Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)


One “M” is better than two
From December 25 – January 7, cinemas in the Philippines are polluted by an event known as the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF for short). More than just a venue for less than stellar films, the “festival” is a den of corruption, with the rules, regulations, selection criteria, and awarding criteria, changing unannounced every year to suit whosoever is in the organizer’s favor.

An important aspect of the Metro Manila Film Festival is the fact that, for its duration, there is a nationwide blackout on foreign films. Handled properly, an event with a policy such as this could be a source of national pride– no country that I know does something as daring, let alone at this time of the year (though many have policies throughout the year regarding the percentage of local films that must be screened)– but given its current state, it is an extreme form of oppression.

Held at a time when audiences are most inclined and most free to watch films, it was initially conceptualized as a way to support producers in the Philippines for their efforts throughout the year and to gift audiences with a selection of films, regardless of genre, that we could be proud of.

I’ve written about the Metro Manila Film Festival several times in the past (I will post some of those old articles here in the coming days), but words (and a personal boycott) alone are not enough this time. Audiences must be given options.

Mogwai, a small arts cafe and digital cinema space in the Cubao X (formerly the Marikina Shoe Expo) will be utilizing its 2nd floor deco screening room to show a selection of recent Philippine cinema of my choosing, dubbed as the 1st Unofficial Mogwai Film Festival (MFF for short).

Some of the films to screen have been praised and shown around the world (the works of Lav Diaz, Raya Martin, John Torres), others are ones that deserve more attention locally than they have received thus far (Sa North Diversion Road by Dennis Marasigan, In Da Red Korner by Dado Lumibao, When Timawa Meets Delgado by Ray Gibraltar, the short films of Antoinette Jadaone, the first feature of Ato Bautista), and others still have been praised, but rarely considered (i.e. written about) in the manner they deserve (Sherad Anthony Sanchez’s Huling Balyan ng Buhi, the short films of Roxlee, for which there is a dearth of critical literature available). Let this be an occasion not just for viewing cinema, but also for writing, blogging, debating, and arguing about it! That is, if we believe it matters.

Screening are free, donations are welcome, discussions will usually follow. The venue has a modest, comfortable capacity of about 35, so do come early. Hope to see you there.

1st Mogwai Film Festival
Screening schedule

December 28, Friday, 1pm: Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Lav Diaz)
December 29, Saturday, 1pm: Heremias, Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat ng Prinsesang Bayawak (Lav Diaz)
December 30, Sunday, 1pm: Kagadanan sa Banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Lav Diaz)
January 2, Wednesday, 9pm: Otros Trilogy + Todo Todo Teros (John Torres)
January 3, Thursday, 9pm: Sa North Diversion Road (Dennis Marasigan)
January 4, Friday, 8pm & 9pm: Antoinette Jadaone shorts, Roxlee animated shorts
January 5, Saturday, 7pm & 9pm: In Da Red Korner (Dado Lumibao), When Timawa Meets Delgado (Ray Gibraltar)
January 6, Sunday, 1pm: Kagadanan sa Banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Lav Diaz)
January 7, Monday, 9pm: Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula sa Kamulatan (Ato Bautista)
January 8, Tuesday, 9pm: Short Works + Huling Balyan ng Buhi (Sherad Anthony Sanchez)
January 9, Wednesday, 9pm & 10pm: Otros Trilogy + Todo Todo Teros (John Torres)
January 10, Thursday, 9pm: In Da Red Korner (Dado Lumibao)
January 11, Friday, 9pm: When Timawa Meets Delgado (Ray Gibraltar)
January 12, Saturday, 7pm & 9pm: Raya Martin Double Bill; Maicling pelicula nañg ysañg indio nacional (O Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan), Autohystoria
January 13, Sunday: Discussion day

The Seeker
December 22, 2007, 4:36 pm
Filed under: stills | Tags: ,








(Andrei Tarkovsky in Kidlat Tahimik’s Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari aka Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow aka I Am Furious…Yellow)

(stills in original size: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7)

*with thanks to Pet Malaya

Q&A with Chris Fujiwara on Little Black Book (Movies)
December 13, 2007, 4:37 pm
Filed under: books, interviews | Tags: , , , ,


A remarkable little (but heavy) release, The Little Black Book (Movies), has been getting some nice buzz on the internet lately (see Girish and one of the contributors, Noel Vera, gushing), and rightly so: it is truly a fine collection of short pieces on key scenes, films, people, speeches, and events in the history of cinema. Written by a roster that includes some of the most interesting writers on cinema today, the book balances well entries on popular cinema with ones on more neglected work, and features a healthy amount of pieces on countries with a smaller presence on the current cinematic map. Whether a casual lover of cinema or a hardcore cinephile, there is much to discover, to be intrigued by, within the books pages.

It is really impressive to see a book of such great, quality content, printed so nicely, and so readily available in popular bookstores– from Ljubljana to Manila! (in Manila it is available in both Fully Booked and National Bookstore– Oggs Cruz has noted its cheaper in NB: P1350 to FB’s, P1519).

I was curious about how the book was put together and decided to e-mail the general editor, Chris Fujiwara, a few questions. Our exchanged appears as follows:

(1) The general editor
How did you come to be involved in the project?
The publisher, Cassell Illustrated, contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in editing a book on 1,000 key moments in the history of cinema. The basic concept of the book was theirs, including the way moments are categorized as “events,” “scenes,” “speeches,” “people,” or “films.” Actually they wanted more categories, including “special effects,” but I persuaded them to keep things relatively simple.

Continue reading

James Benning’s 13 Lakes, Landscapes, and a brief note on Mt.Mayon
December 6, 2007, 7:23 am
Filed under: festivals, interviews, notes, quotes | Tags: , , , , ,


Slovenian critic Nil Baskar begins his introductory essay on the films of James Benning for the catalog of the Ljubljana International Film Festival:

Fernand Léger, a versatile avant-gardist, once said that the essence of cinematographic revolution lies in “making visible, what used to be merely noticed”. At the same time, he forgot to ask what would happen when the “revolution of the visible” was completed – when the film had shown almost everything? When all the time everything can be seen, and nothing merely noticed? This is the question posed by the films by James Benning, another versatile avant-gardist.

The films also offer the possibility of an answer: they allow us to notice the most obvious again.

There is a beautiful level of contemplation achieved by landscape films when they are done right (that contemplation need not only be of serenity, but even violence, and naturally all that lies between). Benning’s magisterial 13 Lakes screened last month at the Ljubljana International Film Festival (aka LIFFe) as part of a small focus on his recent work. Benning was in attendance and I jotted down these notes during the Q&A that followed the screening.

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Texts Online
December 3, 2007, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Articles

I’ve compiled some links to articles I’ve written that are online here.
(this also appears under “texts online” in the pages section on the left)