Friday, January 29, 2010

Alon (2008, Byron Bryant)

I’ve just seen Paano Na Kaya?, the latest generic love story churned out by the Star Cinema factory, and Iliw, a bland touristy offering from Vigan-based producers. The two films retread stories that have been done in earlier, better films. The disappointing Star Cinema film is so full of contrived situations that I’ve decided to lay off romance films from that prolific production outfit for a while. Yes, even future films of Anne Curtis.

As long as film scripts are shaped and mangled by a handful of so-called creative consultants, Star Cinema romance films will always be the same old dish served cold. I'll just wait for the few outstanding ones on cable television and DVDs. The precious pesos saved will be used for film marathons at Cinemalaya, Cinemanila, and Cinema One festivals.

Where to get some romance fix, then? There is another romance film on limited run at UP Film Institute. Alon was the least known and least heralded among all the local films slated this month at UP Film Institute. It was a big surprise then to find out that it is definitely worth a view. I had a good time watching the beautifully-lensed film.

Alon has an ace in the person of award-winning actress Charee Pineda. She portrays a nursing student named Maria Vanessa Cristina Onofre. While on vacation in her hometown, she meets Fiel (Mark Gil), a friendly middle-aged guy. She gets free cooking lessons from the brooding fellow. One night, a tipsy Vanni asks Fiel if he likes her. He answers back that it does not matter whether he likes her or not. Just when Vanni has deeply fallen in love with Fiel, she learns the truth behind his non-affection.

The early scenes are a hoot. With the tongue firmly in cheek, the repartee between Fiel and Vanni is sexy and hilarious. The delicious dialogues seem to be cut from the same mold as those from Temptation Island. There are also lots of teasing and seduction here just like in the comedy classic.

There is a scene in which a skimpy clad Vanni searches for a lost necklace at the beach during nighttime. It is a dumb thing to do but then it may have been part of the 17-year-old’s plan to seduce the middle-aged guy. The suspense gets intense as the seduction gets hotter. In the end, Vanni learns not only about cooking but also the different facets of love.

Indie romance films such as Alon serve as refreshing alternative to trite formulaic Star Cinema love stories. Several magnificent indie films do not always end happily but the characters are memorable and the performances superb. Here are a few recommended romance films: Jade Castro’s Endo, Mike Sandejas’ Dinig Sana Kita, and Connie Macatuno’s Rome & Juliet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Death in the Land of Encantos (Lav Diaz, 2008)

For madness unleashes its fury in the space of pure vision. - Michel Foucault

Persistent rain falls, reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s rains, supplied by dark, ponderous skies overhead. Desolate landscape, stark diorama: Rock, sand and boulder. These are, in truth, a wasteland of lava and volcanic debris. Farther behind looms Mayon Volcano in the background, an imposing, threatening monolith of nature. Here and there, trunks and stumps of trees stand, battered, windswept, leafless and lifeless. Suspicious calm, suspicious rondure of newly turned terrain: something else fattens and bloats this land. Except for the percussion of rain, nothing now stirs, until we see a speck of life in the distant background, a man we learn shortly, slowly making his way across difficult terrain. This man is Benjamin Agusan, a former activist and a poet of some renown, returning from a long exile in Russia to his hometown of Padang in the Southern Luzon region of Bicol. We see him weeping, disconsolate, not unmoved by the dark spectacle he has witnessed, and the grave irony is: these are his last, desperate days of sanity and reason.

Understand that this man returns to an unrecognizable land in the aftermath of a natural catastrophe that has devastated his native ground and much of the neighboring countryside. Understand that he returns with a heavy personal freightage: the dead of the past, the deceased of the present, the onset of madness and the madness of conscience. Like a ghost, with no fanfare, he returns to the bosom of childhood friends, Catalina the sculptor, a former lover, and Teodoro, a man of many artistic talents who has opted for a simple life as a family man and a fisherman. Each one has sustained a familial or personal loss in the wake of this calamity, but we gradually realize through the thicket of dialectical discourse, their favorite pastime, that their sense of loss is made doubly bitter by intense resentment with a corrupt and callous regime.

