, we come to an end.

What happens next is the transformative passage of all life to a new epoch: the epoch of ruins at the shoreline of disappearance and absence. The post-human era will be indexed as the end of the human and also as the end of cinema. What cinema leaves behind is an image of itself as a total abyss, for in the end, human visions ceases to exist, Visible light will no longer be tenable in the post-human era as new forms of affective sensibility associated with other electromagnetic waves like infrared, radio waves, and gamma rays will be explored in replacement to the visible-light-centered apparatus of cinema. All these, too, will come to an end.

Even in post-cinema, catastrophes await us.

May 2017
Quezon City, Manila

 


 Work Cited

[1] Campos, Patrick F., The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2016), p. 24

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Marking the 100th Year of the Great October Socialist Revolution

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In solidarity with the people, and in celebration of the 100th year of the Great October Socialist Revolution, I will dedicate a series of blog posts commemorating the basic concepts of Marxism and also problematizing some contemporary (post)-Marxists texts in relation to the orthodox approach of Marxist analysis that hinges on the base-superstructure¬†and historical materialist¬†methods in looking at social phenomena and immanent power relations in society. I’ve listed some of the texts below that I plan to read in the next few months while I prepare my thesis proposal for MA Media Studies (Film):

  • The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • The Communist Manifesto by¬† Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels
  • Materialism and Empiriocriticism by Vladimir Lenin
  • The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism by Vladimir Lenin
  • The Theory of the Subject by Alain Badiou
  • A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
  • Communist Hypothesis by Alain Badiou
  • Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino by Joma Sison
  • Reading Capital by Louis Althusser, Roger Establet, Pierre Macherey and √Čtienne Balibar
  • Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory by Raymond Williams
  • On Contradiction by Mao Tse-Tung
  • Specters of Marx by Jacques Derrida
  • Sublime Object of Ideology by Slavoj Zizek
  • Althusser’s Lesson¬†by Jacques Ranciere

Some of these texts have been dealt with by other scholars. My goal is to read them with a renewed critical focus on their ontological assertions on temporality/time and technology.

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Notes on a Documentary Featurette: ‘Rear Window – Pelikula Pilipino (Filipino Films): Lav Diaz’


Duration: 14′ 00” // Date: April 5, 2017

TeleSur English, which is, according to their Facebook About Page, ‘a Latin American-based media outlet committed to principled journalism with a global outlook from the SOUTH,’ hosted an interview with Lav Diaz when Diaz was in London last month. This documentary featurette contains¬†a discourse on politics and praxis where Diaz reaffirms his political position on the Duterte Regime. Here are some of my notes on the interview:

  • Marcosian Imaginary in Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan: It was crystal clear in this interview that Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2014) is a film about the young Ferdinand Marcos. Diaz outwardly expressed that Norte is his examination of the birth of fascism in the Philippines.
  • Diaz against the Duterte Regime: In this interview with screenwriter Emilie Bickerton, Diaz expressed his dissenting opinion on the Duterte regime. He described Duterte as a ‘mad man’ and detested Duterte’s¬†drug war and his idolatry (?) to the Marcoses.

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  • Language and Class: Diaz also discussed with Bickerton the class divide¬†on the local language, as reflected in his film¬†Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2014) when the character of Angeli Bayani, Eliza, speaks with the lawyer of his imprisoned husband. In the film, Eliza expressed discomfort on the foreignness of the legal provisions that disallows her to file a motion for reconsideration or appeal to the court. In the interview, Diaz sought to stratify the class divisions in Filipino society via language by placing Spanish and English language as spoken by the upper class and Tagalog by the ‘masses’ with omission on the existence of¬†regional languages like Bisaya and Hiligaynon.
  • Diaz against Historical Revisionism: Diaz also expressed his disappointment with the contemporary Filipino youth for their¬†lack of engagement with the historical past, in particular, as it can be implied, a strand of historical revisionism that emerged prior to the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
  • Art as Pedagogical Instrument: Diaz invoked all ‘artistic mediums’ to join forces in fighting the state apparatus and the ‘apathy and indifference’ in Filipino culture. Diaz believes, as he¬†has been saying in other interviews, that art and/or¬†cinema can educate (and acculturate), that they are pedagogical instruments.
  • Lav Diaz and Foucauldian Genealogy: The interview ended with a¬†note¬†from Diaz regarding the importance of an ‘examination of the past’¬†in reference to the present. For me, this configuration on historicizing is essentially Foucauldian: a genealogical critique requires that, in order to understand the present, an ‘examination of the past’ must be made.

