Slow Cinema VoD – Update (1)

As promised, a first, rather brief update, about how things are developing regarding the forthcoming (oh, I’m super excited!) Slow Cinema VoD platform.

Two weeks ago, I took the first step considering the technicalities behind the idea of setting up the platform. The Art(s) of Slow Cinema now has its own server, which will host both the VoD service and this blog which will move later this year. The server will also be the place where all data is stored, including payment information. So, the basis is present and correct.

My brother, who’s the genius behind the whole technical stuff, is now working on the structure that will allow the filmmakers, who have been chosen for a certain curated theme, to upload their films. As noted in the project description, the filmmakers will do their share of work. They upload their films themselves (at least for the beginning, we’ll see if that really works out this way), they enter all relevant information about their films for the viewer, and they will give a brief biography of themselves.

This is what’s being worked on for now. It will take a good couple of weeks after which we can test the upload function of the VoD platform. There is no date for that yet, but I’ll keep you posted. If all goes well, and my proposal is accepted, I will briefly speak about my work – my blog, my VoD platform – in London at the Slow Cinema symposium. Fingers crossed!

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the Slow Cinema VoD project description and here’s the Call for Films.

Edit: You can now donate to our crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.

Behemoth – Zhao Liang (2015)

How do you write about something that is, cinematographically, absolutely gorgeous but which, paradoxically in doing so, highlights the suffering of labourers? Behemoth by Chinese director Zhao Liang had me somewhere between “wow, this is beautiful” and “oh my, this is so depressing”. This constant shift was a bit like a rollercoaster, although, I’m frank, the beauty of the images gave way to utter sadness in the end. The longer the film lasted, the less I could enjoy the gorgeous pictures Liang has captured. Because what is at stake in this impressive documentary is the Chinese coal mining industry and the ironworks. Reckless, ruthless, with little care for the workers, for the environment. Liang speaks about a myth, the myth of Behemoth, a huge, all-encompassing monster. Throughout the film, the director moves closer and closer to likening this monster to “the black gold”, eventually arguing that Behemoth is not a myth at all. It is us, us humans, who ravage the earth.

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Behemoth starts with a beautiful long shot of a landscape marked by mining. There is not a single bit of green left, a fact that appears immensely ironic later on in the film. It’s an image everyone may possibly be able to relate to. Mining landscapes are so extraordinary (extraordinarily gloomy) that they stand out from miles away and there is no difference whether you see such a landscape in China, in Chile, or even somewhere in Europe. It’s perhaps the deepest visible scar we will leave the planet with once we’re gone. Liang gives those scars extensive on-screen time, at the beginning more so than the people who work in the industry. Behemoth is accompanied by a voice-over here and there, but overall the director lets the images speak. It is for this reason that Liang’s initial neglect of the human behind the industry makes Behemoth appear like an observation of a lonely, mechanical work. Which, in effect, it is. Nevertheless, the documentary moves more and more towards the human factor throughout its running time.

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Liang shows the faces behind this ravaging work in the second half of his documentary. He shows the people’s suffering. He shows the crude methods with which they work. He shows how the workers live. He shows their declining bodily strength. Time and again, we see a long shot of a scenery which appears gorgeous at first, but if you take your time to look at the scenery properly, you notice that there are cracks in it. Liang works with mirrors, which gives the documentary an artistic touch usually known from gallery installations, I would say. His long shots of landscapes, showing cracks in their appearance, and a nude body curled up, with its back towards the camera, often centered, sometimes decentered in the frames, do feel like an installation piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was to take those scenes one day and reworked them for an installation piece.

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What I particularly liked was the time Liang dedicated to observation. His cinematography, his shift between the the large, impersonal (the machines, the empty landscapes) and the small, personal (the workers) creates an immersive experience, which reminded me a bit of Salomé Lamas’ Eldorado XXI (2016), which I watched at this year’s Berlinale. There are several parallels between the two films from opposite corners of the world. But what popped into my head again when I saw Behemoth is my argument that slow films always deal with death in one way or another. This Chinese film is no different, but perhaps it comes closer to real death than other films in the canon. Visually most obvious is the death of the landscape. But with that, the human is also slowly dying. Coal miners are shown in bed needing oxygen so that they can breathe at all.

