English Translation: Who's Free?
Pardon the pun (Thanks to Raya for the lovely picture; his blog also has essays on the fallacy of the film festival worth reading: here and here). It delighted me to see the usually empty spaces of the Cultural Center of the Philippines full of people, idly chatting about the films they just saw in the Cinemalaya Film Festival. It shows promise that alongside the so-called independence in filmmaking, there is also a burgeoning reception to these films (at least from the new generation). Now that there's reception, what's next? Do we sit idly and wait for the so-called independent movement to fizzle and become the mainstream? That's what I fear, and that's why I invite everyone to talk about the films you've seen (mainstream, independent, Hollywood, foreign) in whatever way you can (feminist, homosexual, Marxist, personal readings are most welcome; educate yourself with what's readily unavailable in our shores (through Cinamanila, or those series of screenings, DVDs (legit or not)): a blog is free, access to the internet is cheap, your contribution to Philippine cinema is invaluable). Now that Philippine cinema is supposedly free, it is the audience's turn to be liberated from pre-conceived notions on how to read cinema (read: mere exercise for the eyes).
I thought that the following conversation is an interesting discussion, and I am inviting online lurkers to take part in the discourse. Feel free to take part in the discussion. I am copying the bulk of the discussion here, but one may read everything in my thoughts on Jim Libiran's Tribu (2007):
Kid, you got what it takes to be a critic... Like Oggs said, everybody's a critic... I just don't think that, Oggs, you are. Your righteous criticisms in some of your films are so outstandingly in denial beyond cinematic comparison. You approach it with a verbalistic observation, or atleast I think it is, towards a merely non-idealistic art. Altman, Spielberg, Lee, Zwick, Macinzski, Stolav, Chung, Rosario, Rodriguez, Polate, Teranitti, Pussini, and Howard... are only a handful of the greatests... they are not Directors...they are Filmmakers... Big difference...what's my point Oggs? My point is what Kid was trying to say...there's merely no comparison between any of them.. They have their own style like a volcano has its own. The late Bob Altman had a different brush like of Libiran's, but ..they are both artists. Artists at their own peds.
Kid's point was to merely circumcise the "critic" that can easily be based on your observation and wonderment on how it is easy for some (Oggs) and hard for others (Kid) to relay such a "critique". I hate to say it, but though Libiran's Tribu didn't fully capture my attention for its uniqueness, it gave me a passion for what filmmakers do..."painting a canvass". And that he did very successfully.
Oggs, not to dote on an issue of personal being, but you seem to be a very intelligent person, however, the past 14 movie film critiques that you have novelized seem to have been too disected. How do you watch a movie? Isn't it just as simple as "watching" it? I feel that you overly extend your arm too far in that cookie jar. What's in front of you is the palette? Don't think too hard. You can't enjoy a piece that way.. Or hell, maybe you are enjoying it that way you do.. So be it... To each his own.
Kid's comments are to submerge a feeling of distaste to what he or she might think are not tooinformedbeings... A compassion towards the filmmaker's hard work.. Yes, we get that. Yes, he/she thinks that the blood, sweat, and tears, are not easily absolved.. but should be chizzled to our member. We feel it, but understanding it is another.
First, Cinemalaya is not a film festival. It is merely a week of screenings. A film festival is not Cinemalaya, Cinamanila, nor Manila Film Festival...it's pure egotist market fest. A film festival is where filmmakers are... As a jury member myself to two reputable film festivals, how I only wish that these so called events were different... for the sake of the young filmmakers who would like to be the Filmmakers of the future... A Filipino I am... A Filipino I quote... Second, Tribu does deserve a prize. Can't compare it to any other works because it is merely an entitiy of its own...like any other films... Third and last, Tribu can't be any better than what it is... if it were different...then it wouldn't be Tribu now would it?
The Philippines have two idealistic societies; those of power and those of not.. How you define that power is all up to you.. Oggs, absorb both and this whole thing will eventually make sense to you.