Filmed in stark and brooding black and white, Death in the Land of Encantos catalogues not just the casualties of natural calamity but the casualties of state repression and dereliction. Enacting the tragic but possibly heroic story of one Benjamin Agusan with many personal and political overtones, writer-director Lav Diaz intersperses his 9-hour epic with damning actual documentary footage taken in the aftermath of Typhoon Reming, a super typhoon that unleashed not just its own fury but Mayon Volcano’s destructive wrath. What these footages invariably paint, through a series of interviews with locals in December 2006, is a portrait of a people devastated by wrathful nature, degraded psyche and dehumanizing regimes. This is the Bicol region, but it could just as easily be Basilan or Baguio in this miserable archipelago, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Benjamin Agusan’s story embodies a story that is all our own, his is the allegorical tale of one long-suffering nation. Little by little, we learn through snippets of flashbacks and exposition about the painful verities of his life: his mother going mad and dying in an asylum, his sister subsequently committing suicide; his father abandoned to die alone; and Hamin himself, while sojourning in Russia, developing the symptoms of lunacy. We learn through Hamin’s confrontation with a shadowy military operative that his activism and political poetry have earned him arch-enemies among the military. We learn of his torture at the hands of this same man. We learn of the probable death of Amalia, Hamin’s lover, at the height of the typhoon. Hamin is embattled on all sides, his tormentors encompass all kinds: man, himself, nature.

The descent into madness, thus, figures prominently in Death in the Land of Encantos. Madness here is not a simple determinism of heredity but a function of unbearable witness. What overwhelms Hamin is not just the anguish of personal tragedies but that of havoc on a nation. He is not a faultless soul, but we witness that neither is he a poet insulated in an ivory tower. Towards the end, the strain of madness becomes more frequent. We see him sleeping in ungodly spaces, wedged between rocks, sprawled on waysides. We hear him literally addressing his ghosts. We hear of him wandering aimlessly in various stages of unreason. But his last few moments of lucidity are defining, none more so than what transpires at denouement: a recitation not of his poetry but of his most profound creeds and allegiances.

Against this backdrop of mental collapse, of death and devastation, however, is the story of friendship. Hamin, Teodoro and Catalina are veritable kindred spirits: friends and ex-lovers who know each other’s darkest secrets and even recite poems to each other. These friends virtually talk in codes, their conversations are the stuff of scholarly discussions. They may have outgrown some of their idealistic ardors but they remain socially attuned: theirs is a bitterness against “crocodiles and rapacious kind” who prey on the country. They deplore the latest political killings, but what of their involvement? Token? Gestural?

Corrupt artists, as much as corrupt politicians, come in for stinging critiques here. Cultural ciphers, seekers after fame, socially myopic – these are what artists are, according to Catalina and Teodoro. Beyond heroic commitments to causes and ideologies, artists merely seek the cult of the self. Yet there is a strong suspicion of a redemptive moment at the end for Hamin and what he stands for. In Heremias, Diaz, with almost didactic intent, gives his title character a defining moment to salvage and transcend his passive soul and he obliges. Here, in Death in the Land of Encantos, redemption has an ambiguous edge: as Hamin braves the last moments of torture, he recites the most defiant poetry he knows, the National Anthem. Whether this is a martyr’s act or his death wish as imminent madness confronts him, the truth might just vindicate him.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Best Filipino films of the decade

This is a list of some of the best local films of the Noughties. I've limited my list to one film per director. If I make a list of the top 12 local films of the decade, then chances are more than 7 slots will be for films made by the revered trinity of Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, and Raya Martin. There are other filmmakers out there worth fighting for.

I've also included a list of the best local films of 2009. View the lists as guide to some well-made films that should be seen by Filipinos. If a film moves you enough, then try to see other recommended films of the director.

Notable films of the 2000s

Altar (Rico Ilarde)
A well-crafted film that gave me the shivers after I've seen it in a movie theater. An early bird, I have to utter a prayer every time I walk through the dark hall of our house. It went on for weeks before I overcome my fear of seeing the evil creature from the film.

Andong (Rommel Tolentino)
The film is a rollicking take on a boy obsessed with television shows. It is a laughfest to the max. The award-winning script is not only entertaining but also deals with the value of hard-earned money. Ang kulit nito! Sobra!

Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong (Mes de Guzman)
An advocacy film that doesn’t feel like one. No agitprop. Just a nice mix of award-winning direction and a beautifully restraint story about two siblings determined to get an education.

Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno)
The omnipresent voice of Mayor Danilo Dularte Suarez creates an atmosphere of paranoia among young delinquents. A courageous film from a promising, deeply passionate filmmaker.

