Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

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.

Criticine 5
November 30, 2008, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Criticine | Tags: , ,

New issue.

Survey question:
Why and for whom do you film today?
Why and for whom do you write/work today?

Edwin (by Alexis Tioseco)
Faozan Rizal (by Eric Sasono)
Sasithorn Ariyavicha (by Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn)

Tan Chui Mui’s notes made in the dark
Ben Slater on the writing of Saint Jack
Vinita Ramani on coming out of the film school closet

Kong Rithdee on Apichatpong Weerasetheakul’s Syndromes and a Century
Vinita Ramani on Amir Muhammad’s Village People Radio Show

ASEACC Final Screening Schedule
November 17, 2008, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Ateneo De Manila University
Faura AVR, between Dela Costa and PIPAC
Seating Capacity: 80-100

Cubao Expo (formerly Marikina Shoe Exchange)
Romulo Avenue, Araneta Center
Seating Capacity (40)

November 18



Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) 85 minutes
Related paper:
Nathalie Boehler, Universität Zürich, Switzerland:
Exploring the Impact of Regional Storytelling in Contemporary Thai Film
*(Panel 10: Aesthetics of Indie Cinema)


Serbis (Brillante Mendoza) 90 minutes
Related papers:
Gary C. Devilles, Ateneo de Manila University:
The Pornography of Poverty in Serbis and Tribu
*(Panel 1: Contemporary Philippine Independent Cinema)

Alvin B. Yapan, Ateneo:
The Aesthetic of the Meandering Camera: An Analysis of three Filipino Independent Films
*(Panel 1: Contemporary Philippine Independent Cinema)

Related panel:
*Panel 13: Dialogues with Filmmakers II: The Aesthetics of Poverty


Tribu (Jim Libiran) 95 minutes
Related paper:
Gary C. Devilles, Ateneo de Manila University:
The Pornography of Poverty in Serbis and Tribu
*(Panel 1: Contemporary Philippine Independent Cinema)

Related panel:
*Panel 13: Dialogues with Film makers II: The Aesthetics of Poverty


Ayat-Ayat Cinta aka Verses of Love (Hanung Bramantyo) 130 minutes
Related paper:
Tito Imanda, New York University:
Islamic Cinema in Indonesia: God Words Using Market or the Other Way Around
*(Panel 6: Cinema in Indonesia)



They Call Her…Cleopatra Wong (Bobby Suarez) 110 minutes
Related panel:
*Panel 5: The other Independents: B-Movies and Grindhouse Films from the Philippines


Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) 122 minutes
Related paper:
May A. Ingawanij, Westminster University:
Sounds from life and the redemption of experience in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films
*(Panel 10: Aesthetics of Indie Cinema)


*Heremias Book Two: The Legend of Tagabulag Island (Lav Diaz)
* 2-hour rough-cut

Related panel:
Panel 8: Dialogues with film makers I: Lav Diaz

November 19


Post-Modern Kundiman (short film/Dir: Elvin Valerio)
Mansyon (short film/Dir: Joel Ruiz)
Putot (short film/Dir: Jeck Cogama)
Related paper:
Elvin Amerigo Valerio, De La Salle University Dasmariñas:
The Cinema of the Other ‘Other’: National and Cultural Identity in Filipino Alternative Cinema
*(Panel 1: Contemporary Philippine Independent Cinema)


Ranchero (Michael Cardoz)
Related papers:
Patrick Campos, University of the Philippines:
Independent as discussed, defined, refined in the Cinemalaya Film Congress
*(Panel 9 – Indie Cinema and Audiences)

Alvin B. Yapan, Ateneo:
The Aesthetic of the Meandering Camera: An Analysis of three Filipino Independent Films
*(Panel 10: Aesthetics of Indie Cinema)


Love for Share (Nia Dinata) 120 minutes
Related paper:
Kimberly Twarog, ULCA:
What Makes a Film “Feminist?” Reviewing Feminist Tactics in Nia Dinata’s Chants of Lotus and Love for share
*(Panel 12: Gender Issues in Independent Cinema)


Works by Political Film Collectives
Related panel:
*Panel 12: Political Film Collectives


The Gravel Road (Deepak Kumaron Menon)
Related paper:
Wan Zawawi Ibrahim, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya:
The “Indian Story” in Malaysia: Positioning the films of Malaysian Indie film maker Deepak Menon in the “National Cinema” discourse
*(Panel 3: Independent Film in Indonesia and Malaysia)



Ploning (Dante Nico Garcia) 106 minutes
Related paper:
Katrina Stuart Santiago, University of the Philippines:
Acts of Defiance: Or When Superstars Lend Themselves to the Notion of Independence
*(Panel 1: Contemporary Philippine Independent Cinema)

Veronica Isla, University of Asia and the Pacific:
On the reception of Microcinemas in the Philippines
*(Panel 9 – Indie Cinema and Audiences)


