Jealousy and violence take center stage in this claustrophobic melodrama, a tautly constructed character study set in the slums of Manila. Lino Brocka crafts an eviscerating portrait of an innocent daughter and her bitter mother as women scorned. Insiang leads a quiet life dominated by household duties, but after she is raped by her mother’s lover and abandoned by the young man who claims to care for her, she exacts vicious revenge. A savage commentary on the degradations of urban poverty, especially for women, Insiang was the first Philippine film ever to play at Cannes. Continue reading
J. Hoberman, The Village Voice:
Set in a tiny Philippine village, the inimitable Kidlat Tahimik’s film focuses on a family that makes papier-mache animals to sell during the traditional Turumba festivities. One year, a German department store buyer purchases all their stock. When she returns with an order for 500 more (this time with the word “Oktoberfest” painted on them), the family’s seasonal occupation becomes year-round alienated labor. Increased production, however creates inflated needs. Soon, virtually the whole village has gone to work on a jungle assembly line, turning out papier-mache mascots for the Munich Olympics. Long before the town band learns to play “Deutschland Uber Alles”, the fabric of village life has been torn asunder. The ironies of capitalism on the margin – Coca-Cola ads amid the shanties and ancient rituals – make easy targets for Tahimik’s wit. But his sharp eye never makes him seem bitter. Here, as in Perfumed Nightmare, Tahimik demonstrates great affection for his subjects, without stooping to romanticism (1983 presumably; taken from the DVD). Continue reading
Like Prologue to the Great Desparecido, Elegy finds Diaz looking back to the Filipino Revolution of the last years of the 19th century. Here, he imagines a woman from that era visiting the Philippines of the present-day. Around her time-travel, Diaz weaves a three stories with characters drawn from his usual stock: a prostitute, a musician and three petty criminals. As so often in Diaz’s recent work, Elegy looks back to the Revolution to measure the vast distance between the hopes of that defeated movement and the poverty, desperation and corruption (both political and spiritual) of the Philippines today Continue reading
Upon first glance, Perfumed Nightmare looks amateurish and raw. It is, too, I suppose, but this works to the film’s advantage. This is the semiautobiographical story of a young Filipino man (played by writer/director Kidlat Tahimik) who worships everything about America. He is especially caught up in the space program: he wants to visit Cape Canaveral, and he is the president and founder of his small (300 people) village’s Werner Von Braun fan club. This might just be the only fan club in the world that worships the Bavarian expatriate who is regarded as the father of rocketry. He and his club members have ice cream sales to fund their activities, which include sponsoring the Miss Philippenes pageant. Continue reading
With its depiction of cruelty and woe, Florentina Hubaldo, CTE is one of Diaz’s darkest films, the third of a trilogy about trauma and its aftermath (after Death in the Land of Encantos and Melancholia).The title character is a woman held captive by her father who has forced her into a life of prostitution. Her story is intertwined with that of a couple of fortune hunters digging for buried treasure in a narrative scheme that is revealed only gradually. With chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a progressive degenerative disease found in individuals who have received multiple head injuries, the film’s title becomes a diagnosis of the physiological reasons for Florentina’s mental decline. She herself is clearly an allegorical stand-in for the long-suffering Filipino people. The film’s brutality is a cry of anger at 300 years of colonial plunder and misrule. Continue reading
“Insiang” is Lino Brocka’s tale of one girl’s coming of age in the slums of Manila. The title character, played by Hilda Koronel, is a young girl who lives in a small crowded shanty with her mother, Tonia (Mona Lisa). Her boyfriend Danny (Rez Cortez) treats her little better than a sex object and her mother’s lover Dado (Ruel Vernal), overcome by desire for young Insiang, rapes her in her own home. She runs to her mother for sympathy but gets rejected instead. Disillusioned and worn out, Insiang decides on revenge.
“Insiang” has the distinction of being the first Filipino film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978, where both Lino Brocka and Hilda Koronel garnered much attention and acclaim from the international film community. The film also earned a number of important awards and nominations including the Manila Film Festival Best Actress Award for Koronel. Continue reading
In the year 2050, the Philippines braces for the coming of the fiercest storm ever to hit the country. And as the wind and waters start to rage, poets wander the streets.
Lav Diaz, who just won the Berlinale Silver Bear for his 8-hour film Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), will be in competition with the world premiere of his 16-minute short film Ang araw bago ang wakas, in which passages from Shakespeare are recited by ordinary people on the backdrop of a nocturnal city in the Philippines that’s bracing for a raging tempest. Continue reading