Heremias: Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat Ng Prinsesang Bayawak (Lav Diaz)
The nine-hour epic is my pick as best Filipino film of the decade. It has a great start (probably the best initial two hours of a Lav Diaz epic), and a great cliffhanger of an ending. In between are amazing images and captivating stories. Credit must also go to Ronnie Lazaro's excellent performance as a traveling handicrafts merchant tormented by his past.
Other notable films of Diaz: Ebolusyon Ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino, Melancholia, and Death in the Land of Encantos

Imburnal (Sherad Anthony Sanchez)
A brutal and unflinching statement against the death squad of Davao City, the film portrays a city plagued by killings and involuntary disappearances. In a ruthless bid to cleanse the city of crime, vigilantes exterminate juvenile delinquents and young criminals as if they were mere cockroaches.

Independencia (Raya Martin)
Independencia is Martin's latest masterpiece. The 77-minute film is the second in a trilogy of films depicting the Philippines under colonial powers. Martin uses dominant film formats and popular entertainment fare during each period to frame his stories.
Other notable films of Martin: Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional, Autohystoria, and Now Showing

Paalam Aking Bulalakaw (Khavn de la Cruz)
Hardcore mushy film about unrequited love. It is also an ode to the people, food, icons, and landmarks of the University of the Philippines.

Pangarap Ng Puso (Mario O’Hara)
Last year brought raves to a poetic time movie and a kapre film. While they’re good, I’m not a fan of them. I prefer the refreshing, lyrical film of Mario O’Hara. Poetry? The film utilized poems and poetry reading to great effect. Monster within? The tumultuous rebellion in Negros brings out the beast in every one. A fine adaptation of the short story Demons.
Other notable film of O’Hara: Babae Sa Breakwater

Riles (Ditsi Carolino)
Think of John Puruntong and Kevin Cosme, add some dash of Rico J Puno and you’ll get a picture of the male protagonist. He is super funny, witty, and a real urban poor guy who lived along the railway tracks.
Other notable documentary of Carolino: Lupang Hinarang

Tirador (Brillante Mendoza)
A roller coaster ride of a movie! From the roundup of petty criminals at the start of the film until the end when the ultimate criminals are presented, the film blitzes through the streets of Manila like a snatcher.
Other notable films of Mendoza: Serbis, Kinatay, Lola, Foster Child, and Manoro

Todo Todo Teros (John Torres)
This film captures perfectly the indie spirit and social zeitgeist in the Philippines under the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Paranoia over terrorists. Travel restrictions. Suppression of artistic endeavors. Local guerilla filmmakers conquering the world. Popularity of Reality TV. Unique charm of Pinoy indie films. Burning passion of Filipino artists.

Notable films of 2009

Bakal Boys
Ded Na Si Lolo
Lupang Hinarang

Monday, January 11, 2010

From a Filmgoer's Logbook: The Best of 2009

Agnes Varda's The Beaches of Agnes

Lav Diaz's Melancholia

Marlen Khutsiev's I am Twenty

End of another year. Time to trot out the shortlist to name the past year's best and brightest. Best of the best. Cream of the crop. There was, true enough, a lot of that: The year of our Lord 2009 represented a good and decent -- if not great -- year for our national cinema, proudly upheld and championed by a brave, young and gritty new generation of independent filmmakers. This was the year that small, unassuming films catapulted to fame and global profile by winning major awards at international film festivals: "Lola" in Dubai, "Engkwentro" in Venice, "Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe" in Cairo, "Sanglaan" in Lyon, "Astig" in Pusan and "Baseco Bakal Boys" in Thessaloniki and Torino. These days it’s par for the course for our independent films to receive invitations to major festivals overseas, even to the Holy Grail of festivals. "Independencia" was in Cannes' "A Certain Regard" section, "Manila" was in its Special Screening, and "Kinatay" director Brillante Mendoza upped the ante in international participation for our filmmakers as he won Best Director at the same festival. The gains of the retrospective of 46 Filipino films at the Paris International Cinema Festival in 2008 have been bolstered by another retrospective at the 50th Thessaloniki International Film Festival in 2009, showcasing thirteen of our recent filmic artifacts, a point of pride for the Filipino cinephile and the nation as a whole.

