Imahe Nasyon (Poklong Anading, Yeye Calderon, Mes de Guzman, Emman Dela Cruz, Neil Daza, Lav Diaz, Tad Ermitaño, Rox Lee, Topel Lee, Milo Paz, Robert Quebral, Ellen Ramos, Raymond Red, R.A. Rivera, Lyle Sacris, EJ Salcedo, Sig Sanchez, Dennis Empalmado, Ogi Sugatan & Paolo Villaluna, 2006)
English Title: Image Nation
Twenty years after Ferdinand Marcos' regime was toppled by the EDSA Revolution, producers Jon Red and Carol Banuan Red pose a question to twenty of the country's digital filmmakers: What has happened since? Given five minutes each and absolutely limitless control to play around with the theme (and make use of actor Ping Medina), the result is Imahe Nasyon (Image Nation), an omnibus work which I thought was more interesting than it was groundbreaking.
Most of the short films are draped with cynicism; probably an indication of the rebellious character of the independent film community of anything authoritarian. Emmanuel dela Cruz's Imagining EDSA questions the validity of the EDSA exercises with Medina posing atop a fly-over imagining a metaphorical woman giving birth. Most cynical is Paolo Villaluna's One Take, a tale of a family spanning several presidential administrations ending in an upsetting tragedy (the entire five hour film is shot with one take, thus the title).
Experimental are the works of Lyle Sacris, Poklong Anading, and Roxlee. Sacris' Dibuho makes use of several digital photographs of Medina edited together to make a hypnotizing film that culminates in a rapid succession of the different faces of the Filipino people. Between Intersections, Anading's effort is a collection of several vignettes of normal Manila life; played in reverse; and multiplying successively until the entire screen is filled with the luminous chaos of the sights and sounds of post-EDSA Manila. Roxlee's La Pula mixed stop-motion animation, clever framing, and nebulous narrative to come up with a film that fancifully plays around with colonial ache and its repercussions to the Philippine psyche.
A disappointing pattern appears throughout the omnibus. There's a tendency for the filmmakers to downplay narrative and go for symbolisms --- Yeye Calderon's Silid (Room) and Emmanuel dela Cruz's Imagining EDSA are the biggest perpetrators of this annoying habit of belittling the power of five minutes. R.A. Rivera (Public Service Announcement) and Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez (Aksyon Star)'s MTVs are merely entertaining.
Tad Ermitaño and Topel Lee astound with their genre confections. Ermitaño's Local Unit brings us to a bleak futuristic Manila wherein computers make use of actual human brains to function (which totally makes sense since a human brain's memory surpasses any supercomputer's); enterprising Filipinos, as always, find a backdoor to earn an extra buck out of the new technology, paying real poor Filipinos for their brains to activate the computers of the Manila middle class. Lee's Ang Manunulat (The Writer) is a statement against the government's efforts to silence media draped in what seems to be a Lynchian horror piece.
Noteworthy is Raymond Red's Mistulang Kamera Obskura (Like an Obscure Camera) and Mes de Guzman's Tsinelas (Slippers). The former stars Medina and his father, Pen Medina looking at each other through a hole in their respective jail cells. It seems that Red is trying to compare how we view contemporary society from the point of view of the optical illusions created by photography; that for us to see life as it truly should be seen, everything should be topsy-turvy. De Guzman's cinema verite short shows a day in the life of a street sweeper who walks to Mendiola with his broken slipper. It turns out that that day is the day of the Mendiola massacre where rallyists are brutally mauled by the police; de Guzman continues his tale playing with the now-famous journalistic video of the rally, it seems like there's a belittlement of the value of the sacrifices of the past when the immediate need is the fixing of the street sweeper's slipper.
Most impressive is Lav Diaz's segment entitled Pagkatapos ng Ulan (After the Rain). His camera is motionless in a low angle position during the entire five minutes. An infrequent voice-over tells us that after the rain, the disconnected voice's mother left. Thereafter, the father left; and finally he saw himself: a jovial kid. My enchantment with this short film is the fact that the credits state that the actors are unknown, giving me an idea that Diaz merely placed a camera and filmed an everyday sequence, and building upon what he gathered during the entire five minutes of shooting, created a piece that evokes an uncontrollable emotion of separation and the difficulty for self-identification.
The omnibus is ultimately a mixed bag. A number of short films are quite forgettable, or perhaps too inappropriately dense to elicit real awe or an allure for further intellectual deliberation. In a way, the absolute freedom made the exercise slightly scattershot for the entire piece to actually speak something novel and moving about our present state.