Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Cannes 1982, Room 666, Mike De Leon
April 6, 2009, 3:29 am
Filed under: interviews, Philippine Chronicle, philippine cinema

During the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, [Wim] Wenders asks a number of film directors from around the world to get, each one at a time, into a hotel room, turn on the camera and sound recorder, and, in solitude, answer a simple question: “What is the future of cinema?” (from imdb)

Among Wenders’ esteemed respondents: Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michelangelo Antonioni, Werner Herzog, Chantal Akerman, Steven Spielberg, Robert Kramer, and, one of the finest filmmakers (italics intentional) ever to come from the Philippines, Mike De Leon, who had not one but two films (Kisapmata and Batch ’81) in the Director’s Fortnight section that year.

De Leon sits — one leg resting on the other, cigarette dangling from a relaxed hand, television running to his side running — unphased by the reputations of his co-respondents and without impulse to impress, gives his answer; brief, to the point, and sans any BS:

You gotta leave the nonchalance.

More De Leon, this time on the reception of the two films in Cannes:

The French preferred Kisapmata to Batch ’81. According to some of them it was not just because fraternities of that sort were alien to them (the French are basically individualists). Pierre-Henri Deleau had predicted, after seeing the rushes here, that the French would be outraged by Batch. The English and the Americans gave it a better reception in Cannes. But it wasn’t just a matter of theme but of story-telling method. While Kisapmata‘s method was closer to the French, Batch was more in the American manner.

After the first screening, animated discussion went on and there were two sides debating whether the film was fascist or anti-fascist. Apparently the ending was ambiguos. I said that there are graduation rites, in fact. I felt that I had made it clear that Mark Gil’s character at the end was . . . hindi na tao. That is why that martial law line was important because it situates the film. It was supposed to be clear that the film was making a comment on organizations of a fascist nature, that this is what can happen to individuals who join such an organization. But it appears that although I felt it was the same thing with Kisapmata, Kisapmata was clearer if one removes the ethnic-ness of the characters, it would happen anywhere, in the suburbs of Paris or what.

After the fourth screening, there was a demand to give another screening, but it was too expensive. There was this vague feeling about Batch; at the end of the film, there was first a momentary silence, and only afterwards, some applause. I suppose it’s the construction and the editing, which is more American. I call it “neurotic editing” — I felt like I couldn’t wait to cut it to get to the next part. My idea for Batch, let’s say, was more of accumulation, dagdag nang dagdag, instead of a gradual progression, and that doesn’t go well with the French.

(Well, I just heard from Tony Rayns that it had a much better reception recently in London. I suppose, as indicated by the English film If, this strict, authoritarian, discipline-oriented organization is closer to the English system than to the French).

[From: “The A.K.O. Story” by Petronilo G. Cleto, published in WHO magazine, Dec.15, 1982.

Reprinted in the magazine of the (then) Film Ratings Board, Filipino Film Review, January 1983]

* With thanks to Teddy Co.

The New Philippines Free Press / Bontoc Eulogy at Fully Booked
December 8, 2008, 3:45 pm
Filed under: magazines, Philippine Chronicle, philippine cinema



The Philippines Free Press, the oldest weekly in the country (first going to print in 1908), is receiving a facelift. Erwin Romulo, mentioned here earlier for the interesting things he did with Rogue magazine (before his departure at the end of its first year), has come on board, teaming with, among others, copy editor Ricky Torre and literary editor Sarge Lacuesta to create an impressive nucleus. In just two issues he has brought in a fresh roster of contributors that includes  Lourd De Veyra, Tad Ermitano, Luis Katigback,  Yvette Tan, Armi Millare (of Up Dharma Down), Gang Badoy, Philbert Dy and myself; a base that will surely expand with each new week.

The above issue is his second as Associate Editor, the second one I’ve written for, and features a newly revamped cover design courtesy of photographer Juan Caguicla. It hits stands today (try National Bookstore, Filbars and Mag:net shops), and costs only 50 pesos. Pick up this issue. If you like what you read, keep in mind that there’s a new one every Monday.


