Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family)


By Alexis Tioseco

Ekran Magazine

“Brakhage said of reading Freud, ‘The first thing I understood is that here was a man trying to save his own life.’ Brakhage later acknowledged that the quote applied to him: his films are made with an intensity, a kind of ‘wit’s end’ desperation, that suggests a consciousness on the brink. Brakhage was not a craftsman doing something he loved; he used his craft to try to come to an understanding of whether – and on what terms – he could continue to go on living.”
-- Fred Camper on Stan Brakhage

“We should acknowledge that our viewpoints about Kiarostami differ in terms of what kind of information we consider most important. For me, Kiarostami is first of all a global filmmaker and secondarily an Iranian filmmaker. For you, he’s first of all an Iranian filmmaker. Even though I’m interested in learning about Iran through Iranian cinema, and his films are certainly a part of that, I feel that I go to his films to learn about the world, not just Iran.”
-- Jonathan Rosenbuam, in dialogue with Mehrnaz Saee-Vafa

“If great films invent their own rules, reinventing some of the standards of film criticism in the process, Bela Tarr’s Satantango surely belongs in their company.”
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum

The above quotes, though in reference to three different filmmakers and (specificaly) one film, apply just as well to my appreciation of the cinema of Lav Diaz and (specifically) his film Evolution of a Filipino Family (Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino).

The first quote, taken from fred Camper's essay for the 'By Brakhage' anthology released by criterion, may relate just as well to Lav Diaz as it does to Stan Brakhage. While Brakhage's and Diaz's works are strikingly different, there are similarities in vision and purpose.

Diaz’s films express the same idea of a man trying to save his own life; trying to reconcile and struggle with himself, his demons, and his place in society as do Brakhage’s. Where Diaz differs, however, is that he paints his personal struggle within a much larger and broader canvass, one that looks at the individual in a historical, social, cultural, and global context (making him different from Brakhage, though not necessarily better or more important).

Diaz’s latest work, Evolution of a Filipino Family is the second in his ‘Philippine trilogy’. Though completed after Batang West Side (2002), its production began much earlier, and it effectively functions as the first part of the trilogy. Depicting the critical years of 1971-1987 in Philippine history, Evolution essays the struggle of the Filipino people; starting a year prior to martial Law, enduring the sixteen year Martial Law period, and glimpsing the unrest that prevailed in the year that followed it.

Batang West Side, shot entirely in Jersey City, New York (with the exception of a few dream sequences shot in the Philippines), utilizes a non-linear narrative and the investigation into the death of a Filipino youth in America to scrutinize the state of the Filipino people post-Marcos. It surveys the lives of the diaspora aboard, challenging the choices Filipinos have made and the ‘American Dream’ many of them long for, and confronting a past that we as a nation have yet to reconcile. Heremias, whose script was recently completed and which will begin production this year (2005), follows a single Socratic character as he suffers tragedy, witnesses evil, endures despair, questions God, and ultimately, offers himself as sacrifice. Binding themes from Evolution and West Side, Heremias examines the present state of the brutalized Filipino psyche.

Evolution witnesses the infliction of the wound on the Filipino psyche, Batang West Side examines its scars, and Heremias offers a remedy to cure its woes. Together, I undoubtedly believe, they will represent three of the most important works in contemporary would cinema, and in Philippine cinema history.

The second quote, which was taken from a dialogue between American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum and Iranian critic and filmmaker Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa for their book on Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, makes a critical point about the differing ways in which we receive works, and in turn, write about them. Just as Kiarostami is received by Saeed-Vafa primarily as an Iranian filmmaker and secondarily as a global filmmaker, so too is Diaz's work, universal and profound in its humanity and pathos, so ingrained in Filipino culture, with themes and issues tackled so relevant to Filipino people, that I, as a Filipino, first receive him as a Filipino filmmaker. Allow this to be a declaration and apology for my shortcomings: though my reception of Diaz will be primarily as a Filipino filmmaker, his work speaks just as poetically and universally about suffering, perseverance, reflection, humanity and sacrifice and the world we live in today as it does about the Philippines and what it means to be Filipino.

The third quote, taken again from Jonathan Rosenbuam (a critic whose writing has had a profound influence on the way I see and understand cinema), was said in relation to Bela Tarr’s astounding 7½ hour masterwork Satantango. Diaz’s 11–hour Evolution shares more than just its fondness for long takes, epic duration, historical footing and black and white photography with Tarr’s Satantango, it also similarly challenges our preconceived notions of the used of time in narrative cinema, and by its use of mixed formats and the long duration in which it was shot, forces us to strike-up new standards in criticism in our attempt to assess it.

When speaking to people about Evolution, it is length, without fail, incites violent reactions: “I wont watch that, I have better things to do!” “Why is it so long?” “Is its running time justified?” Even someone as well-versed in cinema as film critic Gino Dormiendo, refuses any attempt to understand the work, and he even appears in the film portraying Lino Brocka! “Any filmmaker that cannot make their point in two hours has a problem,” Dormiendo candidly declared in an interview on television. Dormiendo, a professor of film at the University of the Philippines (who had not seen that film itself at the time of speaking the above words), is not alone in his position however, as there are many others who share his sentiments. With those that simply cannot find the time to watch the film on one of its rare theatrical screenings, I sympathize. But those who dismiss the work on the basis of running time are buying into a shallow and narrow-minded concept of cinema; one so limited and constrained by the dictates purported and ingrained by the Hollywood machine so as to rule out even considering a work such as this. Prominent works of considerable length have existed as far back as the early feature works of D.W. Griffith. Who is to say that cinema hasn’t evolved enough in the past ninety years, or even more so in the past five-to-ten with the mass popularity of digital video, so as to dismiss radical changes in the utilization of the medium? Change was never wrought without first attempting to defy the norm. Evolution is a work of art that does not neatly fall into our standard definitions of cinema or video, and therefore must be scrutinized through an entirely different lens.

length matters

Camper’s assessment of Brakhage can be appropriated to Diaz. Diaz is not a craftsman doing something he loves, but is using his craft to try to come to an understanding of whether – and on what terms – both he, and the society he lives in, can go on living. Frustrated with the limitations – in production, content, time, aesthetic – and the exploitation involved in working in the film industry, and seeing no way of being able to wrestle creative control or the final cut from the hands of producers, Diaz drifted away and began his career as an independent filmmaker--a key move that led to great struggle, but marked the beginning of the fulfillment of his aesthetic, and full potential as a filmmaker.

Evolution, which is more than twice the length of his previous film Batang West Side, is so far removed in duration and aesthetic from our common notions of cinema, even more so from the melodrama and escapism rich cinema in the Philippines. It serves as Diaz’s rebuttal to the long-standing tradition of Philippine cinema. Producers, directors, and critics in the Philippines alike have long wailed in duress at the mired state of Philippine cinema. But at the same time they continue to churn out offensively mindless works of entertainment and fantasy that belittle audiences. When confronted and asked why they don’t produce more serious or quality films, the retort most often given is that “Filipinos don’t want to watch that. They go to the movies to be entertained, to escape; not to think.” Diaz’s cinema proclaims the opposite – that audiences do want to think, reflect, and change; that they do not want to live in stagnation, poverty, and a corrupt, morally bankrupt, society. His is a cinema that respects its audience by challenging them, and asking them to meet it halfway, to invest more than their time, but a part of their selves, into the viewing experience.

It is through the recorded image of his camera that Diaz attempts to make sense of the world, both for his audience and himself: “In Evolution, I am capturing real time. I am trying to experience what these people are experiencing. They walk. I must experience their walk. I must experience their boredom and sorrows. I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the paradox that is the Filipino. I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the mystery of humankind’s existence. I want to understand death. I want to understand solitude. I want to understand struggle. I want to understand the philosophy of a growing flower in the middle of a swamp.”

Evolution’s 11-hours running time is not merely for t he sake of shocking audiences or calling attention to itself at festivals. The length of the film and the aesthetic that it puts forth are directly tied to its intention. What Diaz is proposing with his trilogy, is that we have not taken seriously enough the grave events of our past, that we do not yet understand it, and have yet to settle as a nation. Even recent (and well received) cinematic depictions of the Marital Law era--Chito Rono’s adaptation of Lualhati Bautista’s The Seventies (Dekada ’70), which places the events of Martial Law in the light of suburban melodrama, and Ramona Diaz’s documentary Imelda, a portrait of the icon and wife of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos that revels in her charisma and charm--have been far more interested in entertainment and celebrity than healing and understanding.

The Seventies follows the life of a suburban, well-to-do family. Imelda, Celebrates and mocks the excesses of the lunatic cited in its title. Both films offer a view of the era through the eyes of the privileged. Evolution contrasts these depictions by framing its story around the lives of those that have been marginalized, both in cinema and in society – the underclass. It follows the lives of a single rural, farming family in an unnamed village, charting their stories over the course of the Martial Law period, and framing it with harrowing historical footage. Diaz’s Evolution, by far the most humane and touching portrait of Martial Law era Philippines, asks us not to view the lives of the characters in the film, but to live with them: to work, walk, wait, set, eat, cry, struggle, sing, rejoice, and reflect with them, to paraphrase Diaz: to experience what they experienced.


Evolution can, in a sense, be considered both Lav Diaz’s first and latest feature-film. Though it is his sixth completed feature-work (having made four studio works, and one independent film previously) it is also the first one to have begun production. Evolution was made over an 11-year period, beginning in 1994, not as the story of a Filipino family, but of a single character, Ray Gallardo, a Filipino seaman who jumped ship in New York. The scenes of Ray’s life in the Philippines were originally intended as flashbacks, but as the shoots progressed and the story developed, it began to take prominence in the mind of Diaz, who eventually decided to pursue the Philippine story and set aside the footage shot in America.

The reason for the long drawn out production of the film was entirely an economic one – Diaz and producer Paul Tanedo simply did not have the financial resources to shoot continuously. Shooting would stall whenever they did not have money and would resume again when funds were raised; a period of several years sometimes passing between shoots. Shot entirely in black and white, Evolution was originally photograph using 16mm film stock. In 2003, with the high cost of purchasing and developing the film, mounting production costs, the project having been dormant for nearly four years and the emergence of digital video, Diaz has decided to taker the grand leap from film to digital video.


All of these difficulties, however, have coalesced relatively seamlessly into the fabric of the film; making it all the more a fascinating and rich experience to see. The black and white photography of the film blends with the historical footage and paired down cutting pace to create a non-fiction documentary-like feel; one that is further enhanced by the duration it took to make the film. Because the production lasted for so long a period, no make up, special effects, or change of actors is necessary to portray the aging of the characters – the actors age along with the characters they depict; an affect most startling in the case of the character of the child Reynaldo (Elryan de Veyra).

Before viewing the film I feared that the discrepancy between the footage shot on 16mm film and that shot and DV and video would be distracting. The difference in quality is jarring, but it has been utilized to appropriate effect, and has thus become a fascinating aesthetic device that, for the most part works! Roughly thirty percent of the eleven hours is comprised of the early 16mm shoots, with the remaining seventy percent in various forms of black and white digital video. Though uneven at certain points (having used different video cameras), a relative consistency in the storytelling exists, as the beautifully rendered 16mm footage, almost ethereal next to the high contrast resolution of the digital video, represents either flashback or dream sequences. It is when, late in the film, Diaz introduces a dream sequence shot on digital video that causes one to be momentarily confused.

The early 16mm shoots are predominantly filmed in medium and close-up with shots rarely lingering for prolonged periods of time. The video shoots are often in long shot and done in long takes, sitting, waiting, and observing the daily routines of the characters. The feeling of watching and comparing the two is awe-inspiring, as one can chart not only the evolution of Diaz’s aesthetic – from brief medium and close-ups, to long shots and extended takes – illustrating his liberation from the constraints of commercial cinema; but also the evolution of the art form of cinema itself--and the possibilities afforded by the coming of this technology.

The relevance of the period to the current national condition is crucial, as so many of the problems the characters face in the film are still prevalent if not more pronounced in our society today. In one scene, Kadyo, played by Pen Medina, is speaking to the leader of a rebel group (Rey Ventura), after having sold him guns. The rebel leader congratulates Kadyo on a job well done, and asks him to join their group. Kadyo politely declines, telling him that he only did it for the money; in order to feed his family. The scene then cuts and we enter a bar, where Kadyo is at a table drinking. A bar girl, ‘Zsa Zsa’ is then brought to his table, and the two slow dance to crooner Eddie Peregrina’s rendition of Together Again. The passion of Peregrina’s voice, the flare of the grain black and white 16mm footage, and the look of blissful escape on Kadyo’s face, his hand sliding down to cares Zsa Zsa’s derriere, all combine to present one with the notion of a sweet memory. It is a magical scene, and one of the few ones of pure bliss in the film. Diaz is compassionate to the character of Kadyo, and understands that this is, just as the radio dramas are to his family, his only form of escape; his only opportunity to be transported away from the weight of reality. As sympathetic as Diaz is, though, the scene with the rebel that occurs prior to this one serves to illustrate Kadyo’s weakness, and perhaps that of us as a nation: for every step we take forward we take a step back or to the side, justifying our penchant for escapism by the gravity of our sorrow.