What Liang makes clear towards the end of his film is that there is no justification for this cost of human labour. The director shows us images of Kangbashi, an area full of skyscrapers, newly built, and yet empty and deserted. A ghost city. Here, construction hasn’t build something new and alive, but something that is already dead. Behemoth shows that creation no longer means what it used to mean. Our total focus on exploiting the planet’s resources for a faster development and an apparently richer society is the original myth that stands at the beginning of the film. We no longer create. We demolish. We dismantle. We destroy. And as Liang strikingly points out: we are Behemoth, the huge, all-encompassing monster.

Havarie – Philip Scheffner (2016)

What does the word “havarie” actually stand for? Originally, it is linked to ships, speaking of accidents, emergencies, and shipwrecks. But we can draw the circle a bit wider and think for a moment about the effects of the refugee crisis on Europe. What is going on here? Are we seeing the “havarie” of Europe? How about the “havarie” in people’s minds?

Philip Scheffner has created a multi-faceted film, if you’re willing to see beyond the slowed-down image of refugees in a boat. A video clip of 3:36min, extended to a ninety minute film – Havarie is a remarkable hybrid of film (or should we perhaps say image?) and radio drama. The visuals change only ever so lightly throughout the film’s running time. After a while, if you give yourself into it, if you really let go, you start to hallucinate. The almost stop-motion like movement of the image facilitates a hallucinatory state of the viewer. Seeing the same thing with little difference for such a long time is not much different from the position the refugees in their boat are in. Water is the only element that surrounds them. It all looks the same, and it must play games with the refugees’ minds. This is exactly what Scheffner achieves in the viewer’s with his slowed-down image of a tiny boat in the middle of a blue nowhere.

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I mentioned earlier that at times I had the feeling that the film was a form of radio drama. In a way, this isn’t too farfetched. Of course, the hypnotic image of refugees in a boat is important for the filmic structure. Yet what I found most expressive were the sounds, the voices, the stories told in the background. Havarie is more than just about a slowed-down image, although this may perhaps be its most characteristic attribute when written about. It’s like Lav Diaz’s films being reduced to their length. Havarie tells stories, and these stories are not only directly linked to the refugees in the boat. This is one of Scheffner’s achievement: the focused story of refugees trying to make their way to Europe (to Spain, to be exact) becomes a wider story of conflict in Europe. I remember the crew of a cargo ship. Men from different regions of the world, even from the Philippines, speak about the political situation in the Ukraine; an almost forgotten conflict that is still burning with no end in sight. The conversation between the different crew members on the audio track of the film is a reminder that what we see (and I mean, see – I mean the image) is not just 15 refugees in a boat. It is only a small part of a larger puzzle. A puzzle of conflicts, not just in the Middle East, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

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Scheffner also gives voice to the man who has filmed the video clip the director used for his film. Terry Diamond, a northern Irish man with a strong accent, describes events in Belfast in 1976, which caused the death of, among others, a young thirteen year old boy, Brian Stewart, who has become for Diamond a symbol of the conflicts in Northern Ireland. You can hear the pain in his voice while he remembers the events. These memories of “Western” events are interspersed with the story of an Algerian man and his wife, who is in France; “the sea separates me from my wife”, he says. And then there is a young man they call Wallace, because he’s the brave one, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life. In the end, what the film shows is that these stories are no different from one another. They’re human stories, and their geographical origins are of little interest. Their origin is the human being. This is what counts, and this is what people sadly forget. We all have the same dream: a better life, without war, without violence.

Scheffner’s Havarie is a must this year, if you have the chance to see it, not only because it’s dealing with a timely subject at the moment. In fact, it is a timeless film. Whether you show the film this year, or in twenty years – Havarie won’t lose any of its importance.

Passions of the will to boredom

I have taken today’s post title from Julian Jason Haladyn’s wonderful book Boredom and Art: Passions of the Will To Boredom (2015), which I have read with pleasure. Haladyn is, effectively, speaking about more than just boredom and art. To me, there is a lot about the politics of modernity in it, and several of Haladyn’s ideas and thoughts are an answer to the question of why people walk out of the cinema when they see a slow film.