Bontoc Eulogy by Marlon Fuentes, 8pm Thursday @ Dec 11 at Fully Booked Fort Bonifacio



Bontoc Eulogy / Marlon Fuentes / 1995 / 57:00 / 16mm, archival footage / screening from DVD

With a mixture of anger and tenderness, Bontoc Eulogy narrates the fate of Markod, one among over a thousand ‘Filipino savages’ exhibited in the St. Louis World Fair of 1904. A feat of borrowing and appropriation (Edison films, Burton Holmes travel footage), a sincere and moving faux documentary, and a meditation on the nature of images, memory, identity, and cinema. Easily one of the best and most intelligent Filipino films in the last 20 years.

* Screening with permission from the director.

The first in a series of films I’ll be programming and presenting in Fully Booked Fort Bonifacio’s U-View Cinema, Thursday nights at 8pm. Do come. Admission is free.

Related reading:
1904 World’s Fair: The Filipino Experience (Jose D. Fermin, UP Press, 2004)


Bonus: so alone, all bound together
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao defeated Oscar De la Hoya with ease yesterday. A few months ago Maggie Costello wrote an entry on the song Pancho Villa by Sun Kill Moon, which speaks of three great boxers who met tragic, abrupt ends: Salvador Sanchez (died in a car accident), Pancho Villa (died of blood poisoning after a tooth extraction), and Benny Paret (put into a coma in a fight with Emile Griffith, died a few days after). Pancho Villa was the ring pseudonym of another great Filipino fighter, Francisco Guilledo. Recommended reading.

The March of Time (Feb-10-1938)
April 21, 2008, 4:11 am
Filed under: Philippine Chronicle | Tags:

[Click here to listen to or download the audio file discussed below, the February 10, 1938 “The March of Time” radio newsreel, which features the re-enactment of a story concerning a Filipina “washerwoman” turned golfer, Dominga Capati. The voice talent playing Capati speaks in a curious Spanish-accented English. On another note, the file also includes Orson Welles providing the voice of Hitler, which begins at minute 20:25. Thank you to Wellesnet for providing the link and I believe uploading the file.]


“Tonight LIFE, the weekly magazine of pictures, joins TIME, the weekly news magazine, in presenting by radio the re-enactment of memorable scene from the news of the week! From the March of Time!”

[cue score]

“The Philippine Island! This week in Manila comes the climax of a story which begins on a corner of the Calamba Sugar Estate, bordering the Manila Golf Course, where Filipino washerwoman Dominga Capati is scrubbing clothes as a caddy approaches her.”

– “Hey! Hey! Did you see a golf ball come out this way?”
– “What? What that little white ball they hit around over there?”

“Yes. Did you see it?”
– “No I did not. And if you ask me, a sensible people ought to find something better to do with their time, then a walk around in the hot sun, hit a ball, go and look for it. Hit it again. Foolishness.”

“Ah, easy to talk when you’ve never tried it.”
– “Try it?! Huh! If I did, I would hit it harder than those big fat men! Those women with their little thin arms.”

“Ah, you could not even hit the ball.”
– “Oh, you think so huh? Alright. Just put a ball down on the ground there. Go ahead, put the ball down on the ground. Now give me one of those esticks… now, stand back out of my way… THERE! … now get along and don’t bother me, I have got work to do.”

“Hey, wait. Let me see you do that again.”
“Okay.” [swings again]

“Two hundred and fifty yards! Here, try another.”
[swings again; then cue music]

“Two years ago, husky Dominga Capati swung her first golf club, hit her first golf ball. This week in the roster of entries in the Manila Women’s Open Golf Tournament …
Capati, Dominga. Age 25. Nationality: Philippine. Club Affiliation: None. Occupation: Washerwoman.” [cue music]

“The opening day of the tournament. Up to the first tee steps Dominga Capati, only native Philippine entry in the match. She tees up her ball, looks once down the fairway; Swings! [cue audience “ohhhh”, followed by applause]”

The Second Day. A Cheering crowd is following Dominga Capati. Two strokes ahead of the field as she tees up for her 35th hole.”

[swinging sound; audience applause]

“The Final Day. Dominga Capati is four strokes ahead of her nearest competitor– Socialite Jean Morgan– as she prepares to put on the seventy second and final hole of the tournament.”

“Quiet please! Quiet for Senorita Capati.”