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More to come in the future…

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Notes on the Video Interview: ‘Emancipated Cinema: A Conversation with Lav Diaz’

Link to post.

Mubi.com is conducting an almost year-long retrospective on Lav Diaz’s oeuvre titled It’s About Time: The Cinema of Lav Diaz [link], exclusively playing worldwide October 8, 2016 – July 27, 2017. Their blog website, MUBI Notebook, has also been generous of critically acknowledging Diaz’s cinema in writing since¬†2010 (see here).

This interview is one of many interviews Diaz conducted with MUBI.com although perhaps this is the first time that MUBI.com engaged with Diaz using an audio-visual format compared to their usually interview transcript type. With regards to the content of the interview, most of the questions are fairly rehashed versions of the frequently asked questions in Diaz’s career: about his process, his prejudice, his idea of cinema, his memory of cinema, etc. These questions are author-centered, most of which are meant to profile Diaz as an artist-filmmaker, an orginator of a ‘new’ cinema. The interview is also meant to supplement the on-going retrospective, so it works as an appendage of sorts. As¬†a researcher who have read and re-read the transcripts of Diaz’s interview published since 2000, the purpose of this post is to respond to some of Diaz’s theoretical, practical and praxiological assertions, generalizations and conceptualizations in interview. The goal is to unmask any form of idealism in Diaz’s answers.

Here some of my notes from the interview they’ve done:

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MUBI: What is your earliest memory of cinema? ¬†[0′ 09”]

  • Childhood during Pre-Martial Law Period. Diaz narrated some specific memories of his childhood in Maguindanao, in particular the period in his life when his family stayed in Datu Paglas. The period was probably between 1958, his birth year, and 1970-71, when he was thirteen or fourteen years old, a year before the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines.
  • Diaz’s Provincial Cinephilia/Formation of Regionalist Subjectivity. He¬†recalled¬†a particular memory when his father would took him (and his siblings?) to a town three to four hours away from Datu Paglas (probably Tacurong City) where four stand-alone cinemas¬†stood. The four cinemas showed double bills every weekend.
  • Film School.¬†And looking back, with reference to a present idea of film school, he considered this experience as his ‘film school‘.

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MUBI: How important is it to keep the number of people on your crew to a minimum?¬†¬†[1′ 33”]

  • Diaz against the large-crew set-up in filmmaking. Diaz expressed his preference towards a ‘lean and mean’ cinema. Diaz disagreed with the idea of cinema people overdoing the filmmaking process by employing many technical staff (i.e. camera department with 25 to 75 people). He said that this large-crew set-up create a lot of troubles and that the artist-filmmaker loses artistic-aesthetic focus and subjectivity in the process.
  • On the importance of attaining Aesthetic Focus. Diaz prefers an approach to cinema geared towards attaining an aesthetic focus (i.e. ‘focus on the story, focus on the characters, focus on creating some geographic template… trying to find the more realistic templates for the film. The geographic template will create the aesthetic template. A better understanding of the milieu of the character.’).
  • Artist-Filmmaker as Individual rather than Collective Subjectivity. This essentially brings us to¬†Diaz’s aesthetic film authorship as a subjectivity formed¬†from an individualist rather than a collective domain of film making practice. For Diaz, the vision of the filmmaker-as-artist or as-aesthetic-mover has to come through. This is his¬†praxiological paradigm.