What I found most striking, though actually most obvious (so obvious that we may never think of it these days) is the way modernity has changed our attitude. Haladyn uses the train journey, now a famous example, to illustrate this. He proposes that modernity, in the form of a train journey, has lead to people placing emphasis on expectations rather than on presence. If you think about it, during a train journey, or any journey for that matter nowadays, whether it’s by train, by car or by plane, you are expecting your arrival at the destination. This is what your mind is focused on (if it can focus at all during a time of transit). Expectation overshadows presence. Because you’re in transit, you can no longer appreciate being in there here and now because time and space is persistently shifting. If there’s one major thing that has changed for us through modernity, then it is the fact that we have lost the ability, perhaps the opportunities even, to be present.

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This is one section of life, where slow, contemplative films are intervening. Even though Haladyn does mention the films of Andy Warhol and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman 23, Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, he makes too little a case for cinema in general. However, there is a major case to be made about the nature of Slow Cinema as a tool for allowing us to return to the pre-modern feeling of being present at and with something. The long-takes, the wide shots of nature, the focus on character development, or even the running time, which is at times excessive (you know whom I’m talking about!) – all of those give us, the viewer, the opportunity to let go and just be. I argued in an earlier post that, to me, slow films are the real escapist cinema because they allow me to get away from the hectic modern life that is too fast, too noisy, too stressful. This is precisely where my two thoughts merge. It is escapist precisely because it allows me to be present, to be in the here and now, to breathe with the film, which nothing in modern life (apart from a Buddhist retreat and meditation, and perhaps yoga) can give me.

For some reason, a parallel between slow films and Duchamp’s readymades shaped up in my head while reading Haladyn’s book. Duchamp’s works were outrageous at the time, and perhaps they still are. Remember his famous toilet? There’s nothing arty about it. In effect, he has taken it and made a piece of art out of it. He showed us the ordinary in life, which we no longer notice. Perhaps this wasn’t his real intention, but I read it this way. The readymades are ordinary elements. They’re already there, nothing needs to be done, apart from putting them into a spotlight. Duchamp’s strategy, I find, is very similar to what slow film directors to, too. I’m aware that films are, more often than not, constructed pieces. There is an involvement of the artist evident, especially in highly experimental films. Yet, what slow films show is the mundane, the everyday, the life we all live without actually noticing it. What these films show are readymades. That also goes for the characters who are often no more than themselves – non-professional “actors” who play themselves, who do what they usually do, only in front of a camera.

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Haladyn cites Frances Colpitt, who made a very good point about Warhol’s films, but it is a point that can be equally applied to slow films. She writes, “Boredom necessarily describes the spectator’s state of mind rather than any characteristic of the object. The root of the problem is in the unpreparedness of the audience, most of whom were not familiar with the theoretical concerns of this highly conceptual art.” Colpitt is correct in arguing that boredom is a state of mind of the viewer and the artwork in itself is not boring. Haladyn proposes two approaches to a “boring” piece of art. He describes them as yes boredom and no boredom. The latter is a refusal of letting yourself float with the artwork, a refusal of trying to find or make meaning. Following Haladyn’s description of no boredom, it is to me a refusal of engaging with a work of art, or a film for that matter. Yes boredom, on the other hand, means that the viewer engages with an object. If there’s no obvious meaning, then the viewer is ready to create something, or at least s/he tries to. This is very much what the annual Slow Art Day is doing, or allowing you to do.

What is happening with slow films, and their rejection of it, is, in effect, no more than an expression of no boredom on the side of the viewer. It is an inability to be, to breathe, to be present. Those who walk out have no intention to do a bit of work. They have no intention to create meaning. They have no intention to engage with what is in front of them. Engagement with a work of art does not necessarily mean that you like it. Of course, you can dislike slow films. Yet, those films need to be engaged with in full first, and the reason for dislike cannot be “it’s boring”, because then you haven’t tried to engage with it. Two UK film critics walked out of the Lav Diaz Berlinale screening after two and three hours respectively (which is fatal, because Diaz’s long films only begin to get really interesting after three hours). Diaz takes it with humour, of course. At the same time, he said that people needed to sit through the full length of his films before they should express their opinion. Only then have they really tried to engage with the film. This is not only true for Diaz’s films, but for any slow film. Yes boredom!

