Todo Todo Teros (John Torres, 2006)
I don't know much about John Torres. I know he has an editing house across the street from the university I graduated from. His four short films have been adamantly recommended by friends. I must admit that his win in the Vancouver International Film Festival for this film sparked my interest; and when I heard that this film was going to be screened in the Bagong Agos Film Festival, I knew I just had to watch it and see it for myself.
John Torres feels like the Southeast Asian equivalent of a less pompous Jean Luc Godard, or a more personal and intimate Chris Marker. Todo Todo Teros stems from Torres' video diary during his Berlin trip where he became enamored by his tour guide Olga Aliseichyk. Masterfully stitched together with improvised sequences, recorded performances of local independent musicians and performers, other pre-existing footages, the film morphs into something completely different. It is collage-like in the extent of information Torres jams. Aside from the video (DV most appropriately utilized), Torres elaborates with onscreen texts of poetry, made-up SMS, narrative-specific events, and subtitles. Torres' own narrative tops the dynamism of the feature --- his pensive vocal demeanor punctures the heart as the visuals provide for a throbbing ride to the Philippine underground; the sights and the sounds marry right before the end resulting in something quite extraordinary.
There's a lot of information here; mostly personal, which makes it doubly tasking to understand the film completely. At least Torres acknowledges that his film is partly masturbatory; most of his films are described as releases or outputs of his personal life, rather than substantial societal cues. It's absolutely delightful how Torres exposes himself in his feature; how he tricks Olga into saying "mahal kita" (Tagalog for "I love you") or his little conversations about nothing. More revelatory are the scenes with the front liners (Khavn dela Cruz and Lav Diaz) of the Philippine independent movement; in a supposed car ride from Manila to Berlin, they discuss pre-Spanish Philippines and how vibrators and orgies are already commonplace in society, as described by Magellan's chronicler, Pigafetta.
Torres, with co-writer Joel Toledo, posits the theory of the filmmaker as an equivalent to the terrorist. There's some other pretty interesting things Torres posits here. It's mostly improv stuff; he plasters travel advisories from different Western nations against Manila while showing a clip of a noisy New Year's celebration in the streets (and quite surprisingly, the celebration does look a bit like Baghdad being bombed). The idea of a somewhat dystopian Manila (the film is set in the present, but the premise can exist alongside is interesting; where everyone is being watched; the government takes an opposite stride by tightening foreigner visitation (Torres compares such paranoia to a church confession; absolutely inutile in its purpose and methodology); secret languages used in terrorist conversations; executions of planned movements; and finally the terrorist's art --- the videotape he made for Olga as his very own confession.
His art explodes like a bomb that's sure to evoke emotions from those who see it. The film unexpectedly u-turns when the film is discovered by the videographer's wife (Bughaw) --- the film, the artist's testament to his love for his Berlin tour guide, his exploits as an artist-terrorist, plays to the highly volatile eyes of the wife --- its heartbreaking. The wife then spreads the video through a local pirate; Torres knows how to pump up the poetry --- images of Olga are displayed all over Manila, seen by little kids, by revolutionaries. Torres sums it up with an eye-popping blast; he redefines terrorism, not from the point of view of the global American, but from the point of view of a real person. He contributes his personal aches, his worries, his unrealized aspirations and loves lost, his eros to the collective consciousness that defines what terrorism is; somehow removes the mundaneness George Bush has inflicted the word. Terrorism has never been this romantic.
This post is my contribution to 100 films: The Lovesick Blog-A-Thon.