Monday, January 18, 2016

I tried: 2015 in Short Films (sort of)

*This is also intended as my ballot for Pinoy Rebyu's Best Short Films of 2015 poll.

Some weeks ago, I asked Skilty (the one who organized this poll) what does he think of 2015 for short films. He answered: "maraming matino ang pagkakagawa" ("most have decent production"). This remains true, however, I still find it hard to assess last year (or even the past 3 years) for short films: while the comfort of digital film-making brought short films at par with (or probably even better than) most feature length films, the recent years have seen lesser filmmakers who explore and experiment with the medium, probably the only things I look for in a short film. This list might be the reflection of that personal struggle to find challenging pieces of work.

The last year has also been a challenging year for me for witnessing cinema as life always needs more urgent attention, so forgive me if most of what was written here are either films I saw on CinemaLibre Film Screenings (probably the only times that I've actually watched a film in a venue) which I helped organized or films and video works which were released online. I have not covered much from last year, but I think this lot that I've listed below are nonetheless the more interesting bunch from the films I get to see from last year (also, thanks to Skilty from helping us participants of this poll to catch up).

You might notice my thematic selection of meta-cinematic works and analog-fusion works in this list: these recent trend of exploring cinematic history thru films and technology has taken an interest in me, as though these filmmakers were trying to find answers by placing contrasts in place: the past and the present, the hardware and the software. The rest of the films I mentioned here were just from my own honest personal liking that I really wanted to share with everyone, hoping you'd find the same experiences I did.


10. Pusong Bato (Pam Miras)
True to it's title, Miras' Pusong Bato involves two people who have never opened themselves to each other over the course of the whole film. The notion of being "stucked" is apparent throughout the films, and maybe, the filmmakers themselves who seems not to get tired playing around with celluloid hand-processing. I'd say that it's still worth the adoration the way they still wanted to physically interact with the medium, however, this is a work with old tricks (pseudo-flickers, etc). Pusong Bato, while itself can be called an achievement in persistence of celluloid production, must remain as a reminder for the Tito and Tita collective to explore what more the hand-processing method could give them aside from getting the retro film. How about let's take this question for a queue: Would celluloid give us the feel of a future?


9. Dindo (Martika Ramirez Escobar)
Editing was the highlight in Dindo: it stressed an editor's function as something as vital as the director's all in an easy to digest manner. Ramirez never really had any trouble making any film she made as light as possible but still retaining wit and intellect, making her the most audience-friendly young filmmaker working today.



8. Sanctissima (Kenneth Dagatan)
Dagatan's Sanctissima showed the thin line between love and bizarre - how one would go to extended measures to nurture, extend and protect who they love. This would have been a good poetry about motherhood, but only with flesh eating and demons. Sanctissima was made with all the basic elements of horror films made more effective with great screen composition.



7. Shotgun Tuding (Shireen Seno)
The question of why Shotgun Tuding was created is still a mystery to me, but one thing's for sure, it wouldn't be made if not with 16mm. The desaturated frames compliments a lot with the sand dunes, the western inspired costumes and the B-movie-ish production design. I wonder how would it feel if this was seen projected in celluloid.



6. Iris (Mike Esteves)
Esteves's silent work took obssession in weird turns. One would see Wes Anderson on one side and feel Junji Ito on the other. The almost 1:1 aspect ratio added tension on every pan of the screen, some scenes are too tense it's almost dreamlike. A weird mix of beauty and absurd.


5. Mga Alingawngaw sa Panahon ng Pagpapasya (Hector Barretto Calma)
The main achievement of Mga Alingawngaw... is that it's one of the works that actually took a step on criticizing the current administration (though indirectly) and take a look of the situation of it's current milieu and what is actually happening to their own country: one thing that almost all Filipino Filmmakers (young and old) seem to have forgotten to do with all these recent wave of feelms. Mga Alingawngaw... makes me think that the recent scene is not yet a hopeless case as long as people like Calma are still creating films.



4. Cyber D3vil X Ahas (Timmy Harn)
Harn did what was usually isn't done by filmmakers here: to extend the universe of the films they created. Cyber D3vil X Ahas follows the reptilian, in contrast of what we saw in Ang Pagbabalat ng Ahas, being free and enjoying himself in a bicycle. The film is presenting a narrative possibility that may or may not happen, but sure is something worth considering to be extended.



3. Corazon (Francis Sacil-Espina)
What seems to be a murder scene was actually a double suicide gone wrong. Espina retold Romeo and Juliet backwards in crisp black and white cinematography in high contrast to compliment a song of adoration by Brickcity - whom I consider as the most interesting musical act in the country right now. Espina also did a great video work for Brickcity's Common Remedies for Contemporary People last year.