The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD – Project Description

Here it is, as promised – a little later than I had hoped for but better late than never! Please find the full project description of the forthcoming The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD platform in the link at the end of this post.

I reckon that the basic idea behind the VoD platform has been clear for a while. What has changed during my trip to Berlin is the thought of creating a curated platform, meaning that for two or three months, The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD will focus on a particular theme, for instance architecture, or experimental film, or short films. Whatever comes to mind, and whatever fits to the film submissions I’m receiving. The focus on curation allows me to breathe because what I do not want is chasing films all day long only in order to get the platform running. This goes against the slow work – good quality ethics I’m pursuing 🙂

In the end, very much depends on the films I’m receiving and how many films I’m receiving. I would therefore like to renew the Call for Films, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

You can find the full project description here. Please read this if you’re interested in taking part in this VoD platform, and get in touch if you have questions or even films!

Edit: You can now donate to our crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.

 

Hele sa hiwagang hapis – Lav Diaz (2016)

Well, he did it again, and Lav Diaz’s Berlinale entry Hele sa hiwagang hapis is, at the same time, his longest film since his nine-hour film Death in the Land of Encantos (2007). I’m grateful and flattered that the team thought of me for the German translation. It was a stressful piece of work, and even though I was miles away from the actual action, I could feel the tension all the way through my translation work. Even I got tense! The translation job had one advantage: I was able to see the film before it premiered in Berlin. Yet, it wasn’t the polished version, but regardless of that, I would like to say a few things about Diaz’s new masterpiece.

First of all, I need to be honest and say that I wasn’t all too keen on it. That was before I saw it. I heard a lot about it. I was aware that two mainstream actors played important parts in the film. I also knew that parts of the film was shot on a set. The team – cast and crew – was huge, so I was immensely worried that Hele would become another Norte, which I wasn’t a fan of, mainly because you could see that it wasn’t a full Lav Diaz film. Viele Köche verderben den Brei, we say in German, meaning that too many people working on a single project usually leads to a lower quality of the end product. I found that this was the case with Norte, although critics loved it and hailed it as a new era in Diaz’s filmmaking. They considered it a development in his aesthetics and in his approach to film. Thankfully, he made From What Is Before after that, with which he returned to his usual way of filmmaking.

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Hele is a special film. Even longer in the making than Batang West Side (given the endless years of waiting for funding), Diaz was finally able to make his film about the Philippine’s national hero and revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, mixed with an investigation of José Rizal’s death, Spanish colonialism and the oppression of the people that came with it. With Hele, Diaz makes explicit what he pointed to in his metaphorical treatment of colonialism in Florentina Hubaldo, CTE. Spanish colonialism is not in the past, it is present for us in Hele. We see the oppressors for the first time. We experience their wickedness and just how little they actually care about the local population. It is an interesting direction in Diaz’s filmmaking that he approaches the subject so directly. But I found it necessary. After several metaphorical films, which I studied in my doctoral thesis, it seems appropriate to put faces to the atrocities Diaz has only ever pointed to. And, quite fittingly, the Spaniards are unlikeable characters throughout the first part of the film. I found it difficult to sit through the parts where the Spaniards were in focus. Part of it was also that they can be considered a rupture in Diaz’s approach to acting. The Spanish characters are much less at ease with their roles. I couldn’t feel the natural “living” of the role. The Spaniards acted, and perhaps that was intended, because  in a way, it fits to the situation they were in. Spain was losing the Philippines. Economically, it became less and less viable. It was a disaster for the mother country. On top of that, Filipinos started uprisings. Of course, they could not show this. They had to maintain their dominance, their authority. So what is better than “acting” this role? This is precisely the feeling you get in the scenes which focus on Spanish characters.

There is a real shift in artifice-natural whenever scenes change to Filipino characters, Hazel Orencio as Andres Bonifacio’s wife amongst them. Or the tragic woman who helped the Spaniards to conquer Silang; a terrible massacre which cost many people their lives. You can feel the actors living their roles. They are the characters who they play, the usual feeling in a Lav Diaz film. This juxtaposition of acting in Spanish and Filipino characters makes for a really interesting reading. There is also the literally fantastic character of the Takbalang, whom I grew somehow attached to. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the way Diaz has put this mythic figure of half man-horse into light, often, again, quite literally. Or perhaps it is the fact that I have never come across a real mythological figure embodied by a human character in Diaz’s films, so it is intriguing.