[sound of sinking ball in hole. audience cheers]

“This week, New Open Golf
champions the Philippine Islands as washerwoman Dominga Capati finishing five strokes ahead of her nearest rival. The first Filipino ever to win a golf championship. And at weeks end, back at her washboard, says champion Capati:

– ” I get driving muscles…scrubbing up and down like this. And my wrists? Ringing out the clothes– like this. And the putting? Well that just a seems to come naturally.”

“1938– Marches On!”


On March 11-13, 2008, the 41st Dominga Capati Memorial Tournament was held at Canlubang Golf & Country Club (South Course).

Dominga Capati
Domninga Capati
(image source)

link: “Backstairs Golfer”: brief New York Times article on Capati dated February 14, 1938.

(This is the fourth in an ongoing series of posts that will chronicle, as objectively as possible, curious references to Filipinos or the Philippines in internationally produced art or writing. The reason for doing this, I am of yet unaware. But there is an impulse. They are filed under the category Philippine Chronicle.)

Ken Jacobs, The Philippines Adventures
April 12, 2008, 4:33 pm
Filed under: notes, Philippine Chronicle | Tags: , , , ,

Harry Kreisler: A couple of your films are more political than others. In one you use some old footage on the Philippines to make a point. Talk a little about that film and how this format for your art is tied to a real historical experience.

Ken Jacobs: Well, the work is called The Philippines Adventure, and I hit upon a little film purporting to be the history of America’s relationship to the Philippines. It was just a little propaganda piece and I used it almost intact, essentially to mock it. To bring out things that were there. The work is essentially my horror at what this piece of imperialism has been.


HK: What is the potential of film to shape our moral imagination?

KJ: Moral imagination?

HK: Yes.

KJ: Well, that sounds like propaganda.

HK: Why is it like propaganda?

KJ: Well you know, somebody’s morals …

HK: So “moral” is the bad word there?

KJ: I’m very involved with morality, and of course I think we are struggling, a lot of us, towards doing right. Being able to live with ourselves, being able to respect ourselves. But essentially, as I said before, I think that the deeper opportunity, the greater opportunity film can offer us is as an exercise of the mind. But an exercise, I hate to use the word, I won’t say “soul,” I won’t say “soul” and I won’t say “spirit,” but that it can really put our deepest psychological existence through stuff. It can be a powerful exercise. It can make us think, but I don’t mean think about this and think about that. The very, very process of powerful thinking, in a way that it can afford, is I think very, very valuable. I basically think that the mind is not complete yet, that we are working on creating the mind. Okay. And that the higher function of art for me is its contribution to the making of mind.

HK: And making mind, on the one hand, by disorienting it so it sort of has a sense of itself. And beyond that, what else?

KJ: Well in some cases also mindfulness. Mindfulness, in the case of The Philippines Adventure of American imperialism, you know, American self glorification, self-mythologizing. So there are things where you also want to create mindfulness, but it’s of lesser value than this primary thing of keeping the mind alive. And there’s lots against keeping the mind alive. We are surrounded, inundated, with bullshit. Okay. From almost everywhere. Advertising, which is a euphemism for lying. This government of lawyers who are working for people who pay them to go out and be on television and be ingratiating and get votes. They go to the lawyers, and they lie. And all of this just eats up the mind and makes us stupid. And stupid is also moving away from existence. We lose a hold on existence.

(Source: Ken Jacobs; Film Artist: “Film and the Creation of Mind,” 10/14/99)

Making Light of History: The Philippines Adventures, 1983, (90 min.)

Has anyone seen this film? Or know what footage Jacobs used?

I wonder if it some it may be this:
U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches Before Caloocan
Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan
Colonel Funstan Swimming the Baglag River
Filipinos Retreat from Trenches
Capture of Trenches at Candaba


…and I also wonder if it has ever been shown in the Philippines?


On that same source page linked above are the three actualities used to such silencing, chilling effect by Raya Martin at the close of Autohystoria:
25th Infantry
Aguinaldo’s Navy
An Historic Feat


A number of the same Edison clips are seen in still another extremely interesting work. Though produced in 1995, I was only introduced to it this year (thanks to brilliant programming at Cinema du Reel) and it has moved and affected me more than any other film I have seen for the first time in 2008. This is Marlon Fuentes’ Bontoc Eulogy, and I have a feeling I will be writing much, much more about it in the near future.