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MUBI: Besides economics, what do you find appealing about digital filmmaking?¬†¬†[3′ 15”]

  • From Digital-as-Emancipation to Emancipation as Reinforcing the Author-Function. Diaz vaguely conflates the idea of digital ¬†with the idea of emancipation. But Diaz’s idea of emancipation is not really the radical sort associated with¬†mass movements in the past. Let us be clear here in drawing the line on the politics encrypted in Diaz’s idea of emancipation. For Diaz, this emancipation¬†can be viewed only in the purview of the artist-filmmaker. In some sense, Diaz’s idea of emancipation via digital reinforces the authority of author, the artist-filmmker. ‘Emancipation’ here is a compromised concept, a concept not critical of the author-function, but rather a reinforcing one.
  • Digital is Liberation if and only if it liberates the filmmaker. For Diaz, the digital revolution is¬†the emancipation of the artist-filmmaker from the techno-economic closure of celluloid filmmaking. For Diaz, the digital revolution awarded filmmakers a personalized filmmaking practice: ‘Now we own the tool, now we own the guitar. Now we own our brush. Nobody is imposing on you.’ For Diaz, having this freedom to create via the¬†digital medium is ‘more important than having big budget’ recalling his experience with the studio system in the late 1990s.

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MUBI: Your films are often described as “Slow Cinema.” What do you think about this label?¬†[4′ 55”]

  • Lav Diaz Against a Dominant Orientation of Cinema. For Diaz, the idea of slow cinema emerged as opposition force against the dominant orientation that cinema must¬†comprise of two characteristics: (1) fast cuts and (2) an average duration of two hours. Abridgment of narrative and duration is¬†one of the dominant formal orientation of cinema which Diaz is against. This dominant orientation in cinema is, for Diaz, an imposed practice¬†perhaps, although not mentioned explicitly, by the free market.
  • Art vs. Industry….Again? Diaz equates art¬†as an abolition of the film industrial¬†imposition on cinematic duration: ‘art is free’. Diaz¬†creates a¬†diametrical opposition between art and industry. This prejudice towards industry is¬†actually surprisingly unchanged since his essay Aesthetics of Batang West Side (d. 2001). Diaz’s insistence for the abolition of the industry control over aesthetic choices of the filmmaker paints a contradiction in his praxis. The contradiction emerges from the recent production of his films¬†Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (2016) and Ang Babaeng Humayo (2016). His contradictory approach to filmmaking makes me wonder:¬†What constitutes the politics of emancipation of a filmmaker if¬†one¬†is already in collaboration with the industry, and therefore complicit with the culture of exploitation of the industry? For Diaz, the elimination of a profit¬†motive and the change of perspective from cinema-as-profit or¬†cinema-as-entertainment to cinema-as-culture or ¬†cinema-as-art frees the filmmaking from the imposing clasp of the market-driven industry.
  • The Market for Long Durations. Diaz¬†declares that he does not do cinema for the market. However, his recent excursions with market-driven local, transnational and international producers and ¬†distributors like Star Cinema (PH), Kino Lorber (USA), ARP Selection (France), etc., all of which are registered film distribution companies with corporate orientation in their business models, prove otherwise.¬†Diaz has overlooked the role of cultural capital (Bourdieu) in constituting the market for his cinema. Diaz¬†won major awards in several of major film festivals in Europe (in particular: Locarno, Venice and Berlin).¬†His rise to a global auteur status gave him enough cultural capital to establish a market for his films. His films indeed cater to an art-elite film festival-going segment of the mass market. Hence, this denial of market-driven praxis constitutes Diaz’s contradiction as well as the limitation of his critical attribution for an emancipative path through cinema. This contradiction¬†creates¬†a new window to us with regards to how we can critically study¬†Diaz’s politics of duration. We might be tempted to accept Diaz’s declaration as is without looking outside its rhetorical frame. Diaz’s politics of duration is not limited to his ideation of what cinema is. Instead, the study of politics of duration must expand towards understanding the regimes of ideology, technics and temporality that constitute¬†his impetus to say so. Is the¬†regime of capitalism, through its dispersal encroachment in the realm of digital and digitality, which gives us a sense of false freedom, co-opts the radical potential of Diaz’s cinema? If¬†slow duration has emanciptory potential to¬†provide an alternative politics of time to a world immersed in fast-cuts and the instant, then what kind of praxiological paradigm does it entail?¬†What constitutes a radical duration? What is the relation of a radical duration with a revolutionary duration? These questions are paramount to my thesis on Lav Diaz.
  • Diaz and Genres. Diaz discussed about adapting genre paradigms in his cinema. For Diaz, genre is not a problem¬†for its ‘usability’, as paradigms.
  • Long=Short: On the Ontology of Durations. In this interview, as well as in¬†some interviews he conducted in past, Diaz homogenizes the ontological difference between long and short cinema. This is however problematic¬†in a political economic sense. From a materialist perspective, a material distinction exist between long and short durations. No two regime of temporality are alike or reducible to One. As Badiou puts it, One always become Two.¬†For Diaz, the ontology of cinema cannot be made on the basis of duration. This is someway similar to how Deleuze constitute the idea of difference: that¬†there can only be a difference-in-kind and not a difference-in-degree. Well, if indeed duration is of the order of degree, then Diaz’s insistence of homogenization is valid. Yet,¬†the problem¬†with this proposition is that duration is not in the order of degree, but in order of substance and material. In cinema, duration is a material characteristic. It is corporeal. One of the challenges of my research is to determine whether duration is a difference-in-degree or a difference-in-kind.