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The visuals in Hele are at times stunning. The camera is not Diaz’s camera. It doesn’t feel like him. At times, it comes close to what we know from Norte. But at the same time, it is sometimes a camera which moves independently from the characters. Not quite as much as in Béla Tarr’s films. Nevertheless, there is a certain degree of independent camera movement apparent. There is also a play with light and shadow. The high contrast black-and-white reminded me strongly of Florentina Hubaldo. Hele is very similar in that respect.

Some of Diaz’s films are not accessible at first viewing. Some of them are deeply metaphorical, so that a straightforward interpretation would fail if you were to use standard Film Studies reading. In many cases, Diaz’s films demand that the viewer becomes active, reading up on certain issues, trying to find out more about the director’s country, his people, his society, his background. He is not the type of director who feeds you easily. You need to work for your food, and I do not mean by this sitting in a cinema for eight hours. You have to do more than this. Florentina was, and still is, perhaps his most enigmatic film, which baffled me when I saw it first. I had no idea what to make of it, until I started to enquire about what Diaz could have meant. Then the film became the most powerful film of his (in my view). Hele isn’t at all metaphorical, but it may be difficult for a Western audience to understand. The same goes for the local Filipino audience if they are not aware of their country’s history. It would perhaps be difficult to make out the characters. I was lucky enough to have done some reading on the subject during  my PhD research but even that wasn’t entirely enough. This isn’t a bad thing at all. As I said before, if there is one persistent thread in Diaz’s filmmaking, then it is his demand on the viewer to leave the cinema auditorium and begin to do a bit of research. That is the beauty of Diaz’s films. They are a challenge. You cannot be a passive viewer. If you are, then it is no surprise that you find the films boring, or that you think the films are all the same. This is no different with Hele. It may be enigmatic, but once you push through those eight hours, it becomes a magnificent piece of work.

Hele is perhaps one of Diaz’s strongest films in recent years. For me, it doesn’t quite reach Florentina or Encantos, but it is also very difficult to put them into relation because they were made under dicferent circumstances. And they all have their very own, and very different, specialities. With Hele, Diaz has certainly proven that, after his last two films which were comparitively short, he hasn’t given up on endurance cinema. He’s still very much into it, and we can only wonder what Meryl Streep thought when she sat down for eight hours in order to see this film!

Where are you going? – Zhengfan Yang (2016)

If the film’s title were a question about the direction of the filmmaker, then I would respond to it with “higher and higher”. Where Are You Going? is Zhengfan Yang’s second feature film. His Distant was a true marvel to watch and his second one is even stronger. Visually, it is very different from Distant but narrative-wise I would say it is stronger, cleverly constructed and even though you’re driving through Hong Kong for over two hours, your attention will not wane precisely because Zhengfan uses the frustration principle for the creation of revelatory moments, which make you want to watch more.

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Where Are You Going? is an apt title for a film, which puts you in the seat of a taxi, or a bus, or anything on four wheels that takes you from A to B. The standard first question a taxi driver asks you becomes a metaphor in Zhengfan’s film, though. The film is not only divided into several car journeys across Hong Kong. I found that, more than anything, the question was metaphorical for where the characters (want to) go in their lives. Who are they? Zhengfan doesn’t show them. Sometimes we’re not even sure whether there is someone with us in the car which is travelling through the night or through the busy streets of Hong Kong under the sizzling sun. Their voices are the protagonists. The characters become a face only through their voices, and those voices create not only a personality but an entire life of that personality in front of your eyes. You cannot see the character, but you get to know him/her in an astonishingly detailed way.