Isan Special (Mingmongkol Sonakul) 112 minutes
Related paper:
Nathalie Boehler,Universität Zürich, Switzerland:
Exploring the Impact of Regional Storytelling in Contemporary Thai Film
*(Panel 10: Aesthetics of Indie Cinema)


Love Conquers All (Tan Chui Mui) 90 minutes
Related paper:
Ma Ran, University of Hong Kong:
Circulating a Minor Asian Cinema: Brandnaming Dahuang Pics at the International Film Fest Circuit
*(Panel 11: The Global and the Local)

5th ASEACC (November 18-22)
November 17, 2008, 5:10 am
Filed under: philippine cinema

The 5th Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas conference takes place from Tuesday to Saturday this week in Manila, with the theme “States of Independence”. ‘State’ here is meant in the sense of condition. That’s Kidlat Tahimik’s bamboo camera in the jazzy poster above, by the way.

I’ve always looked back fondly at the first Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (held in NUS in Singapore in 2004). On a shallow level because it was the first event outside of the Philippines in which I was invited to speak, more significantly because it was the occasion where I first made the acquaintance of several people I now have the pleasure of calling friends.

Included among those present were filmmakers Ho Yuhang (who had just finished the TV feature Min), Tan Chui Mui (before she made A Tree in Tanjung Malim) and Lulu Ratna (of the Indonesian Boemboe distribution), scholars Antonio Sison (who has written extensively on the work of Kidlat Tahimik), Rolando Tolentino (former director of the UP Film Institute with an interest Filipino cinema, pop culture and politics), Katinka Van Hereen (scholar on Indonesian Independent film), Hassan Muthalib (walking memory bank of Malaysian cinema) and Khoo Gaik Cheng (conference intiator, professor, writer on Malaysian culture), Marie Le Sourd (working at the time for the cultural arm of the Asia-Europe Foundation), Yuni Hadi (new co-director of Singapore International Film Festival, then Programmer Manager of the Substation) and, briefly, Tan Bee Thiam (for whom the Asian Film Archive was still a modest idea at the time, if one at all).

It was at that first conference as well, where the idea to start Criticine took shape (it went online a year and a half later).

The Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference has become an annual affair since then, traveling each year to another major city in Southeast Asia. From Bangkok in 2005 to Kuala Lumpur in 2006, from Jakarta in 2007 to, now, Manila in 2008.

It’s been with great pleasure (and a modest degree of stress!) that the local organizing committee comprised of Rolando Tolentino, Kiri Dalena, Bono Olgado, Tilman Baumgärtel, Mervin Espina and myself have put together this years conference. And we’re a little proud of what is in store.

A new element to the annual event is the screenings of films that will be discussed in the papers and panels of the conference itself (note: films will be screened from digital sources). The screenings will take place this Tuesday and Wednesday (November 18 & 19) at Ateneo de Manila’s Faura AVR and at Mogwai Film Bar in the Cubao Expo. Screenings schedule, complete with citation of the panel in which the film will be discussed, can be found here.

The conference proper will take place in Leong Hall in Ateneo de Manila University and begins Wednesday (November 20) morning with an opening presentation by Kidlat Tahimik, continues Thursday and Friday with paper presentations as well as panel discussions (with guests speakers Philip Cheah, Ben Slater, Armando “Bing” Lao, Lav Diaz, Jim Libiran and Khavn de la Cruz, among others), before ending Friday evening with closing remarks by Benedict Anderson, author of such books as Under Three Flags, Spectres of Comparison and of course, Imagined Communities. The conference programme in it’s entirety can be found here.

For those interested to attend you can register live at the venue. Please visit the conference website for more information or e-mail (aseacc08manila at And of course, you may visit the event’s requisite facebook page.

Critics on Critics
September 25, 2008, 9:44 pm
Filed under: propositions, quotes

The latest issue of Sight & Sound includes the forum Critics on Critics, in which film critics were asked to nominate a piece of writing that has inspired them in their own work. I was invited to participate, intended to, but unfortunately did not meet the deadline. Had I been able to, the following would have been my submission:

My people speak disapprovingly of an outsider whose wailing drowned the grief of the owners of the corpse. One last word to the owners. It is because our own critics have been somewhat hesitant in taking control of our literary criticism (sometimes – let’s face it – for the good reason that we will not do the hard work that should equip us) that the task has fallen to others, some of whom (again we must admit) have been excellent and sensitive. And yet most of what remains to be done can best be tackled by ourselves, the owners. If we fall back, can we complain that others are rushing forward? A man who does not lick his lips, can he blame the harmattan for drying them?

Chinua Achebe, from the paper Colonialist Criticism

It is in the spirit of this challenge posed by Achebe that Criticine was started. And with renewed fervor that work on it begins again.

A Postcard from June (in Manila)
September 15, 2008, 9:57 pm
Filed under: postcards | Tags:

John Gianvito, enduring a George Bush speech in Philippine Congress while in search of material for Vapor Trail (tentative title), on June 11 in a Philippine television archive.