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MUBI: How free are your actors with characterization and improvisation? [8′ 38”]

To be continued…

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Movie Posters of Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left, 2016)

Below is a visual presentation of different official and unofficial posters of Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left, 2016). As of today,  the film has been distributed to three countries (Philippines, France and Italy) by Creative Programs, Inc., ARP Selection, and Microcinema respectively. As of February 2017, Kino Lobrer acquired rights to all types of media related to the film for North American Distribution.

2017 – North American Poster :: Kino Lorber

WWL Poster for web

2016 – French Poster :: ARP Selection

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2016 – Philippine Poster :: Star Cinema / Creatives Programs, Inc.

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by artist – unknown

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Another study by Raphael Laureta.

 

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Edel Garcellano on Cinema // √Čtienne Balibar on Critique in the 21st Century

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Films do not allow for long-term, liberative transformation. If they did, the Filipino movie fan would have drastically altered the politico-social landscape. It is precisely on this premise of ideological ambiguations that the Frankfurt School started to question the so-called “culture industry” and its power or non-power to lead us to greener pastures. We know better: popular culture delivered via the electronic and print media has made us laugh ourselves to death.

– From Interventions (PUP Press: 1998, p.245)


Garcellano/Balibar on the Erasure and Disavowal of Violence as Violence

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Photo from here

Balibar:

I would say that what seems to characterize the world-scale dimensions [la mondialit√©] of the ‚Äėcrisis‚Äô ‚Äď which is at once local and global, and is not foreign to the eschatological connotations it takes on in our discourses and conscience ‚Äď is the superposition of two ‚Äėphenomena‚Äô that seem at first sight heterogeneous, but that we can try to relate to one another in a quasi-analytical, or perhaps pseudo-analytical, schema. The first is the emergence of an economy of generalized violence that cuts across borders and combines endemic wars with other forms of exterminating violence ‚Äď indeed, eliminating violence, since what is involved is not death in the strict sense, even if there are at this moment many deaths, under different modalities. [9] Exclusion, for example, or, perhaps even better, to use the category that Saskia Sassen recently deployed with impressive force and scope, the generalized expulsion of individuals and groups from their ‚Äėplace‚Äô in the world, in any world whatever. [10] No one doubts that violence is immemorial, that it assumes myriad forms and has myriad causes, or that it is an anthropological characteristic of the human being as such. But the violence that seems able to cut across any and every border, and indeed to use borders themselves as the instruments of its own generalization, is in a way a new phenomenon whose novelty rests on the fact that every person may in time be potentially confronted by it.¬†(link)