2. Man in the Cinema House (Bernard Jay Mercado)
Mercado couldn't be any more clearer of his criticisms and intentions to Philippine Cinema. What he presented in The Man in the Cinema House is not just the things he sees wrong but also what he thinks our Cinema ought to be. Mercado must be admired for his fearlessness and honesty.



1. Excerpt from "INDEPENDENCIA 86: The Lost Film of Arturo Madlangbayan" as re-edited by Miko Revereza and Raya Martin (Miko Revereza | Raya Martin)
Independencia 86 simulates the experience of how enthusiasts and scholars alike would have seen MOWELFUND shorts (or any independent film work) in the 90s: watching from an analog video recording of a celluliod projection with 4-track audio recording. The short seem to attain what Raymond Red's Kamera Obscura wanted to attain with lesser running time and more appeal. Of all the neo-retro (or pseudo-retro, if you prefer) short films I've seen recently, this one has attained the intended effect closer to the real thing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Tale of Two Oedipi*




  muh freedomz


Cornejo’s Apocalypse Child was never the story about finding or clarifying one's identity as the QCinema’s jury citation or the gimmick of the film would suggest. Almost everyone in the film is well aware of their own truths (almost absolute truths). But the film could be read in two ways: first, as a story of people struggling with the truths they know, making amends with it on their way to self-liberation; or, second, a tale of two Oedipi who have murdered their fathers and make their mothers their wives. As far as the signifiers took me, I went for the latter.

Rich (RK Bagatsing) was the first real Oedipus. What’s interesting in the film was how Rich also became King Laius himself: turned into a figure of authority and by the end affirmed his disposition as something he learned (as he learned so much, he said) from his dead father. This brings us to our second Oedipus, Ford, who is a basic Oedipus image, so basic he’s a bore and didn’t require much of a reading to be understood (though they tried to make him as interesting as they could, with their Apocalypse Now! gimmick). Ford is so easy to read for someone who's supposed to have identity issues.

To be fair with Sophocles, the two aren’t his Oedipus:  Sophocles’ Oedipus blinded himself out of guilt and faced the sphinx to solve a riddle, while Rich and Ford made amends with their guilt by accepting and affirming their respective father’s torments. The two are Oedipi straight out of Freud’s notes.

Freud used Oedipus to further his research on unlocking the human mind via human sexuality, like a key to unlock the key to unlock Pandora’s Box. This is where Freud was mostly misunderstood that he’s just all about sex, or dropping the name Freud equates to talking about sex. Freud talks about the human mind, with sex and sexuality as his “narrative device”. Apocalypse Child makes use of the same narrative device to unlock each of the two Oedipus.

One would notice the series of sex scenes and sexual tensions which was spread throughout the film, in the same fashion on how more recent European films came to use sex scenes as a narrative device and not just mere spectacle, these scenes became the key to RK and Ford: or let’s say that the film only talks when there’s sex or sexual tensions. Here is where Apocalypse Child has ultimately succeeded: the reintroduction (and re-imagination) of sex and sexuality as a discourse in a Filipino film.

Nothing is ground breaking or new about the film and its approach, but the most interesting part of it and also of its reception is how it confirmed Foucault’s take on the deployment of sexuality as:

…a new distribution of pleasures, discourses, truths, and powers; it has to be seen as the self-affirmation of one class rather than the enslavement of another: a defense, a protection, a strengthening, and an exaltation that were eventually extended to others- at the cost of different transformations-as a means of social control and political subjugation. (Part 4 - Chapter 4; The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction).

Apocalypse Child maybe just another affirmation of one class’ agenda: like a typical liberal call for “sexual open-mindedness”, while not really intending to repress the other, it pushed its device, justify its cause in the name of nature, shove it to your throat and would say “you should do this too”, thinking that your life and freedom depended on it.


Post script:
I can’t take my mind off Rich, who, by the end of the film, sounds a bit like those Marcos Revivalists on facebook (or worse, like those neo-facists). 

* I'm not sure whether Oedipi is actually a word, but it's sure sound a lot cuter than Oedipuses.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Automaton Writings #1: Reminiscing Rivermaya's Liwanag sa Dilim and the mid '00s

 *Automaton Writings will be this blog's section for non-film related posts, since I can't seem to write anything about movies at all recently, I'd just use this blog this way
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Listen to Liwanag sa Dilim here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvGYqdvZvYM

2005 was a time when radio airwaves and TV signals were transitioning from and cleansing itself of sex jokes: either of sex jokes on lyrics or people who are being sex jokes themselves (but they still have to wait for more time before Willie Revillame was taken out from the air, but only to return years later). It was also the time when you'd start seeing from either from Pinoy Weekly or your college papers counts (tally?) victims of political murders and of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo regime. Those were what we could say dark times, but with a kind of darkness which brought feelings of uncertainty.