In another scene the family listens to the radio, hoping to catch the latest episode of an ongoing drama series. As one of the daughters learns that it is filmmaker Lino Brocka, she says his name off-handedly and disinterestedly, “It’s just Lino Brocka," and then changes the station. Brocka, considered by some to be the greatest of all Filipino filmmakers, is portrayed by one-time critic Gino Domiendo. Brocka was an outspoken artist and activist with a flair for the dramatic, and Diaz here has him speaking out against censorship; critical words that serve as a reminder to our society today. Where once film and filmmakers played a critical role in shaping the national consciousness, railing against the censorship imposed by Marcos and fighting to make serious works in the context of a repressive regime, today, many filmmakers tread shallow waters, with such prominent directors as Laurice Guilen and Marilou Diaz-Abaya, themselves contemporaries and colleagues of Brocka, espousing self-censorship by championing the banning of the film Live Show (Toro, 2002) by Jose Javier Reyes and praising SM Cinemas, the largest theater chain in the country, for their move to ban screenings of R-18 rated films in their cinemas. Acts that surely have Brocka turning in his grave.

After the last second video passes, the screen turns black, and a title card appears: The Story of Two Mothers (Ang Kuwento ng Dalawang Ina). A scene repeats from the film’s opening: Hilda finds a baby in the dumpster, full of ants. Her voice like that of a madwoman, repeating phrases, her appearance like that of a homeless junky; she takes the baby and walks away. A woman enters the screen, and we learn that it is the mother who abandoned the baby. We hear her speak in voiceover as she kneels to lay roses on the spot where she once left Reynaldo:

“For the past 16 years I’ve come back to this street.
This is where I left my child.
In a time of forgetfulness…
In a time of weakness….
Everyday I think of him.
Everyday, I am sorry.
Forgive me.”

The screen cuts to black, and the film ends with a quote: “Alam ko kung paano namatay si Jean Vigo” (I know how Jean Vigo died) – Taga Timog, filmmaker. Taga Timog, which in English translates to ‘from the south’, is the fictional alter-ego of Diaz. Evolution is an allegory, a tale that documents the tumultuous period wherein a country was broken, its people abandoned, and its psyche displaced. It is through the epic struggle to complete the film that Diaz has gained an understanding of just how Jean Vego died: trying to save his own life.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Batang West Side

The True Best Picture

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 3, 2002

I saw a dazzling Filipino movie the other weekend. It's not one of the entries in the current Metro Manila film Festival. I don't know when--or if--it will be shown in regular theaters. I understand it's all the people who made the movie can do to find a booking for it.

I'm talking of Lav Diaz's "Batang West Side," which is a record Filipino movie in more ways than one. The most obvious way being that it is five hours and 15 minutes long, which in fact makes it a record movie anywhere in the world. There have been longer movies, one Japanese movie, if I recall right, being more than 12 hours, but they are meant to be watched in installments. This one demands to be seen in one blow. And should be. It's not episodic, it's one very tight piece of work.

Lav would tell me later he figured we had fairly solid tradition of watching long movies, to go by the double features in the provinces. But double features are precisely two movies, not one, and are generally comedies and action movies. Not one that requires thoughtful and sustained attention.

Which is the reason "Batang West Side" is having problems finding a place for exhibition. I saw it in Glorietta 4, which is a small theater with a reputation for showing largely non-commercial films. I understand that is also the reason it hasn't found a place in international competitions--to which it eminently belongs--since festival organizers impose a time limit on movies. Even Francis Ford Coppola apparently had to trim down "Apocalypse Now" to less than three hours to meet that requirement.

I don't know what Lav can do to satisfy the demands of practicality and aesthetics, public acceptance and artistic integrity. But I do know his work deserves as wide audience as possible, preferably in its pristine state. I wish him all the luck in the world.

"Batang West Side's" length aside, I myself am curious to know how the general public would greet its theme. It tells of the life of a group of Filipinos in America, which may not be so easy for everyone to relate to. I personally am wondering if my having gotten deeply engrossed in it does not owe to my having caught a glimpse of that life too. Certainly, the mood of the movie--which is one of the things it does so brilliantly, capture the mood of that life in all its wintry starkness--struck a sympathetic chord in me. But I also imagine that the phenomenon of the overseas Filipino workers will allow many Filipinos to experience the shock of recognition when they see the movie. The differences between living in the United States and in the OFW destinations--Hong Kong, Saudi arabia--may be monumental, but not so the feelings of homesickness, alienation and a sense of drift.

In "Batang West Side," Joel Torre is a Filipino cop in New Jersey (West Point graduate and 10-year resident) who investigates the murder of a Filipino youth named Hansel Harana. The cop's investigation leads him to a confrontation partly with the world he left behind, and with a world he barely knows. The latter is the life of Filipinos in America, a life lived on the fringes, or margins, or pores, of society, with its huge pains and small triumphs, with its unrelenting drudgery and sudden bursts of violence, with its invisibility and assertion through drugs, particularly shabu, the gateway to power trips.

Above all, Torre's investigation leads him to a confrontation with himself, to his own demons, whose assaults have left him as emotionally crippled as shabu has done mentally to the objects of his sleuthing. The ending may be a little bitin to an audience used to straightforward resolutions--and which has waited for more than five hours to know what really happened to Harana; they might cry out "harang"--but I myself found it as it should be. I'll leave the reader with that mysterious comment as an enticement to see the movie.

Everything about the movie is dazzling. It has very few false notes. The writing--which was done by Lav himself--is taut, the dialogue crisp and biting. He is one fantastic storyteller, introducing his details with the deftness of a magician performing a grand trick, till they work a shimmering, lingering, illusion--or truth--in the mind. He is an equally fantastic director, the whole movie resonating with control. Even the sudden bursts of violence controlled--controlled fury is always more furious than a wanton one. The acting is uniformly excellent. Torre, of course, is his usual excellent self, but the revelation is Yul Servo, who essays the teenager Hansel. There's a boy to watch out for.

A fierce intelligence runs through this movie, an intelligence however that is not artsy-craftsy. On the contrary, it is one that has a lot of heart. I felt moved by this movie in ways most other movies have not moved me, local or foreign. It insinuates itself into the mind and heart so subtly you are not sure at what point you have yielded completely.

If I have any quibbles with the movie, they are very small ones. Chief of them is that characters in this movie have very dysfunctional backgrounds. I would have been curious to see the effects of living in America--I suddenly remembered Woody Allen's quip that he believed there was an intelligence in the cosmos with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey--among people with more "normal" backgrounds. Which is also the reason I thought Torre's revelation of--and coming to terms with--a truly dark past seems a little superflous. You do not need to have such a past to develop that kind of alienated behavior as a Filipino in America. But like I said, these are minor, and just quibbling.

Cesar Montano should stop complaining. If there is a milestone in Filipino moviemaking, it is not "Bagong Buwan," it is "Batang West Side." It ups the ante on quality, local movies that aspire for the moon henceforth having this to reckon with. If it isn't a runaway winner in next year's movie awards, I'll have the most serious doubts about the competence of our judges.

Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family)


By Vinita Ramani

Ekran Magazine

“I distrust summaries, any kind of gliding through time, any too great a claim that one is in control of what one recounts; I think someone who claims to understand but is obviously calm, someone who claims to write with emotion recollected in tranquility, is a fool and a liar. To understand is to tremble. To recollect is to re-enter and be riven… I admire the authority of being on one’s knees in front of the event.” Harold Brodkey, Manipulations.

1. introduction

When I was asked to write about Lav Diaz’s film, The Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004), I realized the endeavour would involve a response as much to Diaz’s remarkable opus as it would to the concepts of cultural amnesia and collective history. These are not new preoccupations, though some may argue that the struggles with self, memory, historiography and culture have taken on a more immediate resonance in recent decades. However, they bear a particularly visceral edge and present an almost burdensome obstacle in this strange geopolitical collective we’ve come to call “Asia” .1 Whatever claims theories of postmodernism have made on the ambiguous character of our times and the doubts it has produce about modernity’s promises, the rhetoric around national values of modernization still seem to have a powerful influence. Its grip isn’t all encompassing, but in some respects, it has set up the terms of engagement as a bargain: amnesia has been demanded in return for capital and apparent progress. Personal and collective historical narratives have been elided in exchange for the idea of a nation with its material promises – a dubious chimera at best.

As Luis Francia has observed, in the context of the Philippines, the 1950s saw something of a reaction against this chimera with filmmakers such as Lamberto Avellana, Eddie Romero and Gerarado de Leon taking a more neo-realist and humanistic approach to filmmaking. The blow to the gut came with the declaration of Marital Law by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. It was in this period that the betrayal of an authoritarian state selling a fallacious idea of national prosperity took hold with such intensity. It produced a state of disbelief not least because the lie came from within and not from a foreigner, an imperial power or the colonial presence that the Philippines had already struggled with. But it also marked the emergence of a “New Wave’ in Filipino cinema, led by filmmakers such as Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal and Mike de Leon. This collective force not only tackled the systematic censorship laws instituted in earnest during the Marcos regime’s rule, but also began to produce seminal works such as Brocka’s You’ve Been Judged and Found Wanting (Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, 1974) and Bernal’s Speck in the Water (Nunal Sa Tubig, 1976).

I see Diaz’s film and his approach to filmmaking as an ongoing response to the condition of the Filipino people that began with a real sense of urgency during the 1970’s. If it bears any kind of a call-to-arms, it simply asks Filipinos to remember, to look back and to choose willingly to engage their collective histories. Evolution of a Filipino Family is also the expression of an artist’s vision. As such, it offers a deluge of powerful images and narrative choices that are worthy of nothing less than thorough critical engagement. This essay is hopefully one of many attempts by numerous writers to do precisely that.

2. national myths, myths of nationalism

It is almost unavoidable to mentioned the concept of the nation without making reference to Benedict Anderson (1983). Briefly, his ruminations suggest that the nation is an “imagined community” forged through several critical factors, including anti-colonial struggles, the existence of print media and public debate. But some theorists who ascribed to this theory and extended it to the concept of a national cinema observe its possible limitations in retrospect. Andrew Higson’s essay “The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema" (2000)2 notes that this reading isn’t sensitive to the “contingency or instability of the national. This is precisely because the nationalist project, in Anderson’s terms, imagine the nation as limited, with finite and meaningful boundaries… the focus is on films that seem amenable to such an interpretation” (Higson 2000: 66). In essence, both the concepts of a “nation” and “national cinema” lack clarity and specificity. As Anthony Smith observes in “Images of the Nation – Cinema, Art and National Identity’, the nation is “the product of modernization and modernity, and of the secular, modernization and modernity, and of the secular, modern intelligentsia which creates and disseminates the historical myths of nationhood” (Smith 2000:47).

This brief outline gives us some window into understanding the ways in which Diaz’s film actively demonstrates the contingencies of defining both a nation and a national cinema. The film charts a period from 1971 (just prior to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972) to 1987, a year after the People Power Revolution, which brought down the regime and led to Marcos’ exile from the Philippines. In one of the barrios, matriarch and grandmother Puring Gallardo farms the land with her son Kadyo and his three daughters Huling, Ana and Martina. Kadyo's wife has passed away and in a sense, the girls both depend on and learn from Puring who is the emotional centre of the Gallardo family.