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A still from The Fatima Buen Story (Mario O’Hara / PH / 1994)

Garcellano:

In a sense, Fatima Buen is symptomatic of how violence in Philippine cinema has worked to the entrenchment of fascist powers as well as state discourse on aesthetics and functions, where the disavowal of violence is the very affirmation of it, thus enabling the consuming public to suffer violence, denounce it, and accept it once more in a ritual so catatonic as visiting the Church every Sun– day where redemption is implied on a seemingly recurrent cycle. It is precisely on the banalization through repetition that the state machine replenishes itself, energizes itself, and rules the crowd in a never-ending turn, as it were, of the bizarre carousel of life, death, ennui, eros.

[…]

Such a film as Fatima Buen in fact supplements the denial of liberative violence, rechanneling eros and visions toward the extra-communal formulation of violence. Redemption ‚ÄĒ as in most Filipino films ‚ÄĒ is a personalized, and apolitical concern and does not trace itself to the hegemonic order that triggers it.

Interventions (PUP Press, 1998, p.244)

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Tolentino on Clique Formation and Segmentation in Philippine Indie Cinema

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“While the spirit of indie filmmaking calls for a solidarity of the margins, what is consequently being formed in the indie filmmaking scene is segmentation and fraternal links based on filmmaking styles, funding cliques, and international festival exposure. There was a time when indie filmmakers would help each other out in the financing and production of their films. But what is happening are indie filmmakers of the same persuasion assisting each other. The fizzling out of the “indie spirit” stems from the construction of segmentation of filmmakers based on filmmaking practices. When segmentation occurs because of the filters of funding source and exposure to international film festival markets, then what becomes of indie cinema is an unprincipled and wavering kind of film practice, no longers contingent on the very idea of divergent filmmaking practice. The look and feel of indie cinema is reproducible, but the spirit behind indie filmmaking is not. The materiality of indie cinema still lies in its capacity to offer itself as a divergent film practice outside mainstream cinema and within its own confines.”¬†(p. 13)

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Compre Exam Review Notes and Updates #1: Zhang Yimou/Campos/D&G/

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DAY 1 Р3: REFERENCE HUNTING

With only a few days after the orientation last January 9, I spent my few days gathering all the book needed for the review. Very, very special thanks to Rose Roque for providing more than enough reading material for borrowing, especially the Philippine Cinema section. I also bought books available at the academic press. Thanks to mother and father for providing financial contribution for the references I bought. I still have other references to look for and book to photocopy. I managed to find other references in the web and have them printed right away. I will have access to other book tomorrow @ the library.

So far, I have 80% of the required literature reading and I am infinitely astounded by the volume of readings I have read. What more if this is a PhD exams? Can I survive? I enjoy theory a lot and I enjoy reading all these texts, but given the time pressure, it’s a torture. Let’s put it in numbers: 25 books in one month. The hell with it! Let’s read them all, even at lightning speed.

DAY 4: A Day with Zhang Yimou

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JAN 14 (Sat) – I saw for the first time Zhang Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (1991), one of the required films for the comprehensive exams. It was astounding! The use of color red as a metaphor for so many things, but does it function only at the metaphorical level? The color red functions also as a cultural index and a territorial marker. I could go at length in discussing the geopolitics of red, and even implicate McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red for odd reasons. Where am I going? But the¬†delirium and poststructuralist avowal of the color red in the film reactivates the politicization of the mise-en-scene. The mise-en-scene is at work here. ¬†More of writings on this in the next few days.

Day 5A: Campos and Crossings

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Day 5B: C

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