Bruce Baillie
January 5, 2008, 1:35 am
Filed under: Philippine Chronicle | Tags:

Bruce Baillie

From the Philippines, haircut in the backyard ’96,
a frame from Part III “Memoires of an Angel”.
Backyard wind and clouds, water buffalo and the laundry:
“of loving & laundry, not confusing worlds,
one random, the other
Infinite (which is which?)
Pursued by –
Love I reveal my
unmentionables to the winds”
(from:, accessed January 2008)
(This is the third in an ongoing series of posts that will chronicle, as objectively as possible, curious references to Filipinos or the Philippines in internationally produced art or writing. The reason for doing this, I am of yet unaware. But there is an impulse. They are filed under the category Philippine Chronicle.)

Postcards from the Cinema, Serge Daney
September 30, 2007, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Philippine Chronicle

(Pages 50-51, Postcards from the Cinema, by Serge Daney)

Serge Toubiana: What sort of alliances or friendships did that motivate you to have during your school days?

Serge Daney: Those are effectively the right words: “alliance”, “friendship”. I never imagined that I could have any other sort of relationship with people other than one based on friendship. Friendship– the idea, or categorical imperative, of friendship– covered everything, including sex. But it’s stronger than me: even when in Harrar, the city of Rimbaud, I meet little Abddullahi, a 15-yeara old boy, who is as clever as a monkey, I consider him to be a friend as well, that is to say, an equal. Otherwise, it’s simply prostitution. But again, when I see another boy, in Manila, a young prostitute named Dany with a tattoo on his right buttock, put his clothes back on and put my money in his underwear, I feel a sense of equality, of empathy which paves the way. I’m capable of criminal indifference, but not sneering cynicism.

I remember my first day at school– elementary school because I didn’t go to nursery school– and the way that I became friends with another boy my age named Michel. It was already the question of the day: Who’s to be a friend? Who’s to be an enemy? A child’s wisdom is extraordinary. He knows that he’s not going to be one of the loudmouths that dominate the playground, that he doesn’t want to mess with those guys, and that he has to ignore the bullies in order to have sublime friendships. Definitely a defensive attitude.

Michel and I went every year to La Foire du Trone. It was a true event. We rode the bumper cars and our pleasure mainly consisted of not being bumped into! I was thinking about this period and I thought that perhaps I was completely in love only once in my life, and it was with Michel: we were about 7 or 8 years old. I would go play at his house on rue Keller, and would play the most miserable games without toys, just codes that we made up. I never again had that feeling of time stopping, of a remaining abundance: there’s just one person there who fulfills all possible roles and horizons. As they in the cantata: Ich habe genung, which means I have enough.

That was the absolute alliance, absolute security, due to the fact that we were two, united like the two halves of an hourglass. Obviously there was always this of genug in my later alliances, even and especially with Cahiers du cinéma, with some nevertheless very mitigated results. There is always this child’s gaze at his peers on the playground: who will I be a friend with this year?

(This is the second in an ongoing series of posts that will chronicle, as objectively as possible, curious references to Filipinos or the Philippines in internationally produced art or writing. The reason for doing this, I am of yet unaware. But there is an impulse. They are filed under the category Philippine Chronicle.)

King of New York (Chaplin, 1957)
September 30, 2007, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Philippine Chronicle

Last night I watched Charlie Chaplin’s King of New York (1957):

Incidentally, a few weeks ago filmmaker and production designer Cesar Hernando sent me a filmography of Filipino genre film director Richard Abelardo. The filmography mentioned not only the Filipino films he directed, but also the ones he did Visual Effects for and the ones worked on in Hollywood as Scenic Artist; including one film by Charlie Chaplin:

Footlight Parade (1933)
Only Yesterday (1933)
Cat and the Fiddle (1934)
Modern Times (1936)

(This is the first in an ongoing series of posts that will chronicle, as objectively as possible, curious references to Filipinos or the Philippines in internationally produced art or writing. The reason for doing this, I am of yet unaware. But there is an impulse. They are filed under the category Philippine Chronicle.)