This post is reposted from Correspondence N.1: On the Epistemology of Arrival, Lav Diaz, Argentina x Brazil. In order to systematize my writings in preparation for my thesis proposal, I will keep a regular log of my research on Lav Diaz.
A Sneak Peak on my Archival Research on Lav Diaz
Day 1: Ground Zero (July 9, 2017)
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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?