In 2009, the three pillars of Filipino independent film festivals – Cinemalaya, Cinemanila, and Cinema One Originals – were in fine form and seem to have established themselves as such: the three-cornered bedrock buttressing and underpinning independent film ascendance. Most of the globe-trotting award-winners mentioned above were fresh from debuting in these three film festivals before heading overseas and reaping prizes. A film enthusiast couldn’t ask for anything more. (Less taxes? More filmmaking incentives? The relaxation, if not abolition, of censorship? Too much? ) Seriously, 2009, as a whole, was a filmgoer’s dream, the newly minted as well as the little-shown classics (Conde, Avellana, and more) were there to be experienced at the various film festivals.

It was, however, a year of tragic losses too. The sudden death of film critic Alexis Tioseco, for one, brought a pall to the film community. Young but committed, he was not a mere armchair critic but a kind of activist for local filmdom. He was onto big things, championing independent filmmakers, crusading for the preservation of our filmic heritage, and campaigning for the reformation of commercial filmmaking. According to sources, Tioseco was working to find distribution if not assume distribution himself for the voluminous works of Lav Diaz. He was here for the long haul, and he would have done much, much more doubtless, until a fateful night in 2009 preempted it all.

As for a simple, dilettante blogger like me, I count myself lucky just to be on the sidelines to witness a sort of ascendance, if not a full-fledged renaissance, of our national cinema. In 2009, I managed to see around 200 or so films, but the real badge of honor for me was managing to see many of the premieres of Filipino films at the major film festivals, namely Cinemalaya, Cinemanila, and Cinema One Originals. My shortlist reflects that for the most part. This list is also redolent of films screened at the Cine Adarna and the Videotheque at the UP Film Institute. (Hey, me aircon na ang Videotheque, pero medyo amoy ataul pa rin.) Some of the films on my shortlist, however, have never screened at any of the local cinemas, and are likely never to do so -- a regrettable likelihood that I hope I’m wrong about. The year that was also saw me sampling many Russian film classics, mostly those named by in a list entitled “The 55 Best Russian and Soviet Films, 1908-1999”.

So, without further ado, my shortlist for 2009.


Melancholia (Lav Diaz)

Independencia (Raya Martin)

Kinatay (Brillante Mendoza)

Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe (Alvin Yapan)

Anacbanua (Christopher Gozum)

Last Supper No. 3 (Veronica Velasco)

Lupang Hinarang (Ditsi Carolino)

Baseco Bakal Boys (Ralston Jover)

Lola (Brillante Mendoza)

Agonistes (Lav Diaz)

Biyaheng Lupa (Armando Lao)

The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda)

Import Export (Ulrich Seidl)

Four Nights with Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski)

35 Rhums (Claire Denis)

Nanayo (Naomi Kawase)

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve)

The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa)

Material (Thomas Heise)

Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl (Manoel de Oliveira)

Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy)

Mother (Bong Joon-ho)

Hunger (Steve McQueen)


Father Sergius (Yakov Protazanov)

July Rain (Marlen Khutsiev)

By the Law (Lev Kuleshov)

Road to Life (Nikolay Ekk)

Spring on Zarechnoy Street (Marlen Khutsiev)

The Red Snowball Tree (Vasili Shukshin)

Five Evenings (Nikita Mikhalkov)

Khrustalyov My Car! (Aleksei German)

Brief Encounters (Kira Muratova)

One Hundred Days after Childhood (Sergei Solovyov)

Welcome, or No Trespassing (Elem Klimov)

Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano (Nikita Mikhalkov)

I am Twenty (Marlen Khutsiev)

Gamlet (Grigori Kozintsev)

The Days of Eclipse (Alexander Sokurov)

Spiritual Voices (Alexander Sokurov)

The House on Trubnaya Square (Boris Barnet)

Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes)

Manoro (Brillante Mendoza)
The Sun in a Net (Stefan Uher)

Profound Desire of the Gods (Shohei Imamura)

Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa)

Mouth Agape (Maurice Pialat)

China is Near (Marco Bellocchio)

Transient Life (Akio Jissoji)

The Wrestlers (Buddhadev Dasgupta)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ang Panday (2009, Mac Alejandre)

This is the first film I've seen at the 35th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). I went to the cineplex after the film won the lion's share of the awards. If this is indeed the very best of the 2009 batch, then I'll just wait for cable showings of other entries. The adventure-fantasy film lacked some warmth, was plagued with poor action sequences, and peppered with worthless characters.