The film opens with a long take that brings us into the world within which the family farms and takes care of its buffaloes in the fields. This opening shot reveals a wondrous depth of field, complete lack of extraneous sound and the centrality of time unraveling slowly as people go about their tasks. Diaz’s proclivity for a realism that doesn’t subordinate time to movement and the dictates of plot continuity sets the scene and tone of one aspect of the film. The other aspect of Evolution draws from another form of realism. We see the first of many scenes composed of archival footage. As men with guns react against protestors burning American flags, newsreel vignettes show Marcos reading the Declaration of Martial Law (1972). Markedly, it is at this juncture that we hear of Hilda, Kadyo’s sister and Puring’s daughter, whose mental stability isn’t explained. Hilda is first seen wandering aimlessly through desolate urban streets at night, where she finds an abandoned baby near a garbage dump, a little boy later named Raynaldo who comes to live with the Gallardos. Her introduction is significant in that it is contiguous with the onset of Martial Law with all its attendant forms of oppression. Diaz stated in an interview that Raynaldo is “this melancholic figure--the solitary wanderer and lost child. We feel him… The search to find and redeem him is a symbolic thing. It is the Filipino soul that needs to be saved.”3 If Raynaldo is literally the product of fragmented families sundered by poverty, anxiety and struggled and symbolically the Filipino soul, then Hilda is one of the many mothers in the film as well as a representation of the Filipino psyche. Her surreal musings, her inability to remember her past or herself and her apparent madness are not an inaccurate rendering of the collective state of a people undergoing a struggle.

Subsequently, after Hilda’s death, Raynaldo leaves home aged nine. Wandering like Hilda through urban desolation in Quezon City, he eventually goes to the mountains where he is adopted once again by a family who live there. The father Fernando and his wife Marya are already playing surrogate parents to two boys, Carlos and Bendo (who is deaf). Fernando’s life is another strand that represents an irony and tragedy in the country. Hew obsessively scours the hills and waterlogged valleys for gold with the boys. Meanwhile, wealthy urbanites comment casually over a coffee and conversation that Marcos has 8000 tons in his valut – tellingly, as they articulate this it is apparent that they are utterly disconnected from the events occurring in the rural areas or mountains.

As these familial tales thread in and out, the archival footage reveals the growing presence of the army in the barrios. While this is not a summation of the complex narrative voices and characters that occupy the cinematic landscape in the film, it demonstrates the numerous ways in which Diaz’s film is less an example of a “national cinema” and more accurately a film about peoples’ trials and existence. As Higson noted, this fractured narrative style demonstrates who contingent the very idea of a “nation” is. The various families tackle problems and celebrate some genuine moments of quiet pleasure. Juxtaposed with this, archival footage reveals the political tensions and shifts occurring in various parts of the country. As viewers, we can neither attribute causality nor linearity to what we witness. We simply have to watch, undergo, wait an accept not knowing.

As stated earlier, the bounded, neat idea of a nation is also frequently applied to the definition of a national cinema. It is no surprise then, that the inception of the Manila International Film Festival in 1982 inaugurated by Imelda Marcos, wanted to present a sanitized, glamorized portrait of a nation that could be publicized abroad. Within its territorial boundaries however, the government had established the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television, which closely monitored and censures anything it deemed to be “subversive”. The most antagonistic force to counter this was Brocka’s My Country: Griping the Knife’s Edge (Bayan Ko, Kapit sa Patalim, 1984). In this same time period, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines had formed to build a systematic opposition to the violations of their freedom. In CAP’s manifesto with reference to My Country they stated that, “Among the deletions demanded by the censors are scenes of actual rallies and demonstrations… Adding insult to injury, the censors have also ordered the bleeping out of the patriotic song, Ang Bayan Ko, from which the film got part of its title – a song aired almost daily on radio…"4

This historical example of Brocka’s film and censorship in the Philippine is important for several reasons. Firstly, Diaz’s aesthetic and political decision to use significant scenes of archival footage, particularly of protests and marches, shows his commitment to visually remembering (not just via print media or radio) the country’s recent historical struggles. In another sense, Evolution pays kudos to Brocka and thus, Diaz is acknowledging his artistic debt to his predecessor. It is an act that attempts to repeat Brocka’s own protest and thus, via repetition, shows how the visual medium can influence and affect minds and souls.5 The silencing of the song in "My Country" is in itself symbolic of how patriotism is so dependent upon context. The Marcos regime had recognized its potentials as a rousing rally to forge faith in the state. Brocka reinvented the song by placing it within a revolutionary context in which workers rise against the misery inflicted upon them. This repetition of a familiar anthem in a radical context was clearly a provocation because it demonstrated all too clearly how contingent the idea of a nation (the Philippines) was – fact not lost on Diaz.

3. time in evolution

Film is “the opportunity to live through what is happening onscreen as if it were his own life, to take over, as deeply personal and his own, the experience imprinted in time upon the screen, relating his own life to what is being shown.”6

As some critics have noted, conventional narrative dictates what motifs must be used to signify memory and the passage of time in cinema. As Shirley Law states (with specific reference to the Italian film Cinema Paradiso), a number of visual and aural devices are often used to signal flashback, be it the close-up or objects/sound that trigger memory. They “create the mood for regression, interiority and personal reflection... ellipsis is a conventional narrative filmic device used to move quickly from one period of time to another.”7. In vivid contrast to these examples, Evolution is a film manifestly opposed to the notion that the passage of time and its character’s lives must be subordinated to a narrative thrust that explains every action within a neat causal grid-work. David N. Rodowick offers a reading of Deleuze’s concept of the time-image (as opposed to the movement-image) which seems to be an apt reading of time in Diaz’s film. Time-image “fluctuates between actual and virtual, that records or deals with memory, confuses mental and physical time, actual and virtual, and is sometimes marked by incommensurable spatial and temporal links between shots.”8 As Deleuze goes on to explain, “rational cuts always determine commensurable relations between series of images and thereby constitute the whole rhythmic system and harmony of classical cinema… In summary, the classic movement-image is based on a rational ordering system (the continuity system) that is intended to make the story as legible and smooth running as possible.”9

This summation of Deleuze’s concept is strikingly resonant when applied to the sense of time in Evolution. If ellipsis is used in the film, it is not an attempt to leap over the slow passage of time in order to provide rational narrative continuity. Rather, it is to remind us repeatedly that we cannot always attribute a cause to an event or occurrence. The form almost completely avoids using linearity in storytelling precisely to prevent the characters from being stigmatized, judged or typified by a series of descriptors and cause-related events. There are numerous such instances worthy of recollection.

As radio broadcasts and the footage of the military presence in the outlying areas of the country increase, we see scenes of Kadyo living with a group of men, in the midst of training exercise. This scene is not preceded by a clear explanation as to why he is there and therefore, the moment remains elusive for a length of time until we realize Kadyo has been incarcerated for something we have not yet witnessed onscreen. It is only much later in the film that a scene emerges in which Kadyo hides a stash of guns and ammunition in their shack in the barrio. He later supplies the loot he stole from the army to the rebels in the countryside who are in opposition to the government. Kadyo's journey into and out of the penitentiary is also fragmented, interposed with his own quiet but pained search for Raynaldo. Fernando, Marya and the boys Carlos and Bendo are anchored in the story by the fact that Raynaldo lives with them for an extended period of time. But once again, they aren’t given a specific identity, or place in the narrative through which they can be categorized as family with particular background or history.

Even after extended footage of the People Power protests shows how an overwhelming segment of the population brought the Marcos regime down before Aquino’s inauguration, it is muted by the presence of a humiliated, limping Kadyo who finds himself unable to return home and resume normal family life. Periods of anguish are relieved by the sense that resistance is always building somewhere in the country. Despite Purings evident struggle to earn money and educate her granddaughters to release them from poverty, there are flashes of abandon and pure pleasure when they sing folk songs in almost pitch-darkness to the glow of candlelight. These moments of realism bear a startling simplicity and intimacy that almost makes us feel as though we are intruding upon a private moment of peace amongst friends and family.

3.2 fiction in evolution

A motif that arcs over almost the entire film is the aural presence of radio dramas. In fact, aside from Puring and Huling’s occasional nights of singing, there is no extraneous sound or music in the film other than these soap operas. They, both, play out in the Gallardo household and feature as an incessant form of distraction and preoccupation for Carlos, Bendo and Raynaldo. Ironically, even Bendo’s deafness cannot deter him from having an avid desire to know what happens next in these dramas. In the first instance we hear one of these soap operas, it is used almost as a contrapuntal device; as a woman wails and dramatizes her emotions, this flood of heightened anguish blares out of a radio in a scene with relatively silent and stationary people in the barrio. It is both an ironic and telling moment as radios (and eventually, television) come to play significant roles in the film.

In one particular scene, the female protagonist of a radio soap opera is having an impassioned exchange with her family about rising from poverty by doing photo shoots for a tabloid magazine. These are recurrent themes in the dramas, just as scenes of the girls and Puring or Raynaldo sitting in rapt silence, waiting to hear what happens next also recur throughout the film. The radio soaps play several roles. In one sense, they serve to show how much melodrama has dominated the consciousness and modes of fictional expression in the Philippines, so much so that they occupy a prime place in the lives of those who see in them, a vicarious escape from the grip of poverty. However, Diaz’s inclusion of shots from inside the studio where we watch the actors and actresses reading their near-hysterical lines with a well-learnt cadence also serves another purpose. For one, it is another unexpected instance of realism in the film. It reveals in plain terms, how disparate the lives of urban dwellers, the farmer’s miners and mainstream performers are. The dramas bear no connection to those performing them and they offer a neat conclusion of a kind the avid listeners may never experience in reality. In other words, the empathy they offer and the denouement that marks their structure are both a sort of lie.

In another sense however, Diaz’s critique of the soap opera is tempered by the predominance of scenes in which we too sit with Raynaldo, Carlos, Bendo, or Puring, Huling, Ana and Martina, listening to the fights, struggles and dreams of “ordinary Filipinos” in these soap operas. As Francia again noted with reference to Brocka, “he took elitist notions of what constituted good and bad film and stood these on their theoretical heads… most local melodramas were seen as bakya, a pejorative term literally meaning, ”clogs” – the everyday wear of the proletariat – and used to denigrate popular taste. Brocka and his contemporaries made the so-called bakya films, socially acceptable, a mini-revolution in itself” (Francia: 355). In a sense, Brocka took the melodrama and moved it in a direction quite unlike its otherwise formulaic structure. This was his skill and prerogative living under the strictures of a censorious regime. Diaz’s strength is in showing us the unseen people who listen to these daily soap operas, to juxtapose the exaggerated emotions of fiction against the quiet banality and anxiety of daily life. As stated earlier, he compels us to live in the moment with the families, to listen to these strangely distant tales of suffering and redemption after an entire day of relentless, back breaking work in the fields or mountains.

If the radio damas are disconnected from the reality of the constituency they often claim to represent, then the news on the radio and television about the protests and Brocka’s efforts in the 1980’s seem to be even more distanced from the likes of Kadyo and the Gallardo family. When Kadyo in particular, has been housed in a hideout under the dubious charge of former inmate who may give him a “job” to do for some cash, he turns on the television and watches a short documentary on Brocka by Taga Timog. But the separation between what he witnesses onscreen and where he finds himself could not be more profound or pronounced. In a room without windows, uncertain and angst-ridden by the situation in which he finds himself, Kadyo’s predicament is deeply disturbing particularly as Brocka’s call-to-arms should speak to him, but cannot and does not reach him with that immediacy. There is an emotional dissonance in Diaz's actual use of footage of Brocka and film critic Gino Dormiendo (who plays Brocka). These extensive vignettes speak again, of the power the cinematic medium has to transform lives and speak truths. However, placed against the immense uncertainty his characters must wrestle with, even this is shown to be contingent, rather than a guarantee that freedom will come with revolution and struggle.

3.3. memory, dreams and truth-telling

“We do not remember; we rewrite memory, much as history is rewritten.” 10

There is of course, no comprehensive truth-telling in the final analysis. Tarkovsky was attacked for his films which were deemed “too naturalistic” in their “deliberate aestheticisation of cruelty for its own sake.”11 He retaliated that “things that exist 'in themselves’ only come to have existence ‘for us’ in the course of our own experience; man’s need to know functions in this way, that is its meaning.” 12 Evolution is an expression of a journey that took over a decade for Diaz to realize. In a sense, it is not completely disconnected from its predecessor, the five-hour long Batang West Side (2002). In Batang, a film largely set in Jersey City around the troubled occurrences within the Filipino-American community, there are fragments of black and white film footage that seem to be disconnected from the narrative that takes precedence. They seem like memories of Hilda in the barrio, but certainty remain elusive. Again, ellipsis with regards to memory functions in both films as a form of survival. In David Gross’ analysis of memory in the writings of Proust and Bergson, he states that there is a third type of memory, the “unsanctioned or perception... A person dominated by these unsolicidated recollections would be overwhelmed by the flood of images and hindered in their ability to cope with reality.” 13

In a sense, what is elided in Evolution and what appears to be disjointed or incomplete is precisely a defense against this type of memory. Yet, we cannot easily delineate dream from memory or the present. In a particularly arresting scene, a vivid long shot reveals silhouetted trees and figures walking against a pale dawn (or evening?) sky. As they slowly trudge into view, we see that one of them is carrying as cross. This sequence once against recurs after a rare instance in the film of a medium-shot to close-up of Huling and Ana speaking to the camera (to Kadyo?), to say that Martina is missing and that their grandmother Puring is dead. Kadyo struggles to do something for his family from afar and yet, inevitably, he is aware that he cannot stem the tide of time or death.