"Nothing can combine better judgement than just a simple scroll from a pencil and a fold from a paper."-Jurassa Hasmin "Power"- 1967
Thanks for that piece of education, Rich (which shook me to my core),
I am aware of the vast differences between all filmmakers, or directors when do directors graduate to become filmmakers; is this a canonical concept; a cinematic sanctification?). As for comparisons, I use them as measurements, as gauges, as points in this vast cinematic history. I don’t claim my comparisons are objective or academic (sometimes I re-read my writings, and I cringe as to the mistakes I’ve made in the past); these are hunches (you may refer to them as intellectual masturbation), wherein a cinematic image turns on a stimulus that instantly refers to that point of cinematic history, as known to me. I agree with you that a filmmaker and a film is unique; and I also agree that to change a film to subscribe to anybody’s wishes is to completely modify the film (but this brings in to mind the very contemporary concept of director’s cuts, producer’s cuts, and many more --- are these different films; which film is whose?).
I look at films as pieces of literature --- all open to criticism, interpretation, interpolation, and discussion. My “reviews” are open to immense criticism (overextending my arm too far in that cookie jar, as you’ve said), I look at each and every detail and subscribe meaning, fault, praise to those observations (the same way I excite myself over words authors choose in writing their books --- despite the fact that these words may not be the author’s but the proofreader’s). Is that a fault, to some yes; but to me, it isn’t (it’s as overly reaching as feminist, psychoanalytic or Marxist reading). I’m turning the films I watch into a personal experience; addressing some moments I enjoy or hated with interpretations and probably rationalizations. We’re human because we think; Sorry, I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of merely watching movies --- like paintings which tell stories despite its perpetual immobility, films are evolving (the same way trash films of the past are given their due in the present).
Let me make this clear. I enjoyed Tribu. I was angry when Jim Libiran told the story about CCP and the Tondo rappers. I admire how Libiran turned Tondo into a sprawling landscape where day and night are vastly different. I used Altman as a point of reference because of Libiran’s ability to merge stories that flow with the film’s narrative (half-hearted because I’m sure Altman wasn’t the inspiration; probably from his own experiences and made literary by his workshops with Bing Lao). Meirelles, I used, because it just reminded me of that film and it does tread similarly to City of God --- whether it be intentional or not, is not a matter of concern.
So why did it seem that I disliked the movie; because of how it culminated. And that’s where I agree to your point that if it ended differently, it wouldn’t be the Tribu that is admired for “its grand and graphic depiction of contemporary Tondo, its raw passion and searing violence, its terrible social conditions and conflicting social mores, and its people’s coruscating embrace of both sacred and the profane, the filial and the tribal, the tender and the vicious.” To me, it’s sensationalizing… to some, it’s realistic. It’s really a matter of perception, not of taste (I don’t subscribe to tastes). If the film ended differently, would it be better; maybe, maybe not. Again, it doesn’t matter. Thousands loved the film for what it is, who am I to judge.
I take offense, however, to your statement that I am not a critic. First, I never claimed I was. I do not get paid, I am not published, I do not get invited to become jury members of film festivals (prestigious or not). But to completely nullify my aspirations is as hurtful as the one you accuse me of (of putting aside the blood, sweat, and tears of the filmmaker). I welcome people to comment in my blog (I never thought about screening comments) because I want to invite discussion to the films (or movies) and because I believe everyone is well-suited to become a critic (all you need is a brain, paper and a pen (or a computer) --- as your quotation states). Are my writings perfect? No. I have no grand delusions for them to be portals of cinematic knowledge (heck, I am not the best in the field I decided to be in (law), what more, for a hobby). However, it is not only cinema that is being revolutionized by the digital age. It is also film writing; some bloggers are happy with I LOVE OUIJA! ANG GANDA NI JUDAY!, while some would reach further interpretations. Can you fault us? I don’t think so.
In any case, thank you very much for your comment, which I highly respect. I don’t know if this will make sense to you, but it makes sense to me.
I end with this quote which addresses the new kind of criticism that evolved with the age of the computer (something I subscribe to); seriously, when the world has been shrunk to the size of a laptop and cultures are becoming more apparent to the everyday person, there will be new ways of appreciating art and film (we don’t just watch them, we think them, we live them, we breath them):
“In short, we’re living in a transitional period where enormous paradigmatic shifts should be engendering new concepts, new terms, and new kinds of analysis, evaluation, and measurement, not to mention new kinds of political and social formations, as well as new forms of etiquette. But in most cases they aren’t doing any of those things. We’re stuck with vocabularies and patterns of thinking that are still tied to the ways we were watching movies half a century ago.” --- Jonathan Rosenbaum
Lastly, isn't referring to a film as best, comparing? As jury member to two festivals, how do you decide which wins? I'm just curious.