Ang Panday is basically a two character slugfest. A blacksmith named Flavio (Ramon Bong Revilla Jr) rushes to the crash site of a meteor, which legend says is the key to the defeat of a monstrous evil. He creates a dagger from the metallic remnants of the meteor. The dagger inexplicably transforms into a sword that helps him confront the diabolical Lizardo (portrayed atrociously by Phillip Salvador). The serpentine villain toys with the sword-wielding mortal and leaves him blind. A lovely spirit (Anne Curtis) helps Flavio regain his focus and his vision. He returns for another mano-a-mano with his powerful foe.

There are other characters in this film although they are basically fluff. A female slave tries to free Maria (Iza Calzado) because she is said to be a tool in the future defeat of Lizardo. A motley gang of young people join forces with Flavio. These groupies are endowed with fighting weapons and skills such as slingshots, bow and arrows, and hand combat. However, they all end up as excess baggage because of their ineptness. Flavio ends up rescuing them from perils and dangers. When Flavio needs some rescuing of his own, the groupies are nowhere to be seen and only the lovely spirit is left alone to help him.

There is a nice opportunity for the archer to show off his skills during Flavio’s encounter with the rolling spike ball. The monster had one large eye and, based on its actions, an almost non-existent brain. The evil fiend stops rolling around and incredulously stares at the chinky-eyed blacksmith. The large eye of the monster becomes a perfect target. This is a great opportunity for the archer to be a hero but the director will not have any of it. Flavio leaps forward and plunges his sword into the eye.

Flavio is all over the film. He vanquishes a platoon of Mongols. He slays a horde of ninjas. He stops a bevy of aswangs. These feats could have been thrilling but alas, the lackluster action scenes are tepidly choreographed. Sure, the special effects are above-par but this is an adventure-fantasy. The action scenes should be thrilling and not wooden.

The original movie with Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ) is dragging but I prefer it over this heart-less remake. FPJ portrayed the blacksmith with some vulnerability. The way he carried out his character may not win awards but he was more human and more heroic.

On the other hand, Bong Revilla’s leaden take on the titular character is that of a reluctant superman. Flavio is so good he doesn’t need other people to stop the evil forces of Lizardo. However, he is no match to Lizardo. The filmmakers erred when they made Lizardo a super-duper fiend. Maybe that is part of the plan of the filmmakers/producers in order to create more money-making sequels. If they do come up with a sequel, I hope the filmmakers come up with more lively and more heroic groupies for the grossly outmatched Flavio. That is the only way for the future film and for Flavio to come up as real winners. Or better yet, let Lizardo utilize his brain and completely annihilate Flavio and this future MMFF regular.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Melancholia (Lav Diaz, 2008)

Melancholia, the latest masterwork from revered Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz, smolders with the embers of black emotions and delivers on the promise of its portentous title. A film about bereavement and loss, Melancholia documents the tragic plight of desaparecidos, those forced to disappear, and those dispossessed by their disappearance. While there is a dark lingering on personal and private sorrows, the sorrows emanate and resonate equally from social and ideological solicitudes.

Running at a meditative and heavy 450 minutes, Melancholia proceeds ponderously and woundedly in this saga of the bereaved and the disappeared, recalling such films on the same theme and subject as Luis Puenzo's The Official Story. In Melancholia, however, there is the likeness of a double madness -- one born out of the sorrows of its characters and the other born out of their artificial efforts to overcome these sorrows. Meanwhile, the imagining of the dead is close to idealization, sheer heroes in the fictive mind (romantic even to the very end). So there lies the emotional crux of the living in this film: how to move on, how to forget, against the cruel tenor of memory.

Memory here is conscience itself, a burden but a necessary evil. It is not just an unshakable scourge that will not let up, but a kind of register, a document of history that will never let injustice go uncommented and unvindicated, certainly not those inflicted by the muscular fascism of a government. Here, the coercions of artificial solutions such as psychology – a kind of ideological state apparatus, Orwellian and Althusserian, that returns those who deviate and dissent to the control of society – is no match for the inexorable onslaught of painful remembrance. There is no forgetting. Time, with all its clichés, is no healer.

When we meet them at the outset, the bereaved are not unlike fugitive characters from a Pirandellian play, converging on the amphitheater of Sagada: Alberta, Rina and Julian, all bereaved by the loss of their revolutionary spouses. They have sought refuge in psychological treatments, as well as support groups meant for their kind, but they remain tormented by grief and and anguish. Immersed in one character after another, Alberta as a prostitute, Rina a nun, and Julian a pimp – all assume characters in the hope of reorienting and reconnecting with life. By any appearance, their experiments are ill-advised: Rina is inconsolable with despair and uncertainty; Alberta breaks down in tears while in bed with a customer; and Julian has scrambled his moral compass, assuming the persona of a procurer, a character straight out of his fantasies.