As the film’s end draws near, a series of almost incandescent images begin to play before us. Kadyo’s gradual demise as he shuffles through the sun-bleach streets is seen concurrent with Puring’s as she embraces a framed photograph of family members and shuts her eyes. A still more wondrous shot of Huling and Ana wrestling, laughing, play-fighting and collapsing in giggles in the rice fields is juxtaposed against a shot of Raynaldo and Hilda sitting waist-deep in water, the sand-bed ebbing gently around them. Water shimmers and flows over rocks, smoothened by gradual attrition. It is a simple and immediate image, in counterpoint to Raynaldo’s train ride home and eventual reunion with Huling, Ana and Martina. As Huling says, no matter what happens, life will inevitably continue. And so it does.

4. desaparecidos – bringing the missing back to life

That the people are missing means they require an enabling image that can summon them into existence.. If there were a modern political cinema, it would be on this basis: that the people no longer exist, or not yet.. the people are missing.” Deleuze14

“the so-called desaparecidos or “missing people” – usually those who were suspected of alliances with the Left or with communists or just plain people who had aired their views against the dictatorship--who were silenced with guns or who had jut vanished.” Lav Diaz’15

In an age of irony and skepticism, it is hard to find an artist who would claim to be one without any hesitation or embarrassment about the struggle it entails and the scorn it may produce. Diaz’s work is astounding both within the context of Filipino cinema and outside of the cultural, social and political parameters that have produced it. Evolution of a Filipino Family, at nearly 11 to 12 hours (morphing all the time), is nothing short of a journey. But it is a journey that does not presume to speak for the people whose stories unravel onscreen. That these stories are incomplete attests to the fact that Diaz recognizes the difference between the compelling need to speak his truth and the assumption that the truth is perfect, or finished. I use the term desaparecidos in both senses – as articulated by Deleuze and Diaz. Evolution of a Filipino Family is both a bringing into being of a people who have thus far remained under-represented and in Diaz’s historical sense, a remembering of those who prematurely passed away.


1. When the Philippines itself is composed of over 7000 islands forming a complex archipelago with a population with a population that practices Roman Catholicism, Islam and tribal indigenous faiths, it only goes to show that the term “Asia” is a misnomer.

2. Higson, A: the Limiting Imagination of a National Cinema in Cinema and Nation. Editors: Mette Hjort & Scott MacKenzie. London & New York, Routledge: 2000

3. Diaz, L: The Decade of Living Dangerously: A Chronicle by Lav Diaz. Interview by Brandon Wee in Senses of Cinema Issue no. 34, January – March 2005. HYPERLINK "http://www/"http://www.

4. Francia, L.H.: Side-Stepping History- Beginnings to 1980’s inbeing andBecoming – The Cinema of Asia. Editors: Aruna Vasudev, Latika Padgaonkar, Rashmi Doraiswamy. India, Macmillan Press Ltd: 2002

5. Again, as Diaz states in his interview with Wee from Senses of Cinema: “…Marcos knew the power of the medium. Whether one is in the aesthetic of entertainment domain, cinema is a very powerful medium. It can change peoples’ minds and perspectives, but sometimes blindly, as in Marco’s use of it as a political tool.”

6. Tarkovsky, A: Sculpting in Time. Translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair. University of Texas Press, Austin: 1986 – 1987.

7. Law, S: Film memory and nostalgia in Cinema Paradiso – Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – Film As Text. Australian Screen Education:http//

8. In Totaro, D: Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonian Film Project Part 2: Cinema 2. Ofscreen. 1999:

9. ibid.

10. Homes, B.C.: The Deleuzian Memory of Sans Soleil. 2000: HYPERLINK ""

11. Tarkovsky, A: Sculpting in Time. Translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair. University of Texas Press, Austin: 1986, 1987 (p. 184-185)

12. ibid.

13. In Toraro, D: Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonian Film Project Part 2: Cinema 2. For Ofscreen. 1999:

14. Homes, B.C.: The Deleuzian Memory of Sans Soleil. 2000: HYPERLINK ""

15. ""

* Diaz, L: The Decade of Living Dangerously: A Chronicle by Lav Diaz. Interview by Brandon Wee in Sense of Cinema, Issue no. 34, January-March 2005. HYPERLINK ""
* Francia, L.H.: Stepping History – Beginnings to 1980s inbeing and Becoming – The Cinema of Asia. Editors: Aruna Vasudev, Latika Padgaonkar, Rashmi Doraiswamy. India, Macmillan Press Ltd: 2002
* Hames, P: The Melancholy of Resistance – the Films of Bela Tarr. In Kinoeye, Vol 1, Issued 1: Setpember 2001. HYPERLINK ""
* Higson, A: The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema in Cinema and Nation. Editors Mette Hjort & Scott MacKenzie. London & NewYork, Routledge: 2000.
* Homes, B.C.: The Deleuzian Memory of Sans Soleil. 2000: HYPERLINK ""
* Law, S: Film, memory and nostalgia in Cinema Paradiso – Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – Film As Text. Australian Screen Education: hhtp://www.
* Smith, A:L Images of the Nation – Cinema, Art and National Identity in Cinema and Nation. Editors: Mette Hjort & Scott MacKenzie. London & New York, Routledge: 2000
* Tarkovsky, A: Sculpting in Time. Translated by Kitty Hunter – Blair. University of Texas Press, Austin: 1986, 1987.
* Totaro, D: Gilles Deleuze’s Bergsonian Film Project Part 2: Cinema 2. For Ofscreen. 1999:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family)

(R)Evolution of Concrete

By Christoph Huber

Ekran Magazine

Probably a month before I first encountered Lav Diaz’ epic Evolution of a Filipino Family (at the Rotterdam Film Festival in early February 2005), I encountered for the first time – thanks to Dave Kehr - a fascinating bit of information concerning the original version of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed. King Vidor, one of the few persons invited by MGM studio boss to the now-legendary first marathon screening of Stroheim’s rough cut, often referred to as a cinema’s lost “holy grail”, had told Kehr in an interview that (as paraphrased by Kehr) “most of the running time was devoted to Stroheim’s insistence on spelling out every single action of the characters, such as leaving one apartment, going down the stairs, walking down the stairs, walking down the street, entering another building, climbing the stairs, knocking on the door, going in, etc.”

Thinking about Evolution invariably has taken me back to this story for various reasons, the simplest probably being the comparable extraordinary length (over ten hours in both cases) and a subplot in Evolution that immediately brought Greed to mind: one character develops an obsession for gold, and while that doesn’t lead towards an appropriately grandiose and deadly renunciation of the American Dream in the endless plains of Death Valley, it causes a path of descent into abandoned mines, an image that seems an equally fitting metaphor for the Filipino tragedy that Evolution is about. (Receding into this cavernous subterranean space in search of immediate material gratification not only seems a perfect picture for the refusal of the Filipino people to deal with their history, especially including the period of Martial Law declared by president Marcos that is the setting for the later part of Evolution, there’s also a clever ironic juxtaposition in the dialogue about the gold that’s actually in the president’s vaults.) Coincidentally, in a recent interview Diaz has noted that this subplot was the crucial last thread he inserted: “Gold as a metaphor for so many things in the Filipino socio-cultural milieu.” Funnily enough, the first item on his shortlist of meanings that follow is “gold for greed”.

But such comparisons, instructive as they may be, certainly mean less than the questions of feasibility, duly ignoring the fact that one film was made with the backing of a major studio, while the other was an independent production and arte povera, both in the truest sense of the word. If somebody wants to discuss what’s the grander gesture – getting a big company to produce what must seem a monstrous achievement from a commercial point of view or, for lack of such means, investing a decade of your life in a similar undertaking: Go ahead, waste your life in a similar undertaking: Go ahead, waste your time. (I hope it’s argued elsewhere in this issue why questions like these are part of what’s wrong with film culture today.) What counts, in both cases, is that the mammoth undertaking and result ostensibly spring from a commitment, an idea of unearthing “truth” (to use Diaz’ phrase) without compromises, be they financial, aesthetic or just dictated by what is often referred to as “common sense” (and as often a thinly veiled rationalization for the complacent “majority vote” of what’s acceptable).

Not only the enormous and demanding running time, but this rare commitment (which is of course what causes the runtimes) is what makes both films impossible objects in a way. And logically, this applies quite literally: the long Stroheim cut of Greed is long lost, which of course, as long as it remains that way, only heightens its mythic aura – indeed, it begs the question, if Vidor’s description is true, would it be considered a hallmark of cinema on such a broad basis if it were every regained, given Vidor’s claim that the first (and also lost) four hour re-edit that followed, (again, per Kehr) “lost no narrative incidence whatsoever”… And Diaz’ incredible achievement, as it could be seen so far, is somewhat diminished by a visible lack of financial resources, which also was one of the main reasons for its ten years in the making, first on 16mm, then on cheaper Digital Video: it only exists on Video Beta, hampered by aural and visual glitches and a horrible transfer. (The irony, probably not lost on the DV-weary eyes of many a festival-goer, is that the passages of the film shot on video look much better this way than those shot on film).

Now, while it would be foolish idealism to expect a film like Evolution to be immediately making the headlines, its should have merited at least a few more notices than it has so far. Obviously its length plays a part in its neglect (films that are considered epic and difficult get skipped over in favor of larger quantities of less challenging fare at every film festival, by audiences and critics alike), but that alone shouldn’t pose to great an aesthetic challenge for a world from culture that has enshrined Bela Tarr’s Satantango as one of its contemporary touchstones (and now has to deal with lots of untalented imitators of dead-time formalism). The reason seems much simpler, as evidenced by the neglect of Diaz’ previous film Batang West Side, a five-hour chronicle of the Filipino Diaspora set in New York, whose form is also initially demanding (though certainly, at least on a surface level – which unfortunately is what counts here – not more than anything by Tarr): a deliberate, slow and ultimately hypnotic pace, consistently unusual camera placement (which never calls attention to itself, typical of Diaz’ strict avoidance of all things flashy) and a complicated, yet carefully unraveling structure essential to its cathartic power. (It’s really only during the last major scene that all its layers – emotional, political, historical and dialectical – completely click, and the result is overwhelming.) But unlike Evolution, this masterpiece, doesn’t suffer from an obvious lack of funds, so its sidelining can only be accounted for by the supposedly “esoteric” nature of its subject: For one thing, the Philippines are not (at least as yet) considered an Asian hot spot, exactly, so there’s no hype to be garnered. And Diaz’ staunch refusal to pepper his movies with extraneous explanation, including historical markers, certainly doesn’t help in a film culture so afraid of knowledge outside its cemented grasp (although anyone who’s seen Batang can testify that you certainly don’t need the extra knowledge to get it, it just deepens the experience). All this may seem ironic, since Diaz’ grand subject is ostensibly the heritage of his nation (indeed, I can think of few directors, living or dead, as committed to this cause), but only at first glance: Scrutinized more closely, what Diaz really deals with is the refusal of a nation to come to terms with its troubled past.

Fittingly enough, Evolution kicks in at the crucial point in history marking the great final revelation of its predecessor, just before Philippine president Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. a family chronicle spanning 16 years (from 1971 to 1987, one year after Marcos finally had to relinquishes presidency), Evolution challenges not only conventional viewing habits and criteria of evaluation, but also a nations’ denial of its dark recent history. (In a personal conversation, a visibly disgruntled Diaz pointed to the successful Manila run of the uncritical (to put it mildly) doc about Marcos’ widow Imelda (2003, by Ramona S. Diaz – no relation, obviously), mentioning how the audience was blithely laughing along with the glamorously madcap posturing of their erstwhile co-dictator.) While this national/historical imperative may be the prime source for the palpable urgency and fervor of Evolution, and it allows you to immerse yourself in a whole period on a level that almost feels like you’ve lived through it, it has a lot of timely things of global importance to impart as well: Just for one thing, it should be kept in mind that Marcos’ corrupt terror regime also remained in power thanks to the US support.