– “From Yesterday until Tomorrow” (Danièle Huillet tribute) by John Gianvito.

Collage piece by Gianvito for Rouge’s image issue.

Michael Sicinsky Interview with Gianvito on “Profit motive and the whispering wind” for Cinema Scope.

A portion of an exchange on a “A Committed Cinema” previously available online at this address. It appears to not be online anymore.

On the concept of “audience”
Gianvito: Personally, I always say that there is no such thing as an audience. For me it’s an abstraction. It always comes down to a room full of people with their individual likes and dislikes. And the moment filmmakers make a move in the direction of an imagined audience response, they misstep, and are apt to get lost. I believe the only reliable guide is to attempt to make the kind of film that you yourself would like to sit down and view. And the very nature of that process demands that you “speak” in a way that is natural to you alone. Robert Bresson could no more frame like Glauber Rocha than James Joyce could pen a phrase like Lou Reed.

One is given a voice. One can modulate it. If one chooses, one can coach aspects of its effectiveness. It remains one’s voice. One might pitch it differently to one’s friends, an audience, a constituency. The grain and character of the voice cannot be escaped. One can, however, lose–sometimes even consciously choose to lose–the connection between the sound that speaks and one’s proper self. Regardless, whether disembodied or soulful, calculating or inchoate, there are severe limits on one’s capacity to control how one’s voice is received. It would appear that no one has the power to reach everyone. In the pursuit of making a difference it seems to me that one’s best and only hope is to encourage the continual discovering/uncovering of each unique and solitary voice, allowing them to be the conductors of all that must out. I’m convinced most listeners can hear the difference.


The Cinema of Manuel Conde
July 10, 2008, 2:30 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema

Something to look forward to…

“The Cinema of Manuel Conde” Book Launch

[Press Release]
The book “The Cinema of Manuel Conde” written by Nicanor G. Tiongson and designed by Cesar Hernando will be launched on July 16, Wednesday at 3:30pm at the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) as a special feature of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The launching is part of “Juan Tamad Goes Indie,” a tribute to a great filmmaker and artist Manuel Conde which includes an exhibit on Manuel Conde and the screening of six of his surviving films, the famous “Genghis Khan” at 6:15 pm right after the book launch.

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The Resurrection of Ronnie Lazaro
June 25, 2008, 4:58 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema | Tags:

Rogue Magazine’s March 2008 issue has a great feature on Ronnie Lazaro, one of the finest actors working in Philippine cinema today. Written by Lourd de Veyra with his typical mix of insight and humour, it is one of the rare articles that looks at the life and work of a local actor in serious detail. There are but few contemporary actors in the Philippines for whom this treatment seems appropriate. Ronnie, having played significant if not starring roles in Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata Mata (1982), Tikoy Aguiluz’s Boatman (1984), Raymond Red’s Anino (2000), and Lav Diaz’s Heremias (2006), is surely one of them.

Thankfully Rogue puts back issues online at The Ronnie Lazaro article, which features some beautiful photographs, can be read: here

Postcards from Zagreb (2) / Notes on Zanzibar Films

May 23, 2008

(1: Dusan Makavejev)

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A Postcard from Zagreb (1)
June 6, 2008, 12:01 am
Filed under: postcards | Tags:

May 23, 2008

Slavoj Žižek


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Now Showing by Raya Martin
May 21, 2008, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Tomorrow May 22 at 14h00 on Théâtre Croisette (50 La Croisette) in Cannes is the premiere of a new film by a Filipino filmmaker for whom I’ve been both biggest critic and biggest fan. In a number of ways he and I grew up in cinema together (still growing) over the past several years, and so it is with a measure of pride that I look at what he has accomplished – regarding this acceptance, but even more so the maturity of the work – and with a measure of hope that I look forward to the future – for he is but 24 years of age this year, and there is much more cinema to come. A cinema that, I believe, is slowly helping to fulfill that which Avellana so desired, that: “On the screen, we’ll see the way we talk, the way we make love, the way we die.”

Lamberto Avellana
May 13, 2008, 3:01 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema, quotes | Tags:

Question: How would you evaluate the development of cinema in our country in the same manner that the Europeans have developed a cinema distinctly their own?

Lamberto Avellana: I believe that there is a Filipino feeling for movies; a Filipino way of film making; and one day this will emerge, slower than usual, human, pathetic, touching the heart. On the screen, we’ll see the way we talk, the way we make love, the way we die. We are a unique people living in a unique place, and we deserve a uniquely Filipino cinema.

(extract of Portrait of a Director: Lamberto Avellana. Originally published in Filipino Film Review, January – Match, 1985)

Bunuel / On Love
May 13, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: quotes, Uncategorized | Tags:

1. What sort of hopes do you place in love?

Luis Buñuel: If I’m in love, all hopes. It not, none.

(From the French. Interview published in Le Revolution surrealiste, no.12, December 15, 1929. Reprinted in An Unspeakable Betrayal: The Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel).