Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Film Virus brings more Lav Diaz to Bangkok

Two recent works by the master of long-form black-and-white human suffering, Filipino independent filmmaker Lav Diaz, will be screened in Bangkok at the end of March in a program called "In Lav We Trust".

The films are 2011's Century of Birthing (Siglo ng pagluluwal) and last year's Florentina Hubaldo, CTE.

The screenings are made possible by Film Virus, the same loosely organized group of film-loving "sick people" who brought Lav Diaz and several of his films for a series of screenings in Bangkok and around Thailand in 2009.

The screening venue for the March 30-31 event is the Reading Room on Silom Soi 19 in Bangkok. The showtime is 1pm. Both films clock in at 6 hours. I advise getting there early in order to stake out the comfy spot you'll be occupying for the day. Perhaps bring along a pillow.

Century of Birthing has had festival appearances in Venice, Toronto and Rotterdam. It won the Jury Grand Prize at the 2011 Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Here's the synopsis from Toronto, which is reposted at Mubi.com:

Telling two seemingly unrelated tales, it is a grand meditation on the roles of the artist, the prophet and the acolyte. The first story focuses on Homer, a filmmaker who has spent years working on his latest opus — and still isn’t happy with it. Hounded by friends, co-workers and festival programmers to finish the damn thing, he resists every entreaty, countering a programmer’s pleas to send him the film with, “I don’t make films for festivals, I make them for cinema.” (The story plays a little like , minus the surrealism and with a dollop of Warhol thrown in.) The second story concentrates on a Christian cult in a rural region — a group largely comprised of young women (referred to as “virgins”) and dominated by its charismatic leader, Father Turbico. When one of the longest-standing members strays, the impact is catastrophic for both her and the cult.

Diaz portrays both men as troubled and problematic figures, pressured to perform but also ruled by their own romantic conception of themselves. Father Turbico carefully primps himself before meeting with one of his disciples. Homer gives long interviews about the nature of cinema — Diaz, as if to indicate that he’s not convinced by his apparent stand-in’s rhetoric, drowns out the dialogue with industrial noise and almost-decipherable chatter. The characters are linked by public professions of fealty to their gods (Homer’s devotion to cinema; Turbico’s peculiar take on Christianity), and both have followers whose devotion proves to be less than healthy.

Told almost entirely in long takes that are alternately transfixing, claustrophobic and penetrating, Century of Birthing boasts exquisite black-and-white imagery. Indeed, it may be Diaz’s most entrancing film to date — and it’s certainly his most personal.

Florentina Hubaldo, CTE has had festival appearances in Rotterdam, Toronto's Images and Edinburgh. It won the NETPAC Award at last year's Jeonju International Film Festival. Here's the synopsis from Rotterdam, as reprinted from Mubi.com:

As no other filmmaker, Lav Diaz is involved with the suffering of the people of the Philippines, with its history of colonialism, corruption and poverty. A philosophical drama about the psychological effects of injustice and arbitrariness. Two poor labourers leave the city looking for a treasure.

Few filmmakers make films as long as those of Lav Diaz. Six hours is not even particularly long within his oeuvre. He has films to his name that are twice that long. And even fewer filmmakers would want to reshoot a film they’ve already made. Yet that’s what happened here. Lav Diaz shot a first version of Florentina Hubaldo, CTE in 2009 (when it was still called Agonistes, Myth of a Nation). Once he had a HD camera, he decided to shoot the film again. Another long film. Back to distant and inhospitable locations. It says a lot about this filmmaker’s commitment that he does not make life easy for himself when telling his epic social dramas.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease found in individuals who have been subjected to multiple concussions and other forms of head injury. A variant of the condition, dementia pugilistica (DP), is primarily associated with boxing.

Individuals with CTE may show symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression which may appear within months of the trauma or many decades later.

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