Centered around the fate of the Gallardos, a poor peasant family, whose members’ hardly dignified lives become even less so, while they are scattered all over the country during the years, Evolution unfolds mostly in large, long-shot-long-take near--real--time chunks detailing their daily struggles, lending it not only a hyper-realistic aura that borders on the documentary at times, but also making the devastating major turns of events that happened to the Gallardos, well, every few hours, seem less like crucial intersections, as they are in most narratives, than logical, even inevitable peaks of suffering. It’s the unique result of this method, a kind of unhurried idea of verisimilitude, which at the same time magnificently exceeds any conventional notions of “realism” and allows for an exceptionally multi-faceted narrative, that has since given me an idea of what writer Henry Carr - another person present at Thunberg’s private screening of Greed – was referring to when he compared Stratham’s original 45-reel version to Les miserables, writing, “Episodes come along that you think have no bearing on the story, then 12 or 14 reels later, it hits you with a crash.”  These crashes are intensified by the elliptic approach Diaz has chosen for Evolution – indeed, given the convincing, almost organic result of the non-chronological structure, it is quite surprising that the film was conceived as a linear story and only brought into its ultimate form during finalization. The nonlinear narrative is only one element of a rich series of very modern counterpoint devices to the detailed rendering of the slow passage of time: 
Evolution also includes documentary footage of important political invents and, more oblique, long excursions into the radio soap-operas that were the only official entertainment for some time in the 70s, and are eagerly devoured by many family members, as well as seen performed by its cast on a sound stage. The latter idea is especially resonant, unmasking the state-sanctioned promotion of escapes fantasy by showing how the “lives” of the “invisible” members of what constitutes almost a fictional second family for the Gallardo’s are just empty constructs executed with impersonal professionalism. There’s a revealing, stark contrast to the many actual members of the Gallardo family that really become invisible (as was the case with most of the “missing people” of the Marcos era, usually by death), but it’s also one of the many instances in Evolution where Diaz shows his insightful, dialectic relationship to his own craft.

This reflexivity is also visible in the noticeable maturing of Diaz’ style (only fitting for a film at the time of writing), in which you can see him accumulate lessons learned from other filmmakers, including acknowledged sources like Tarkovsky, Tati and Jean Vigo – to whom the film is, in a way, dedicated -, without ever being in danger of lip-service or, even worse, imitation. (As evidence by the fact that I don’t know how familiar, if at all, Diaz is with Stroheim, but as you can see from this article, there seems to be a grain in there as well, maybe the lesson is quite banal: that great directors always seem to have a spiritual exchange going on.) The complexity of maturation also informs the film quite naturally: Seeing some younger cast members literally grow up before your eyes yields a powerful fascination. (In another testament to the long, troubled shoot, the disappearance of others sometimes is just due to the fact that they died during production: more invisible men.)

But of course, given Diaz’ insistence on coming to terms not just with history, but especially with the history of his own country, it is two Filipino filmmakers that play the most important part in the cine-genealogy of Evolution, both of them markedly being in the film and being not there at the same time (I guess you can see it as another wry comment about historical amnesia, in this case film historical). There’s a fascinating subplot about Lino Brocka, who can be seen voicing his strong opinions on responsibility in politics, cinema, their relationship and other matters. Only that it’s not Brocka, but Filipino film critic Gino Dormiendo (a fact that is never acknowledged in the film), who looks almost exactly like the late master and is just as convincing impersonating him. And then there’s Taga Timog, who was already the sole person (within the film) privy to the final confession of Batang West Side: a fictional character but – especially in the earlier work – ostensibly a stand-in-for Diaz himself, the present-day director who tries to find a proper way to communicate the state of things – and, by logical extension, what led up to it: history, again – to the people. He also has the final word (or more precisely: images) in Evolution, handing the last puzzle piece, the appropriately dialectic “Tale of Two Mothers" (for which he is credited as a director), to the audience. There’s an endearing playfulness at work here, but Diaz isn’t playing games with his viewers, as it’s completely beside the point whether one knows about the difference between “reality” and “fiction” in both cases, just as the documentary inserts of Evolution can be sufficiently understood without great prior knowledge of Filipino history, even if there’s no commentary. (Diaz’ style is true to conveying a complex vision of the world, which is exactly why it’s never hermetic.)

It’s also Taga Timog who’s credited with the documentary on Lino Brocka that hapless Uncle Kadyo, having left the Gallardos in search of their adopted “lost child”, watches on TV, leading up to what may be the most moving sequence in Evolution, also because Kadyo’s fate ties together the ideas about a nation’s oppression and its historical failures with the ideas about resistance out of commitment to truth, necessarily including cinema. It's and almost unedited 20-minute-take in which the dying Kadyo stumbles through the capital’s empty backstreets, and it takes on epiphanic power, as one can't help but realize how it expresses the experience of a nation in agony for centuries – first under foreign powers, and finally, and even more devastatingly, under one of their own.

Batang West Side


By Andrej Sprah

Ekran Magazine

Cognition, like culture, is organic, where meaning can flow without imposing manipulative forces or elements. Humankind’s capacity to grasp meaning is organic, too. Cinema can create this culture. But the real power of cinema comes when there is honesty in the work. You can use or discard all the theories, philosophies and verities that have sprung out of this great modern art but I believe that its greatest value will be that of honesty. And qualifying honesty must always be on the level of responsibility. The search for the truth must always go hand in hand with responsibility.”
-- Lav Diaz

     A deserted night street, covered with a few inches of dirty snow, showered with the cold light of the street lamps…; and there at the very bottom of this image a human figure arises from afar, wandering in its long and slow arriving past the patient eye of the camera… This scene, so saturated with loneliness and emptiness that it hurts to the bone, represents not only the initial but also the most frequently used image Filipino director Lav Diaz confronts us with in his in-depth and extensive investigation into the unenviable reality of his people’s diaspora in the North American Jersey City: Batang West Side (2002). The film, which aroused the interested film public with its epic structure and monumental design, starts out as a classic whodunit - with a body found lying on the pavement if West Side Avenue and a detective handling the case in a committed and meticulous manner. The victim of an unknown perpetrator is Hanzel Harana (Yul Servo), a barely 21-year-old Filipino immigrant who had but two years before come to stay with his mother in “the promised land”. The detective is his countryman, Juan Mijarez (Joel Torre), who is not in the least left indifferent by the suffering, the lack of perspective and the tragic fate of his kinsmen. The death of this young man, in a deserted street late at night with no credible witnesses, turns out to be a complex, Rashomon case, whose investigation is with every new actor ever more removed from the rules of the genre and is slowly turning into a complex psycho-sociological drama with the main –symbolic - protagonist becoming the Filipino man himself.1 Namely, in his fourth feature film, Lav Diaz concentrates above all on the question of the (lost) identity of the Filipino man. He is our contemporary, placed in the now, which spares but the few wealthiest people in the world, and in a diasporal environmental, in a kind of paradigmatic community where its inhabitants' basic identity problems crystallize in a concentrated form. Namely, an individual abroad is never only a bearer of the subjective social role but is always also a representatives of his people. Through the investigation procedure, we, together with Mijarez come to meet with Hanzel’s family members living in the USA; with his mother (Gloria Diaz), his grandfather (Ruben Tizon) and – only by the way – his father, who comes utterly distort from the Philippines only to collect his son’s body. Besides the mourning, frustrated representatives of the divided family,  the detective’s interrogations introduce us to Hanzel’s girlfriend, his closest friends and a number of individuals, be they Hanzel’s acquaintances and allies or his enemies – the key suspects of the case. The colourful collection of actors and companions of the tragical death soon proves to be a precisely conceived matrix of typical characters by which Diaz carefully sets up a paradigmatical structure of Filipino society as a whole. The selected protagonists, their relationship and their role and positioning in the unfolding of this complex narration bear evidence that nothing is left to chance and that the director exercises control over the extensive subject-matter of the five-hour film narration with incredible ease, certainly and confidence in himself and the medium of his expression. In this narration, Diaz’ subjective auteur vision comes to its full expression alongside his unflinching belief that an endeavour to restore the severed link between man and world is the precondition of creativity and the overcoming of the manipulative nature of the film medium itself: “…in creation, you will have a thousand and one options that represent the truths of your process assuming you, the maker, are the one who makes the decision. It is a process that would culminate in an eventual dynamic between the film and the viewer, and the viewer and the world. And if you believe that your work can truly be elevated in an aesthetic domain and that it can sustain itself, then its potential for meaning is vast and limitless so that it would be complete.” (Diaz in conversation with Wee).2  In his awareness of a film’s self-existence, Diaz comes very close to those conceptions in modern discussions of creativity that assign to a work of art a privileged place of the only thing in the world that sustains (itself): “[Art] preserves and is preserved in itself (quid juris?), although actually it last no longer than its support and matrials – stone, canvas, chemical colour, and so on (quid facti?). /…/ The work of art is being of sensations and nothing else: it exists in itself.” (Deleuze, Guattari 1994: 163-64)  In Diaz’ case the aspect of self positing is at the same time a principle of an entirely concrete creative process – by letting the shot scenes come alive in all their greatness, a film rises above its subject-matter, is established as a whole and stands up on its own – independently and necessarily: “I couldn’t do anything anymore, that’s the work, that’s it.” (Diaz)3  The feeling of the necessity of the sequence of events is the driving force of the inner dynamics of Batang West Side, where the nature of police work itself reveal a network of relation running much deeper and entangled more fatally than it first appears in view of the seeming outer pragmatic looseness. In such a consonant composition the only “ dissonant element” of the film seems to be Mijares’ – accidental – meeting with a documentary filmmaker who, with his camera , is on the lookout for the truth of the Filipino people’s life in diaspora. “The camera will catch plenty of stories. Some even true, I hope”, is his motto in decisively opposing the detective’s initial aversion, which at the end of the film – when two meet again and at first glance surprisingly bond – bring us to the revelation of one of the key enigmas of the film. But the aforementioned tight composition, based on Diaz’ efforts to search for truth according to the valuation criteria of an artist’s honesty and his unflinching responsibility for man and world, is of the kind that is not supported by “ the laws of physics” or – in our case – by the normative controls of the established ways of film production. It is held together by the inner means supporting the work of art and that binding notion of “the ultimate cinema” , put forward by Diaz’ great role model Andrey Tarkovsky: “I see chronicle as the ultimate cinema; for me it is not a way of filming but a way of reconstructing, of reconstructing life.” (Tarkovsky 1994: 64-65)4  And in accordance with life itself the basic conception of Batang West Side – its need to reconstruct the life of the murdered young man – is permeated by the tragic determinations of death and bitter memory. Its key sound dimension is therefore a collection of cries, sighs, shivers, (self)-accusations and whispers…,  its predominant emotional dimension is a combination of the feeling of grief, fear, loss, desperation and solitude… its elementary spatiality is a claustrophobic series of ghetto streets and temporary housing suffocating one even in the case of a lavish rich suburb villa… its central temporary is the momentariness of the opening letting the past emerge – both recent ( the last two years of Hanzel’s life ) and, above all, the time of Martial Law as one of the most traumatic periods of Filipino history. The various dimensions of Diaz’ accomplished narration continuously flow into each other in a permanent ellipsis and, at the same time, a constant – narrative superimposition. Ellipsis, as the actual characteristic narrative method of Batang West Side, as well as double exposure (which does not figure directly but as a specific form of double encoding, giving expression to the dramatical function specifying the essential determiners of Diaz’ narration: the coexistence of two levels of reality – concrete physical and imaginary, non-material) is a figure that besides its primary narrative function always conveys also the heterogeneity of film time.

     This pervasion of time can be clearly seen already in the prologue of Batang West Side – the starting ten-minute exposition ending with a murder of a young Filipino as the initial plot set-up… “I grew without a father. I have a father, but my memories of him are all from when I was only seven years old. His image remains incomplete in me save for the rare picture my mother kept and for brief memories of him taking care of me. When I was seven, he left. My mother wept for a long time waiting, than looking for him. It almost drove her mad.”  