Characters in Melancholia – like the learned and literate artists in Death in the Land of Encantos – have a literary cast to them. There is little chance of encountering them in everyday life. But for once, it is reassuring to see a filmmaker redefining what is possible in film, and the splendid thing is, his characters are convincing in their sharp individuations, whether they be artists, writers, widows, or rebels. Through long, unflinching takes in unrelieved monochrome, these characters take shape and come full circle, full of fierce wit and learning, raw feeling and emotion, dark bile and vitriol, making their own tormented humanity much more tragic and lacerating to witness.

Thus we find Melancholia’s characters reassuming their real lives in the capital. Far from the prostitute of Sagada, Alberta is the youthful principal of an elementary school while Julian is an established writer and the proprietor of a publishing house. Rina, by now, is prematurely dead, presumably of suicide. Between Julian and Alberta, who must also reassume a difficult role as a mother to Hannah, a young girl also orphaned by the disappeared and severely traumatized, the dynamic of hope and capitulation will play out. As Melancholia traces the threads of its dark denouement, we sense that many of its expositions are no less important and relevant.

Here, as in its companion piece, the equally vitriolic and similarly themed Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz uses various mouthpieces to lay bare his various indignations and convictions, personal and social, ideological and political. Diaz has no want of strong opinions prompted by the abuses of the establishment and the entrenched. In Death in the Land of Encantos, there are stinging rebukes against the fascistic military, thieving government officials, and even artists blatantly lobbying for the National Artist Award. This time, aside from skewering the big targets, Diaz levels his criticism against the corruptions in the educational system and those in the realm of commercial cinema.

But, while crying injustices remain, and while towards the end of Melancholia, repressive state apparatuses are overwhelming and ruthless, Diaz tries to leave us with subtle reassurances. We see a quiet and lyrical imagining of how Renato, Alberta’s husband, must have coped with the prospect of death. Trapped on all sides in a remote forest by advancing military troops, he lays down his gun by his side as rain falls like a reprieve. Exchanging it with pen and paper, he writes a letter never to be sent, a haunting letter about his greatest sorrows. About the fate of his country, its numberless pains, never seeing Alberta again… Thereafter, a bittersweet moment as we see his remains, and those of his comrades, borne in a procession by villagers on his way to a modest burial. There is no better way to die. Let his sorrows be our own too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

3 Lav Diaz films + 1 at UP Film Institute

UP Cine Adarna (January 2010) -- The UP Film Institute opens year 2010 with a month-long screening of films by some of the best auteurs in the independent film scene. Among the must-see films are Lav Diaz's epic films Heremias, Ebolusyon Ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino, and also his short film Butterflies Have No Memories. There's also a screening of Diaz's work-in-progress Agonistes.

Heremias is probably the best local film released since the reign of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines in the 1980s. The Dostoevskian story of a man tormented by his past, lush ambient sound, and crisp black-and-white cinematography take a vise-like grip on moviegoers. The snail pace of the film puts the patient viewer into contemplative mood during the first half. The last hour of the epic wraps up in dizzying crescendo as a hapless Heremias attempts to rescue a young girl.

Ebolusyon Ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino is an almost 11-hour depiction of the decades-long journey of two typical local families. The violence and poverty during the Martial Law-era and failed promises of the Cory Aquino administration threaten to tear apart both Filipino families.

Lav Diaz's latest film is the 40-minute short feature Butterflies Have No Memories. A film oozing with lots of symbols, it deals with the lasting effects of mining on a trio of male villagers.

Agonistes follows a pair of male adults searching for hidden treasures in a rural land in Bicol. Look for the scene with a dog helping them out.

Heremias (Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat Ng Prinsesang Bayawak)
January 6 at 1 pm
January 9 at 1 pm

Ebolusyon Ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino
January 7 at 1 pm
January 11 at 1 pm

Agonistes (work-in-progress)
January 13 at 4 pm

Walang Alaala Ang Mga Paru-paro (Butterflies Have No Memories)
January 13 at 7 pm

All screenings at Cine Adarna, Magsaysay and Osmeña Avenues, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Tel: 9818500 (UP Trunkline) local 4286, 4289; 9262722 (Telefax); 9263640; 9250286