No one was happy, or no one knows how to be. You'd sense remains (or spectres) of grunge nihilism. Even jumping emo kids tend to dance not with songs of celebration but of hurt and pain, and never without a scar. It was a time of symbolic depression, paired with real depression brought by the body count of the dead and missing. The State never really made the killings a secret. The President then even commended Jovito Palparan for his role as the state's butcher.[1]

Perhaps I was too young to think about it back then and some may have perceived it, but it was really spot-on that Rivermaya has released then their instant hit, Liwanag sa Dilim.

Liwanag sa Dilim was made as light as possible, while its lyrics call to stand up and to break with history: as though a sudden wake up call for those who are still asleep. The song spoke of being a light; not really what you'd expect to come out in the midst of a rock scene then crowded with black shirts and heart aches.

Fast forward, 10 years later, radio airwaves now only play old songs (or old songs recycled by new singers) and TV confusing the people of what was real or not, in addition to several other screens people are looking at right now (mobiles, PCs) to form their daily realities and ideas: a time when every light shines too bright it overshadows the darkness, but never really get rid of it. Everything's too bright now, that most of us get blinded by it. What now, is our alternative for this brightness? Do we have to regress to darkness again just to have the light focused on what should we focusing about? Is this the reason why most netizens crave for Fascism again?[2]

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Notes:

1. Arroyo, Gloria Macapagal. Sixth State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2006. "And we will end the long oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists who kill without qualms, even their own. Sa mga lalawigang sakop ng 7th Division, nakikibaka sa paglaban si Jovito Palparan. Hindi siya aatras hanggang makawala sa gabi ng kilabot ang mga pamayanan at maka-ahon sa bukang-liwayway ng hustisya at kalayaan." Retrieved from: http://www.gov.ph/2006/07/24/gloria-macapagal-arroyo-sixth-state-of-the-nation-address-july-24-2006/.

2. Recent exchanges of opinions online regarding the coming elections tend to sway either in favor of the tandem of the now celebrity senator, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., or a call for Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (one who is regularly linked to the vigilantes who murders/executes criminals in Davao) to run for presidency.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fragments: On Animation, Humans, and Garri Bardin

 Konflikt (1983)

[Note: This was a draft I made back in 2012 about Garri Bardin. I was not sure anymore why I haven't finished or published this, but, the write up seems "good" as it is, lmao, so posting it here, fuck, the way I write never change, I still suck.]

There was this one time when we were tasked to have a report on Modern Art forms in our Humanities class, our group leader asked me to report on Animation, by that time I really like to report on cinema, but she gave that to our co-member whom I've yet to know and has no courage to ask to so I ended up doing that Animation report.

It was always a hobby for me to consult Wikipedia, since it almost have most of the basic things to cover, I never really got serious on it at first. But as I've explored more on the subject, I've gotten deeply interested in it to the point of wanting to do it as well.

Of all the forms, I've been always interested of things that are made by hand: Hand-drawn 2D and stop-motion animation. Unlike computer-generated animation, hand-made animation made seems much closer to it's creator's vision: all those hand prints on clay and unequal lines on drawings made me feel it's humanity. Just like what I search always on movies, even on extremely fictional beings portrayed, I still wanted to feel the human. Most of the time, it's beauty comes from it's imperfections and how the animator utilize them.

And so, I've searched for a lot more animators, especially on stop-motion. Unlike live-actions, animation is a safe place for artist to express their views without endangering actors' image. So the artist could go all out with them. I've seen animation used for propaganda, for advocacy, and as love letters. There are also those personal and highly subjective ones, which usually interest me most.

I've only learned recently of Garri Bardin, who have just released a DVD of his first feature, The Ugly Duckling. I've decided to see some of his earlier works before seeing this one. Bardin is an animator from Russia whose works start from the latter years of the USSR.

In Konflikt (Conflict, 1983), Bardin used matchsticks to depict conflicts and insecurities among humans and nations. How big every nation would act on little things that could be just fixed manually and not necessarily through war. War was never a solution. It critiques war and it's effect: that winning a battle is not really something to celebrate.