     These are words in the off field underlying the introductory sequence of the film, in which from the depth of the frame, along a deserted night street, an at first barely noticeable figure of a staggering, evidently “absent” young man slowly approaches. In the scene, filmed as a patient long take in full shot, which is one of the most typical ways Diaz shoots exteriors, we follow the protagonist – in whom we shall recognize Hanzel Harana, a soon-to-be victim and subject of a police investigation up to the immediate vicinity of the spot, about to become the place of his death. A cross cut takes us to a dream-like, breath-taking black and white scene in the Filipino countryside where grief consumes both a child and his desperate mother as well as a grown up man sobbing on the shoulders of a young man, collecting his falling teeth into his hand…Cutting back to a man dozing off in a parked car and the sound of a far off shot waking him, reveals that it was him we have just seen in the dream – i.e., detective Juan Mijarez, who obviously dozed off while on a stake-out. Mijarez diligently writes down his dreams and then checks whether his nightmare ( teeth falling out in a dream supposedly fortell death) harmed anyone. He calls the hospital where his mother is lying, connected to machines keeping her alive. Learning she is fine, he calls his wife, who he lives separate from and has not called in two years, to check on his two sons. Before leaving the stake-out scene, he receive a message from his partner about a murdered Filipino youth on West Side Avenue. When he arrives at the scene of the crime, he recognizes the victim Hanzel, whom he did not know personally but who was familiar to him from the indispensable “ inventory” of the streets. ( “I’m familiar with Hanzel Harana. I always see him at West Side Avenue. One time I bumped into him,” the detective recalls in inner monologue.) It is exactly this inner monologue as a particular kind of voice-over – providing to be a standard method of Diaz’ introspection – and the visual reconstruction of the moment when the policeman and the young man bump into each other that give the whole its specific meaning of a crucial scene. Not only because of the fact that this is the only scene in the entire film in which Diaz, as an emphasis, uses both slow-motion and replay at the same time, but also because it introduces the principle of retrospective reconstruction as the key narrative strategy of Batang West Side. It is clear now that the introductory monologue did not speak of Hanzel’s childhood (though his situation was exactly the same save him growing up without his mother), that it was detective Mijarez stressing his father’s absence and it is therefore he who at the very beginning proves to be the central 
(individual) protagonist of the film. It becomes clear also that the shot waking Mijarez from his nightmare meant the moment of Hanzel’s death. “Dissonance” between the visual and acoustic dimension of the scenes, on the one side, and on the other, the stressing of elements explicitly talking about the nature of film time – the sound of the shot for example has the function of a kind of acousmatic quilting point – are factors indicating that the passing between different time levels is the basic stylistic bravura of Batang West Side. At the same time the images of the sketched prologue material acquire a characteristic saturation with meaning, at first coming off more or less as one-dimensional, because of their of their ascetic visualization, but in the – subsequent or retroactive – contextualization within the whole, they reveal all their multiplicity of meaning.  Such a complex structure, with all its registers of multiplicity, coming to its full the very first few moments, is a sign of an ambitious aesthetic conception giving itself over to organicity wherein the key emphasis crystallizes through aspects of temporality. 

     As mentioned before, one of the fundamental aesthetic elements of Diaz' film articulation is the long take, i.e. , the sequence shot, and the specifically, as he himself points out, the long take in real time.5  Between its two most common variants, the stationary or quasi – stationary long take and its mobile counterpart, the author favours the first. This is quite understandable if we take as a presupposition that it is principles of the first that give the director an opportunity for “integrity and patient intensity of his gaze” ( Le Fanu ).  These are precious elements of liberating that gaze, embellishing Diaz’ endevours for an authentically cinematic image – such as abides in the binding principle of Andrey Tarkovsky: “The image becomes authentically cinematic when (among other things) not only does it live within time, but time also lives within it, even with in each separate frame.” ( Tarkosvsky 1994: 68 )  With the patient arranging of everyday scenes in their basic time/space determinations – as a kind of observation “of life’s facts within times, organized according to the pattern of life itself" ( Tarkovsky ) – the author takes up a committed task of according the viewer’ s film experience to the immediate experience of his own ordinariness. In putting everything on the presence of time as the fundamental “tension“ of the shot, steadily persisting in its slow pace, putting forward the feeling of duration even when the “narrative logic” of a whodunit would dictate a dynamical build up of the visual pyrotechnics of lightening montage cuts, a specific relationship with the viewer is being established. Submitting to duration, necessary in order to establish the tension of the gaze that in his artistic integrity Diaz strives for, is a (pre)condition for opening up the viewer’ s perception – for his letting the filmmaker captivate him with his gaze. Such a mobilizing of the gaze – attainable through different film techniques – is intensified with the stylistics of long takes mostly when this is a means of those aspect of essentialization that reflect in a tendency towards presence as such.6  With the strict intensification of screen existence in the scenes of the simple moments of everyday life (where narrative time is usually prolonged and diegetic nullified), the reactualization of the interest in the ordinaries of life comes to its full expression, wherein the merely apparent banality of man’s everyday experience deservedly comes under a detailed investigation… His conscious and uncompromising focus on life in its immediacy places Diaz in a constructive dialogue with some important stands of contemporary film art. On one side, he comes close to elements of contemporary minimalism, which carefully exposing the social emptiness of a common man’s everyday and focusing on the here and now, reveals above all aspect of individual desolation – the consequences of catastrophic social “ development “.  With redirecting its interest to immediate experience, minimalist art comes to clear stands on the nature of reality. Its essentialization is reflected in its apparent simplicity, as a result of a strict focus – the elimination of all superfluous factors. It is a process of careful distillation and concentration wherein “a sort of crystallized abundance” ( Motte ) is expressed. Minimalist art is not simplified and obscured but it actively transforms the very center of current values: “it locates profound experience in ordinary experience”. ( Serota, Francis ) In view of the correspondence between Diaz’ creative efforts and certain minimalist elements, we cannot talk about his visual asceticism as a reductionism or nihilism, on the contrary, it can be considered as a principle of substantialization bringing to its full expression above all the in–depth interest in presence as such. With it artistic activity turns again towards the questions of perception, which means there also comes to a reconsideration of the subject. On the side, a resonance of the current new realistic initiatives all over the globe, most notably perhaps the creative approaches of French new realism, can be sensed in Diaz’ coming close to the throb of reality. The most prominent place in French new realism belong to the so called realism of proximity (“un reel de proximate”), reflecting above all in the “documentary style of the observation” ( Powrie ) and in the thought–through selection of a film’s subject matter: individuals or social groups the director knows thoroughly. The film treatment itself is not an indirect rendition of an imagined experience, but rather the reality of an individual being endangered by the “achievements” of brutal capitalism coincides with the activity of the author who is himself often explicitly engaged in identifying and actualizing the pressing problems of socio–cultural reality. The characteristic new realistic elements of Batang West Side can be considered in  view of the Brechtian conception of realism as an uncompromising “probing of reality”, originating from a need for the reconstruction of phenomena, penetrating the mere surface of things as a kind of speculum allowing us to probe the world. In doing this, it takes no notice of the set rules, “clichés” of opinion; Brechtian "…idea of realism is not a purely artistic and formal category, but rather governs the relationship of the work of art to reality itself categorizing particular stance towards it.” ( Jameson 1980: 205).  At the same time the radical rejection or even undermining of conventionality presents an obvious manifestation of progressive film. Progressive in the context of a definition by Robert Philip Kolker, who stresses it is all about “…cinema that invites emotional response and intellectual participation, that is committed to history and politics and an examination of culture, that asks for the commitment of its audience; a cinema that offers ways to change, if not the world, at least the way we see it.” (Kolker 2001: 2)  This illumination gives a wider contextualization and with it an “outer” argumentation to the director’s statement, which we dare take as a universal “programme declaration”, as his creative credo, wherein he decidedly emphasizes: “…that the foundation of a truthful work should be honesty and responsibility. My struggle lies here: my so–called verite or aesthetic stand”. (Diaz in conversation with Wee).7  Even in view of Diaz’ exciting concurrence with the most actual of present times it is by no means surprising that in his “programme guidelines”, there echo many principles from renowned chapters in film history, e.g., the postulate of “the artist’s responsibility” as conceived by Andrey Tarkovsky in the homonymous chapter in Sculpting in Time, where he emphasize that: “…the more he [the artist] aspires to a realistic account, the greatest his responsibility for what he makes.” (Tarkovsky 1994: 184)  In line with the committed correspondence to certain characteristics of contemporary film searchings, defined above all by the awareness of the mutual responsibility of us all in the world and to the world – which is the precondition of an active partaking in the shaping of its structure – we can consider Diaz’ conception and expression of film time also as an opposition to certain tendencies in the “modernizing” conception of temporality caused by a massive progress in new media technologies. It is exactly the specifics of the long take with reference to the question of real time aesthetics that have been decisively ritualized due to the concord with some of the important current discussions raising the question s of change in the treatment of the real (time) conditioned by new technologies.8  The notion of real time, moving first from cinematic perception of continuity to the TV conception of “liveness”, had culminated in the computer time of instantaneity, and is now through digitalization coming back to film in the universal form of special effects. In the unconstrained process of technological progress, in which the question of reality moves right along the temporal axis, the insistence on articulating time such as is made possible by the long take is perceived as a kind of an opposition praxis. It is a form of resistance to the present which, placing everything on the presence of time ( in pure form ), opposes the new–technology tendencies towards “an erasure of memory and history”.9 It is exactly history and memory (as we have already mentioned and will see later on) that are among the key factors of Diaz’ artistic enlightenment project; his organic tendency towards the redemption of the Filipino soul, accurately captured in the form of his binding principle: “…I formulated my thesis that true cinema can redeem the Filipino soul.” 

    Though we assigned to the long take in real time a primary place in the aesthetic conception by which Diaz establishes inner continuity and quality of a particular scene – “For it is the continuous time, the real time in the long take which allows for the possibility of contingency, the unforeseen, the unexpected, in the cinema.” (Doane) – we must point out that Batang West Side is in a chronological sense a most non-continuous and non-linear work. The present of its diegesis is suspended through out with longer or shorter time jumps (as indicated by the above description of the key points of the points of the prologue). The central narrative line of the police investigation into Hanzel’s death – representing the temporal anchor of diegetic present – is subject to constant digressions with which Diaz explores the possibility of accessing the truth about the young man’s life. This is then also supposed to help reveal the truth about his death. The story of a short-lived “diasporal experience” of the young Filipino man comes to life in a certain narrative stratification of different time levels taking place parallel to the investigation into his death. The dispersed fragments of truth thus return to their original moment in a form of concentric undulation. And at the same time death itself opens up aspects of the past: on one side, in way of mourning, which in the memories of loved ones conjures up time past, and on the other, in a colorful series of manifold truths left by Hanzel’s presence on the face of the earth, among his fellow man. Diaz does not focus merely on the grieving family members and those closest to Hanzel, who with his death immerse in memory and self-interrogation looking for their share of the responsibility, an equally thorough investigation is also directed at the main suspects as well as the detective himself in whom the death of his countryman arouses a series of painful reminiscences of his own – obviously traumatic – past. Each protagonist Diaz introduces into the whole not only brings his individual “story” but is also the bearer of a certain period or (is the victim) of tragically events in the history of the Philippine people. “The story, its presence, is only a reason for memory and reflection. On the history Philippine people in the years covered by Batang West Side: it is hidden in the character – firstly as an individual, secondly as a collective memory/fiction -, who are projected into epically extended spaces if time in almost every scene; the memories as well as the speculations on the murder young man always – be the road ever so winding – lead (back) to the Philippines in time of the Marcos’ regime, which turned the riches nation of South Asia into the biggest poorhouse of the region, its only export goods now being people.” (Moller 2005: 6)  First among the narrative strategies enabling the author to conjure the past and materialize it in the present is the elliptical loosening of logical connections of ordered time sequence, the connections of cause and effect, successions or the linear sequence of events. The basic stylistic approach with which Diaz subverts the established logocentric connections is retrospective reconstruction opening up time rifts and enabling a free transition between factual and remembered. But even in these transitions, in the modes of the reconstruction itself there reconstruction itself there is no inner logic, no causality. There are three predominant modes of reconstruction: sometimes it is parallel, when with the help of cross cutting, we at the same time follow the talked about events, but more often “classic” retrospection, wherein the reporting on an event melts into a visual reconstruction of the reported, and “anticipatory” retrospection, where the reported event is only later placed in the order of the whole, alternate. In between the pointed out narrative levels there sporadically intrude Mijarez’ dreams and occasional reminiscent flashbacks triggered by a certain situation in the present. These scenes of imaginariness have their counterpoint in film fragments the viewer shares in either directly – when protagonists watch the film on TV, or indirectly when -  he is himself “addressed" as a firsthand witness or even as a “ camera-man” of the film within a film… Through the development of narration gradually the situations of unexpected or “ unexplained” transitions come to predominate in which the sequence of scenes is in complete “ accord” though the scene may be taking place on different time levels. Ever more often what is factual and what is reconstructed in memory seems to a kind of punctured whole conveying the coexistence of different levels of reality – physical and imaginary. And the more the laws of “logical” are undermined the deeper are the punctures through which the past comes flooding, the one that the authority is trying to redeem in order that through its “ active introspection” he contribute his share to the redemption of the Filipino soul 10 – according to “III. Thesis on the philosophy of history” by Walter Benjamin: “To be sure, only a redeemed mankind receives the fullness of its past – which is to say, only for a redeemed mankind has its past become citable in all its moments.” (Benjamin 1940: 1) The viewer in this manifold yet extremely fragile composition – which is never in danger, though, due to its valuable bond being on one side, the author’s full responsibility and on the other, a strong emotional charge – gradually looses his firm footing. Due to such time “inconsistency” he is in a way struck floating in a time loop; yet it is exactly this subversion of a firm chronological support that makes him search more intensively for some other hold, which Diaz offers in the narrative’s emotional dimension. The viewer thus becomes more susceptible to the einfuhlung in the manifold film dimensions… By this we of course do not mean the aspects of a viewer’s identification, but have in mind the element of the “creative spirit of the audience” in the sense of Kiarostami’s “unfinished cinema”, believing in art as a possible – factor in “changing things” and presenting new ideas: “Art gives each artist and his audience the opportunity to have a more precise view of the truth concealed behind the pain and passion that ordinary people experience every day.” (Kiarostami 1995: 1)11 This principle not only directly corresponds to aspect of free creative activity (as a kind of a form resistance to the present), advocated by contemporary film thought headed by Gilles Deleuz, but it shares its conviction about the engaged viewer with the author of Batang West Side himself: “Give the audience real cinema so they can react and re-asses their lives, make them aware that they have choices and responsibilities.” (Diaz in conversation with Romulo) The reaction is actually possible only when a pledge is established between the film and the viewer which – as in any relationship – is based on trust. One of the key factors in attaining the viewer’s trust is the awareness of the free gaze:"…if people were allowed to see freely they would see truly” (Vaughan). The seeing itself is determined by far more than the eye can reach, for in it there is encompassed the whole of an individual’s experience, which the gaze of the filmmaker faces. The authentic gaze stimulates registers of seeing that are not subject to conventions of a certain mode of representation encoding the meaning of the images on screen, but are open to the awareness of the gaze itself; the gaze in which its representational aspect is accounted for in the “sum total” of the film act. Such cinematic authenticity, attainable only through the possibility of a confrontation as a fact of actuality, wherein the filmmaker’s gaze and the viewer’s seeing coincide, is the precondition of the free gaze. In it the fundamental time relations ritualize, wherein the need for impressions of reality declines while the need for impressions of presence intensifies. “What film archives, then is first and foremost a lot experience of time as presence, time as immersion. This experience of temporality is one, which was never necessarily lived, but emerges as the counter-dream of rationalization, its agnostic underside – full presence. Hence, time’s reality in the cinema is both that of continuity and rupture." (Doane 2004: 272)