Every character has a story to tell but only reveals pain, frustration, anger and sorrow slowly and gradually over the course of a long-take. The viewer gets a glimpse of Hong Kong society through the eyes of people from very different backgrounds and social status. There is the young female banker, who is confronted by her taxi driver over her alleged false promises to her customers that they would make lots of money by investing in risky bonds. He himself was cheated out of 2 million HKD by someone like her, he says. While this could be a straightforward black-and-white story, Zhengfan portrays a banker who pursues the job she doesn’t like only to pay her bills, earning, in effect, less than than the taxi driver and being under persistent pressure by her boss to sell bonds. If she fails to sell a certain amount, she’d get fired.

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We get to know a mainland Chinese couple who wanted to leave the mainland behind in order to search for a better life. A very impressive dialogue between husband and wife, a dialogue that speaks of homesickness and the frustration of discrimination in Hong Kong. While she has enough of trying to get on her feet in the big city (going as far as saying that her “better life” means that she reaches the wall when she stretches her arm out, implying they’re living in a tiny apartment), he is willing to sit this out for another two years, after which they would get a permanent residence permit. She’s dreaming of Canada or Australia; he worries that their parents will consider them a failure if hey returned to mainland China. Pressure from all sides – this is a common theme in pretty much all conversations we hear in the film, be it pressure in family, in society, amongst friends; it’s everywhere.

And while the voices in the background speak of saving money, hating the city, childhood memories, or being set up with a man from mainland China, the images take us through Hong Kong. Zhengfan makes sure to give us as elaborate an image of the city as possible. There’s one chapter, whose name I cannot remember now. I can only remember that it contains the word “corridor” and it was so fitting. A rather narrow motorway leads us through run-down houses, houses in desperate need of repair, houses you wouldn’t want to live in, but which at the same time are most likely the most affordable housing there is in Hong Kong. So while you have the motorway so close to your window that you can almost touch the cars, you have the neighbouring tower just as close. It’s a take that gives you a real feeling of the claustrophobia in the city. At the same time, you see at the horizon all those skyscrapers that we know of Hong Kong; the offices, the expensive apartments, the stuff only rich foreigners can afford.

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Where Are You Going? tells much, much more, and if you’re really attentive, you can see certain connections between the characters. Not all of them are unrelated. Zhengfan has added some connections in there, which makes the entire journey through Hong Kong city, its society and its people even more enriching. The idea of spending over two hours in a car driving through the city is perhaps not very appealing. But the concept is fascinating and riveting in a special way. You see nothing but the streets and other cars, and yet the film is full of humanity, of emotion. You may find this an odd thing to say, but Where Are You Going? is a film which makes you see if you open your ears.

P.S.: Very attentive viewers may find a place where Tsai Ming-liang’s Walker went!

The aesthetics of absence and duration in the post-trauma cinema of Lav Diaz

Now that the PhD has been awarded, I’m happy to make my thesis, the first coherent study of the films of Lav Diaz, available for you to read. I’m currently working on a monograph, which will use this thesis as a basis, but which will be more personal, less academic and which will contain one more chapter. I’ll write a little something on Diaz’s Locarno winner From What Is Before (2014) which I really thought needs mention in the context of post-trauma, but which I couldn’t really fit into my thesis. Please feel free to get in touch about the thesis if you want. Please feel free to comment or even recommend further reading which I would be happy about. Here’s the abstract of the thesis. You can find the download link below.

Aiming to make an intervention in both emerging Slow Cinema and classical Trauma Cinema scholarship, this thesis demonstrates the ways in which the post-trauma cinema of Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz merges aesthetics of cinematic slowness with narratives of post-trauma in his films Melancholia (2008), Death in the Land of Encantos (2007) and Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (2012). 

Diaz has been repeatedly considered as representative of what Jonathan Romney termed in 2004 “Slow Cinema”. The director uses cinematic slowness for an alternative approach to an on-screen representation of post-trauma. Contrary to popular trauma cinema, Diaz’s portrait of individual and collective trauma focuses not on the instantenaeity but on the duration of trauma. In considering trauma as a condition and not as an event, Diaz challenges the standard aesthetically techniques used in contemporary Trauma Cinema, as highlighted by Janet Walker (2001, 2005), Susannah Radstone (2001), Roger Luckhurst (2008) and others. Diaz’s films focus instead on trauma’s latency period, the depletion of a survivor’s resources, and a character’s slow psychological breakdown. 