Bardin adapted Puss in Boots in 1995, I always thought that there was no moral lesson from the fairy tale, Bardin filled that gap. Here, Bardin updated the fairy tale to the 20th century: commercialism, pseudo-philantrophy, and wide range poverty. A plane dropped donations to a poor community, and our drunk protagonist gained nothing but a cat inside an American Flag bag. The cat was more or less the America and it's promise of a better life to everyone in the world. The drunkard is the gullible poor man who in the end become a victim of his greed.

[nothing follows]

Paradise Lost






Some notes on Shinji Higuchi’s Attack on Titan



Shinji Higuchi's Attack on Titan is an easy target for the fans of the source material to hate. Like most problems on literary to cinematic translations, a lot may have been altered, removed from, and added to the source material for it to fit either to the ease of creation or the runtime limitation of commercial screenings. But that may not be the case for Attack on Titan.

"When you make a picture, you must not respect the novel," says Alejandro Jodorowsky on adapting a literary material to a film. He added that the process of adaptation must be how a married couple conceives a child through rape. "I was raping Frank Herbert... But with love." For Jodorowsky, it’s all about conceiving the adaptation as your own.

Higuchi probably did the same thing: raping Hajime Ishiyama with love. Higuchi’s Attack on Titan made its film more appealing than the source by severely altering the setting: from a retrogressive Middle Age town to a post-war community of ruins, complete with dysfunctional machines as artifacts of the present time, giving it a futuristic-dystopian feel. The setting was appropriated and made it closer to mankind and its history, specifically, closer to Japan’s people and history.

In the opening scene, Armin (Kanata Hongo) is running thru a chaotic landscape of concrete ruins with Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) looking for their friend, Eren (Haruma Miura), only to find him standing on top of a missile half buried in the soil. Upon their examination while they dust off the missile, it revealed them a drawing of a blonde girl in bikini beside the beach. This scene bears similarity with Takashi Yamazaki’s Always – Sunset on Third Street (2005)’s opening scene – Post-war Japan recovering from ruins, people working with their hopes up, and the missile echoes what they have gone through.

The setting tells the fable of their origins, it initiated their explorations - the question of whether either the Titans or the oceans are real, their relationship to the space they’re in and to the walls that divides them internally and from the truth of outside. These spaces drove the discourse throughout the film – just like how it was in the original material, but seeing concrete modern ruins instead of castles made it hit closer to home. Contributing greatly to this are the riddles of Captain Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa).

The conditions gave by the setting are the pathways for the characters to move. These conditions serve as the spaces for its narrative; after all, the material is really a story about places and territories.

As for the other highlight of the movie: Higuchi gave the Titans here no grace nor beauty, as it always have been with the material; one would expect this film to have them on CGI, but Higuchi adapted an older film technique used for Kaiju and Tokusatsu works: to have humans in costumes and let the old “Movie Magic” do the trick, with relatively lesser aid from CGI. In effect, it gave a more “human” touch to the Titans: a bit clumsy and awkward unlike how they were depicted on the animated version. One would remember Higuchi using the same method on the Studio Ghibli Commissioned short film, Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo(2012).

The setting and other artistic choices were the filmmakers’ attempt to bring the material closer to its audience’s reality, and not to fall back to the source’s Tolkien-esque Middle Age regression. Higuchi tried to make sense of the story while reflecting on his peoples’ history, something that Ishiyama might have missed on his material. A failure it might have been as an adaptation, Higuchi’s Attack on Titan is a success as a film.
 

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Edit: Sorry for the mess, reader.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mainit: masarap maligo, mahirap magsulat.

GM (Group Message) ata yung nareceive ko, mula kay Princess Kinoc.

Gagawa daw siya ng website para sa 500 Films challenge, inimbita niya ko magsulat. Um-oo naman ako. Without actually figuring out what am I going to do with it, what am I going to write about (or if I could actually write, lol, which is the very first question since I've started this whole blog).

Pero, naka-oo na. At gusto ko din naman.

Gusto ko magsulat. Matagal ko na gusto bumalik sa pagsusulat. Di naman big comeback as fuck lol. As if may nageexpect nun.

Besides, sa paraang nagsusulat ako ngayon in Taglish, walang maayos na lalabas sa mga maipopost, pero gusto ko pa rin.

Gusto ko maayos ulit yung moda ko dito.

Tanginang corporate life, nakaka-drain ng creative juice (implying na meron).

Ayun, sa mga iilang magbabasa nito, salamat at pasensya sa abala.

Suntok sa dingding.

Suntok sa sahig.

Suntok sa monitor.

Suntok sa bumbunan.

Pitik sa bayag.

Shet.

Gusto ko magsulat ulit.