     Diaz takes great advantage of the awareness of the double nature of cinematic time in his treatment of the third, in the context of Batang West Side probably most important, aspect of time – history. With a characteristic time articulation the director strives towards such forms of “ conjuring the past”, or the presentation of its absence, as are not based only on narrative “digressions and subversions” but, as already mentioned, on opening passages through which history emerges in the narrative. Again we are not dealing here with a matrix, with a universal principle of “conjuring”, but there is once more at work here a heterogeneous series of ways of “activating the past”. Above all in Diaz’ treatment of history, it is almost never (but for the rare exceptions of dreams sequences, reminiscent flashbacks and film clips) a matter of direct representation or enactment of past facts and actions but merely of their transmission. When there is talk about a concrete individual experience of one involved in a historical event, Diaz most often uses the form of memory narration; when for example , the subject under consideration is the question of conflicting ideologies, the author metaphorically focuses on rival groups pushing shabu (crystal meth – specific “social” drug of the Philippines), religiously announcing their base “calling“ as the vision of a new prosperity for the Filipino man… The complex series of aspects of history actually shows that Batang West Side as a whole is the particular way of historical articulation; namely, the essential element of its structure are representations of the traumatic facts in Filipino history, as is also stressed by the author himself. 12 The characteristic of historical time in Diaz’ visual treatments is at first sight in an interesting harmony with Walter Benjamin’s “dialectical concept of historical time”. We have in mind his notion of the concept of history – from his prominent Theses on the Philosophy of History -, arising from the opposition to its evolutionist variant, based on the concept of progress, as a form of “progression through a homogenous, empty time” (Benjamin). “The ‘dialectical concept of historical time aimed not to preserve the past but to activate it. Benjamin’s theory of ‘dialectical images’ which flash up at the moment of danger was explicitly conceived as a historical pedagogy - a means of transmitting the past while drawing attention to the particular way in which the past is seen in the present.” (McQuire 1998: 178) The presupposition of the “moment of danger” in the context of Batang West Side refers to the treatment of certain parts in the film as the crucial scenes. These are on one side, the “intensified” situations in which the viewer’s interest is more strongly mobilized than in most others, on the other, the scenes wherein certain points of the story are meaning-wise and emotionally clarified. The example of the first, and by no means only, is in Batang West Side certainly the – already initially pointed out – sequence of Hanzel’s death.13  Aspects of the second can be seen, for example, in the representation of Mijarez’ reminiscence (late in the second half of the film), aroused by him touching the victims gun and culminating in a hallucination where it is him who fires the bullet into Hanzel’s brain. In this horrifying scene (the only one, despite the horrifying amount of violence in Batang West Side, we can consider in light of the definition of the so-called ultra violence), Diaz not only points out aspects of collective guilt when he shouts at us: “We killed Hanzel Harana”, but with his blasting the inner continuity of the scene – with which he throughout the film so patiently built the feeling of the presence (of time) – he also reveals the fundamental nature of his aesthetics and ethics: his aesth-et(h)ic stand, which he shares with the binding stand of permanent human responsibility: “We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them.” (Deleuze, Guattari) The individual enactments, or better yet the intrusions of the imaginary, as a kind of Proustian memoire involuntaire, are contrasted with a massive material of voluntary memories. On closer view, the persistent methodology thus offers another aspect in considering Diaz’ conception of history: not to ascribe to the crucial scene a privileged role but to, despite its greater intensity, consider it as equal to the others. We thus return to the initial presupposition that the structure of the film stands up on its own exactly because of its composition “imbalance"… In the imbalance of the relationship between the concrete and the imaginary we can sense an echo of the subtle nuancing of Benjamin’s different between two premises in V. and VI. Philosophically historical theses. In the fifth Benjamin says: “The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again." The sixth begins: “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’" (Ranke). "It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger." (Benjamin 1940:2) In this duality, which of course does not presuppose difference but an important complementing, we can sense also the key “values” of Diaz’ treatment of history. Diaz succeeds in merging Benjamin’s presupposition of the evasiveness of the image of the past and its irretrievability, threatening to disappear every time it “is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns’, with his awareness that “in every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest the tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it” (Benjamin). The key means allowing for such a merging is a network of “parallel presents” erasing the transitions between different narrative levels. This network is also a net Diaz’ camera not only uses on the look-out for the present in which the image of the past will be recognized as one of its own concerns, but with the strengthening of the role of “individuals’ presents” in the film – when the focus on the events after Hanzel’s death predominate over the reconstruction of this – the center of gravity shifts towards the hear and now, towards presence as such. But this does not mean a subversion of historical perspective – quite the opposite. It is only through the tension of presence, in which the moments of danger (or crucial scenes) are not pointed out but considered equal to the rest in the entire complex structure of “conjuring the past” – saturated “only’ with duration, emptiness or feeling of loneliness, loss and suffering -, that another, perhaps the most committed gaze can open up. It is a gaze most uncompromising in the sense that the author does not hesitate to0 treat the present – which finally prevails on the diegetic as well as narrative level of the film – and with it himself as the actual stage where the past generations of his people “retroactively resolve their deadlocks” (Zizek). This is a conception that is as a reflection of Benjamin’s “dialectical notion of historical epoch" exposed by Slavoj Zizek in his paper The Fragile Absolute. In sharpening the opposition to the naïve evolutionist approach to historical development Zizek puts forward a thesis that the presupposition. “That the present redeems the past itself”, is not only a historically relativistic assertion, but that a characterization of a past era always encompasses also our present stance. “What we are claiming is something much more radical: what the proper historical stance (as opposed to historicism) ‘relativizes’ is not the past (always distorted by our present point of view) but, paradoxically, the present itself – our present can be conceived only as the outcome (not of what actually happened in the past, but also) of the crushed potentials for the future that were contained in the past. In other words, it is not only – as Foucault liked to emphasize, in a Nietzschean mode – that every history of the past is ultimately the ‘ontology the present’, that we always perceive our past within the horizon of our present preoccupations, that in dealing with the past we are in effect dealing with the ghost of the past whose resuscitation enables us to confront our present dilemmas. It is also that we, the ‘actual’ present historical agents, have to conceive of ourselves as the materialization of the ghost of past generations, as the stage in which these past generations retroactively resolve their deadlocks.” (Zizek 2000: 90 – 91) 

     The pragmatic reality allowing Diaz’ specific film structure in Batang West Side, where both his “proper historical stance”, as well as his “aesthetic stand” comes to its full expression, is diaspora. Its socio-cultural determinations are in the present context not important so much because of its characteristic of being “a nation in miniature” but above all because of the “concentrated” form of the identification manifold from which Diaz picks out only those nuances he needs for the desires result. Therefore it would be difficult to call Batang West Side a diasporic film. Even if we refer to the monumental research on “exilic and diasporas filmmaking”,  An Accented Cinema by Hamida Naficy, we can see that Batang West Side can be placed somewhere between both conceptions, for it moves away from the strictness of both definitions. 14.  Even though Lav Diaz himself has an individual diasporic experience, having for quite some time (between the years 1992 and 1996) lived and worked in the USA, we cannot declare him a “diasporic filmmaker". Namely, all his films, except Batang West Side, are labeled Filipino and he presents himself as a Filipino artist on a committed mission to “redeem the Filipino soul”. “To seek the truth, to cast doubt and, ultimately, to redeem the soul are the goals of Diaz’s art and he manages this in particularly spectacular fashion in his fourth film Batang West Side.” (Romulo) Therefore, in the present constellation,  it is above all the marginal status of the Filipino (or any other) diaspora and the pure fact of the dislocation of Filipino that are of key importance to us. Both refer in a metaphorical sense to his “historical fate”; they represent both the authentic historical state of a Filipino man’s permanent struggle for his identity and integrity as well as his present unenviable reality. Marginality, a specific “state of being” not only of diasporic communities but any kind of minatory group (fundamentally defined by a difference in race, nationality, religion, sex, disease, age, culture, politics, ideology,… because of which their basic freedoms are under treat), is constituted above all as the place of resistance. In it the struggle against the dominant ideological practices and the (self) awareness of the need for a – retroactive- consolidation of one’s own identity is of the same importance as t he resistance towards concrete oppression and oppressors. “Understanding marginality as position and place of resistance is crucial for oppressed, exploited, colonized people. If we only view the margin as sign, marking condition of our pain and deprivation, then a certain hopelessness and despair, a deep nihilism penetrates in a destructive way the very ground of our baring. It is there in that space of collective despair that resistance towards as concrete oppression and oppressors. Understanding marginality as position and place of resistance is crucial for oppressed, exploited, colonized people. If we only view the margin as sing, marking the condition of our pain and depreciation, then a certain hopelessness and despair, a deep nihilism penetrates in a destructive way the very ground of our being. It is there in that space of collective despair that one’s creativity, one’s imagination is at risk, there that one’s mind is fully colonized, there that the freedom one longs for is lost. Truly the mind that resists colonization struggles for freedom and expression. That struggle may not even begin with the colonize; it may begin within one’s segregated colonized community and family.” (Hooks 191:342) The gradation of social actress in Batang West Side – form an individual, family and household community to (symbolically) the whole nation proves that Diaz is well aware of the different levels of oppression and reification. But still the emphasis that at the end is shifted to the individual and the regaining of his lost identity as a form of self-identification is the historical key to solving the “difficult” questions posed by Batang West Side. That is why the fact of dislocation a form of identification through absence, lack, representation... is of great importance to Diaz as a filmmaker. And that is why the essential “recognitions” take place as film – acts – a form of the film within the film.15  On one hand, there are the documentaries of Taga Timog – a documentary filmmaker Mijarez looked upon unfavorable during the investigation, but whom he befriend after leaving the police force – on the fate of Filipino women driven abroad by the need to secure their children’s existence in the homeland (also the story of Hanzel’s mother). On the other, there is Mijarez’ self-exposure before the objective of the I film camera obviously inspired exactly by the watching of the mentioned documentaries. Mijarez’ confession, which h reveals his “historic” identify of a denunciate, regime’s deep penetration agent, torturer, rapist and executor who had with the help of a plastic operation changed his identity after coming to the USA, speaks of a “concealed fact of is past” accompanied by consents film as the truth exposing medium thereby bringing a concrete film act into accord with his enlightened convictions: “I want the audience to see the truth and to discover their truths by experiencing the realities that I am presenting or re-presenting. I respect the audience’s capacity to understand, think, be open to a broader view of life, embrace different milieus, cultures, new principles and philosophies; or at another extreme, to confront them, create an atmosphere of discourse, introspection and criticism; or at yet another, to be simply immersed in what they are watching.” (Diaz in conversation with Wee) Respect that Diaz points out here – the respect towards the viewer as well as the main subject of his film investigation: the Filipino man – is one of the basic conditions keeping the whole together before the viewer’s gaze. Especially in the case of such monumental and extensive work. And it is exactly the immense respectfulness reflecting even in the smallest detail t hat proves that the complex structure of his film venture, we have throughout considered above all in view of its social engagement and its dialogue with the current film trends, is not a work of a cold, analytical, calculating mind. Its standing-up-on-its-own is due mostly to Diaz’ refined feeling for “telling a story” and setting the mood. Every sequence of Batang West Side, the structure of every frame, the conception of every film gaze… prove that Lav Diaz is in his essence an insightful “storyteller” and above all an unsurpassable poet. But in his poetic vision Diaz, despite his commitment to history, acts from an oppositional stand towards “the totalizing quest of meaning” (Minh-ha) rooted in the established conception of poetry as a fulfillment of historical narration: “Poetry improves on historical narration because it creates order and thereby reveals meaning, which seems to remain hidden in ordinary lives.” (Barnouw) Diaz’ poetics on the contrary, is in is wager on presence and in its surrendering to disorder and the principles of self-positing identified as the poetry of ordinary life. This is, among other things, in accord with the binding presupposition of Vlado Skafar (Slovene director and film activist), who discovers universality exactly in ordinariness: "If you seriously devote your attention of the ordinary man, you always come to know how exceptionless he is. It is herein that universality lies.” And so in light of the poetry of the ordinary, echoing the profoundest of experience, Diaz’ famous principle of an active comprehension of the world: “Read poetry, man!” receives in Batang West Side its visual counterpart, “Watch poetry, man!.