Slow Cinema scholarship has so far focused largely on the films’ aesthetics and their alleged opposition to mainstream cinema. Little work has been done in connecting the films’ form to their content. Furthermore, Trauma Cinema scholarship, as trauma films themselves, has been based on the immediate and most radical signs of post-trauma, which are characterised by instantaneity; flashbacks, sudden fears of death and sensorial overstimulation. Following Lutz Koepnick’s argument that slowness offers “intriguing perspectives” (Koepnick, 2014: 191) on how trauma can be represented in art, this thesis seeks to consider the equally important aspects of trauma duration, trauma’s latency period and the slow development of characteristic symptoms. 

With the present work, I expand on current notions of Trauma Cinema, which places emphasis on speed and the unpredictability of intrusive memories. Furthermore, I aim to broaden the area of Slow Cinema studies, which has so far been largely focused on the films’ respective aesthetics, by bridging form and content of the films under investigation. Rather than seeing Diaz’s slow films in isolation as a phenomenon of Slow Cinema, I seek to connect them to the existing scholarship of Trauma Cinema studies, thereby opening up a reading of his films.

You can download the full thesis here.

Plenty questions for…Lav Diaz

Guernica magazine has published my interview with Lav Diaz today, which I conducted in November 2015 during the retrospective of his work at Jeu de Paume (and later the the Cinematek in Brussels). Here’s an extract of it. You can read the full interview on their website. Happy reading!

Guernica: What was the social and political situation in the Philippines at that time?

Lav Diaz: There is an extension to what happened during the war, when the Japanese rampaged us for four years. The Filipino guerrillas became the core movement: [during WWII] they were called Hukbalahap, the Philippine Army against the Japanese. The communist movement in the country started with the Hukbalahap right after the war. They were called Huks. Then we were under the American system. They gave us this so-called independence in 1946, but we were still part of the Commonwealth of America then. We were part of their imperialist movement.

Guernica: Did you witness any of those communist fights?

Lav Diaz: Not in our [region]. My father was a socialist, but he didn’t join the armed struggle. He was more into the cultural part—education, he focused on that. He didn’t want any violence, so he volunteered there to educate the indigenous people. It was actually very blissful in that area until the fight between Muslims, Christians, and the military in the late 1960s. Although there was this stark poverty and struggle, it was idyllic before then. Education was the center of everything. People were trying to help each other. Roads were being built in the area.

I was growing up in this barrio when martial law was declared.

Guernica: Mindanao has appeared in your films—for instance in From What Is Before. Do you have any specific memories of your life there?

Lav Diaz: Everything that you see there is from Mindanao. From What Is Before—you know, the shoot was hard. But the writing, the creation of the characters, the situations—it’s all from memory. It’s a composition of so many characters, from my parents, from my youth. I just put them together and created a narrative around them. It’s easy to create a narrative for me, because I really know the characters, the locale.

Read the full interview on the website of Guernica Magazine.

Call for Films!

The Art(s) of Slow Cinema is looking for slow, contemplative films for its forthcoming video-on-demand platform!

The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD platform is an extension of the website of the same name. It seeks to promote hand-picked little to entirely unknown slow films, whose directors struggle to find adequate distribution for their work. At the same time, through the purchase of viewing access and/or DVDs, the platform seeks to support the directors’ new works financially.

I’m looking for films which place emphasis on the art of slow looking; films which allow the viewer to take his/her time with a subject; films which observe life in detail; films which show the everyday in ordinary simplicity and rendering it extraordinary; films which allow the subject matter to breathe, to develop; films very much in the vain of what I’ve been writing about for the last three years. I’m looking for the new, yet unknown generation of slow-film directors from around the world.

If you have a short or feature film, or even a poetic documentary that you think may qualify in the context of Slow/Contemplative Cinema, please get in touch. Also, if you know someone who has a suitable film, please ask him/her to get in touch (theartsofslowcinema@gmail.com).

And please spread this message widely.

Please note that films which have already secured distribution will not be considered for this project.

Many thanks for all the films that have been sent to me already and I’m looking forward to seeing many more!

Edit: This is a call without a deadline. Whenever you feel like you have a film ready, please submit it and I’ll take a look at it!

Edit: You can now donate to our crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.