By simply "watching" them Oggs. "Watchiing" them... That is a feat in itself.
In the decade that I've been in this industry...the film industry that is...the more a critic dissects a rubinized movie to its core, the more it becomes trash.. It's not a good feeling when one takes offense..? Does it? But we carry a jargon that often is mistaken for rape in beliefs. That my friend is what you need to understand. I think that your mental masturbation is quite an o.c.d. for leaving an open policy in your blog. You love to love it. You love to hate it. Hey, some people love porn. You.... love this. To each his own. One last thing, Jonathan Rosenbaum became the windy city's critic because of a painted canvas that he could never finish... and that my friend is to each his own.
First and foremost, may I know who the person is behind “rich?” That way, I
may know to whom I owe this re-education.
I pay deference to your experience, but not exactly to your way of thinking:
- Further clarifications, you say you simply “watch” movies. What happens afterwards? When it’s time to deliberate with your co-jury members who among the filmmakers deserve the top prize, what do you contribute? How do you watch films (it simple enjoyment, technical marvel)? More interestingly, what do you make of films, such as those by Bela Tarr, Lav Diaz, Tsai Ming-liang, etc., which if simply watched, wouldn’t amount to anything. Don’t tell me you just “watched” Lynch’s films, or Cronenberg’s horrors. I’m sorry, films aren’t simply watched. The best films are those which invite discourse; invite interaction with the audience --- which is also why a film festival is not merely a bunch of screenings, or as you wish that it is a communion of filmmakers and filmmaker-wannabes. A film festival is for everyone who wants to partake in film; whether you are a filmmaker, an aspirant, a writer, or like me, an over-thinking blogger. Belittle my experience, but when I over-think films, I find gems in trash and I find trash in conceived gems (case in point: Roger Corman’s films as opposed to Paul Haggis’ Crash).
- Your whole point is that we love different things, that there are so many schools of thought existing, and that we should be bound to respect differences and
uniqueness. I ask you this: why dismiss this writer as not a critic, or in your words… “I just don't think that, Oggs, you are.” Is it because my writings are righteous (as you say), overreaching (as you say), I approach it with a verbalistic observation (as you say). Again, mere differences in schools of thought; one can’t be judgmental with somebody else’s opinion. Criticism is simply that: forwarding an opinion.
- You put filmmakers in a pedestal; but what are films, are they simply watched, simply enjoyed. You make differences between filmmakers and directors. One thing I’ve noticed: those who canonized these filmmakers are the ones who don’t simply watch their films; they overthink, find symbolisms and relate it to their
respective fields --- that is art, and my friend, film is art --- not a mere show.
- You bring up Jonathan Rosenbaum’s history; how he became Chicago’s critic (which I don’t quite get; he became Chicago’s critic because of his failures?). That’s beside the point. My point is: there’s so much to film writing than mere watching and enjoyment. The quote I gave you simply puts into perspective my way of thinking: that there are many discourses in film (and not only the filmmakers, which you give undivided importance to: half of filmmaking belongs to the audience, to those who process the films and make them their own by relating it to personal experiences). I am not part of the industry, as you speak (and I do not hope to be part of it, if it means sacrificing my personal beliefs for mere enjoyment), but I hope I am part of the burgeoning film culture (which includes both filmmakers, film lovers, and everyone in between) that the internet is sparking. Film is democracy; the filmmaker doesn’t have a definite say as to what his films mean once he releases it to the public. Film isn’t merely consumed, it is experienced (and that’s how criticism should be; a remuneration of film as assessed by the critic’s own experiences, beliefs, and knowledge).
- I repeat… the independent revolution does not merely belong to the filmmakers. It belongs to everyone who loves film. Now that our filmmakers are unbound from the commercialism of the dying Philippine cinema, they are beginning to make films that matter, that aren’t simply “watched.” That’s when the audience needs to be unshackled from the bamboozlement the proliferation of Hollywood films has given us.