1. In an (as yet unpublished) interview by Erwin Romulo Lav Diaz thus described the development of the script:”… I initially wrote a story that deals with the struggle and guilt of a mother and the death of her son whom she brought to America. Then it grew and grew until I made it into a Diaspore of Filipinos living abroad – the struggle of our countrymen detached from their homeland while at the same time using as a backdrop the Filipino struggle as a whole. The ore than 300 years of Spanish colonization wherein our ancient culture was erased, the 100 years of American intervention that further confused our culture, the 4 years of Japanese rape during World War II and the 20 years of Marcos terrorism were the things I wanted to tackler in one unified work. That was the vision: even if you had individual characters struggling with their individual lives, you can still see the while Filipino struggle from the very start.”

2. Although the above quotation – as well as the motto of this article and most of Diaz’ thoughts that follow-comes from an interview Brandon Wee made with Lav Diaz for Senses of Cinema on the presentation of his latest film, a more-than-ten-hour-long epopee Evolution of a Filipino Family (Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino, 2004), his discussion seems equally relevant to the film under consideration in this article. One side, because it lucidly recapitulates in a consider form the thoughts from some of his previous talks (e.g., with Erwin Romulo or Alex Tioseco for, and on the other – and above all – because of the fact that this time Diaz asserts his creative credo and his “aesthetic stand”, as he puts it, in an almost manifesto fashion.

3. The following description of the making of Batang West Side as Diaz’ “first fulfilled work”, can be read as a particular kind of articulation of the free creative activity principle; “... it’s the first work that I was able to push for what I wanted to do – my vision, the length, and the kind of aesthetic. I threw away all the theories and I just did it very organically. Especially during the shoots, we are not using lights and we’re just pushing thins. And then during the post-production I didn’t go for the warp factor editing, like doing fast cuts, no, no way. We just keep putting things together and the work just showed itself. It’s like a canvas; it just grew and grew and grew, and came out that way. I couldn’t do anything anymore, that’s the work, that’s it.” (Diaz in conversation with Tioseco)

4. In Diaz’ case the definitions of a cinematic image go hand in hand with the concept of “pectoral possibility”: “There is pictorial possibility that has nothing to do with physical possibility and that endows the most acrobatic posture with the sense of balance on the other hand, many works that claim to be art do not stand up for an instant. Standing up alone dos not mean having a top and a bottom or being upright (for even houses are drunk and askew); it is only the act by which the compound of created sensation is preserved in itself.” (Deleuze, Guattari 1994; 164)

5. “I avoid close-ups when treating the character I create in my films. I prefer long and oftentimes static takes, just like stasis – long, long takes in real time. My philosophy is I do not want to manipulate the audience’s emotions.” (Diaz in conversation with Wee)

6. In his radical investigation of the renewal processes of new world cinema, inspired by the oeuvre of Abbas Kiarostami, Jeanb-Luc Nancy assign the principle of “mobilizing the gaze” a privileged place of key changes in “cinema becoming the art of looking”: It is not matter of passivity much less of captivity; it is a matter of tuning in with a look so that we too may do the looking. Our gaze is not captive, and if it is captivated it is because it is required, mobilized. This cannot occur without a certain pressure acting as an obligation: capturing images is clearly an ethos, a disposition, and a conduct in regard to the world.” (Nancy 2001: 16)

7. Besides the already mentioned “kinship” to actuality we cannot ignore a surprising “agreement” between some of Diaz’ self-analysis and the reflections of Chinese director Wang Bing who is, with his nine-hour debut – dealing with the horrifying effects of the demise of heavy metal industry and the uncertain fate of thousand of workers in Northeast China – Tiexi District: West of the Tracks (Tie Xi Qu,2003), an author of a similar monumental film venture as Batang West Side and Evolution of a Filipino Family. “In Evolution, I am capturing real time. I am trying to experience what these people are experiencing. They walk. I must experience their walk. I must experience their boredom and sorrows. I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the mystery of humankind’s existence. I want to understand death. I want to understand solitude. I want to understand struggle.” (Diaz in conversation with Wee).

 “What I discovered is that the search for truth is always characterized by a certain revelation. The revelation. The revelation is that truth is not something you can search for. Truth is something already out there, repeated by people every day./…/ And that constitute a life cycle. And that life cycle is what I mean by a certain speed and rhythm. Once you’re in that cycle, you’re with them [people]. And then you don’t feel time passing slowly, but you feel time just passing, and time passing on both sides.’ (Wang 2003: 24-26)

”The concept of real time seems to be ubiquitous at the moment – used primarily to convey a sense of the capabilities of new media, of new computer technologies with specific and distinctive relation to temporality. These relations hinge on the concept of “instantaneity’. Television news anchors frequently exhort their viewers to keep up with the news in real time by visiting the station’s or network’s website. ‘Real time’ here connotes immediacy, continuity, an intolerance for delay, and most of all, a certain solidity associated with the guarantee of the real. It would seem that only remaining residence of the real, in an age of simulation, the virtual, and the artificial, is the time.” (Doane 2004: 264)

9. "Why is the real no longer a matter of being there, but of being then? And why is it so crucial that ‘then is in fact a ‘now’ ? Such an erasure of memory and history would be the zero degree of the logic of innovation, a form of commodification in which the commodity itself, always already out of date, would be superfluous." (Done 2004: 281)

10. The psychoanalytical methods of “active introspection”, which Mijarez’s psychiatrist explains to him, is in fact very close to Diaz’ own film “introspection”: "I believe a man will be stronger emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually if he analyzes his memories. He acquires what I call ‘active introspection; Like an exorcism. We are possessed by dreams and memories and we have to confront them so there is a cleansing within."

11. ’’I believe in a type of cinema that gives greater possibilities and time to its audience. A half-created cinema, an unfinished cinema that attains completion through the creative spirit of the audience, so resulting in hundreds of films. It belongs to the members of that audience and corresponds to their world… If art succeeds in changing things and proposing new ideas, it can only do so via the creativity of the people we are addressing – each individual member of the audience.” (Kiarostami 1995: 1)

12. "I want Filipino to treasure and embrace history, to examine it no matter what one’s ideology is. We must learn to grasp the significance of these events. We must have a historical perspective if we want to be able to move forward progressively as a people and as a nation.’’ (Diaz in conversation with Wee) cf. also note 1.

13. ’’What happened to Hanzel is the same thing that is happening to the Philippines. Everything has no direction. The efforts of our heroes have gone to waste.” This tragic insight of Hanzel’s grandfather is in accord with some of the key interpretations of Batang West Side. “The specific identity of the murderer ceases to be the key question in the film and Hanzel’s death becomes a powerful metaphor for the attack on the Filipino soul. “ (Ramani) "The investigation, undertaken by a Filipino detective is then used as a bold metaphor to mount an admonishing attack on the collective Filipino anima when the dead man’s family is introduced and its unflattering history unveiled." (Wee)  

14. “People in diaspaora, moreover maintained a long termed sense of ethnic consciousness and distinctiveness, which is consolidated by the periodic hostility of either the original home or the host societies towards them. However, unlike the exiles whose identity entails a vertical and primary relationship with their homeland, diasporic consciousness is horizontal and multisided, involving not only the homeland but also the compatriot communities elsewhere. As a result, plurality, multiplicity, and hybridist are structured in dominance among the diasporans, while among the political exiles, binarism and duality rule.” (Naficy 2001 : 145)

15. At the same time all other forms of film reference perform their “historical role”, : Batch ’81 (Mike de Leon, 1982), which we see on TV, and the posters from movies on the fate of Filipino women signed by the giants of Filipino cinema Lino Brocka, Mike de Loen, Ishmael Bernal. “If photographs, films or video tapes do preserve a past, it is t he trace of a past which was never simply present, but was always already heterogenous, discontinuous and forking: a time which reversed (deferred) some portion of its ‘being-present’ for unspecified future.” (McQuire 1998:173)


* Benjamin, Walter. (1940). On the Concept of History, Avaiable also at: http:/

* Diaz, Lav. 2004. The Decade of Living Dangerously: A Chronicle from Lav Diaz. Interview by Wee, Brandon, Senses of Cinema, (Melbourne), Issue no. 34, January – March. 
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* Diaz, Lav. 2003. An Interview with Lav Diaz. Inerview by Tioseco, Alexis., (Manila), December 18th. Available at: http:/

* Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Felix. 1994. What Is Philosophy? New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

* Doane, Mary Ann. 2004. (De) realizing Cinematic Time. In Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, eds. Egoyan, Arom, Balfour, Ian. Cambridge (etc): MIT Press, pp. 259-283.

* Hooks, Bell. 1990, Marginality as sit of resistance. In Out There: Marginalisation and Contemporary Cultures, ed. Ferguson, Russel (et al.). New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Cambridge (etc): MIT Press, p. 341-343.

* Jameson, Frederic. 1980. Aesthetics and Politics. London: Verso.

* Kiarostami, Abbas. 1995. An Unfinished Cinema. (Pamphlet written for the Centenary of Cinema, December 1995, and distributed on Odeon Theater, Paris.) Available also at:

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* McQuire, Scott. 1998. Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory. Time and Space in the Age of the Cinema. London: SAGE Publications.

* Moller, Olaf. 2005. “Spomin na Filipine “(Memories of the Philippines”). Kinoplus, (Ljubljana), februar, p. 6.

* Naficy, Hamid. 2001 An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press.

* Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2001. The Evidence of Film: Abbas Kiarostami. Bruxelles: Yves Gevaert Publisher.

* Ramani, Vinita. 2003. “Batang West Side”. Available at:

* Tarkovsky, Andrey. 1994. Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema. Austin: Unv. Of Texas Press.

* Wang, Bing. 2003. Rust, Remants, Rails: Wang Bing’s Epic Vision of China. Interview by Kraicer, Shelly. Cinema-Scope, (Toronto), Issue no. 16, Fall, pp. 21-26.

* Zizek, Slavoj. 2000. The Fragile Absolute: or, Why is the Christian legacy worth fighting for? London, New Yorks: Verso.