Sunday, May 08, 2011

Turumba (1981)

Turumba (Kidlat Tahimik, 1981)

Turumba is arguably Kidlat Tahimik’s finest work. When compared to his other films, the film is handsomely produced, tightly edited, and sleekly told. Also absent in the film is Kidlat Tahimik’s physical presence. Instead, the film is told through the eyes of young Kadu, son of a craftsman who specializes in papier-mâché products.

Kadu, similar to Kidlat Tahimik’s character in Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare, 1977), is a curious creature, well-entrenched in his community but not without questions about his town’s customs and traditions. On the day of turumba, a festival celebrating the feast day of the town’s beloved Marian image, a German capitalist chances upon the papier-mâché products he is selling, leading to ever-increasing orders, and forcing Kadu’s father to turn what used to be a livelihood that is intimately connected with the town’s customs and traditions into a lucrative business, a source of immense profit.

Turumba seems to be Mababangong Bangungot’s spiritual sequel, although it can be argued that Kidlat Tahimik has spent his entire creative career tempering the allure of modernization. In the film, foreign capital is treated with suspicion. The German capitalist, a moneyed woman whose stately appearance is betrayed by her lack of grace and finesse, seems to be portrayed for laughs, not unlike the American in Mababangong Bangungot. The country folk, from Kadu’s keen grandmother to the resourceful blacksmith, are all depicted with reverence.

In that sense, Turumba does not dwell in complications. It is told with refreshing simplicity. Thus, instead of politicizing and complicating the discourses regarding Westernization, modernization, and economics, Kidlat Tahimik focuses on what is most intelligible in the arguments, and that is what is most tangible and visible, like the death of traditions, the sudden soullessness of craftsmanship, and the dissipation of cultural integrity. Turumba, without having Kidlat Tahimik, the vastly enjoyable performer performing onscreen, has the tracks of Kidlat Tahimik’s sariling dwende from start to finish.

(This article was commissioned for the programme of the 12th Jeonju International Film Festival)

1 comment:

Epoy Deyto said...

i remember it being so sad... a very sad film...

the saddest about it, the scene wherein the lola is pleading the children not to forget their culture and songs. :(