Vanità – Kevin Pontuti (2017)

A bare room. The walls are seemingly made of cold stone. The lighting is low, the darkness overpowers the image, which director Kevin Pontuti has created at the beginning of his new short film Vanità (2017). The image itself could be mistaken for a medieval still life, a painting that represents the dark ages that have left their indelible marks on our present lives. Pontuti, a visual artist first and foremost, uses his skill to merge the art of film with the specifics of a still life painting in this film in order to strengthen the concepts of dark- and coldness, and which foreshadows what is to come.

Pontuti creates an almost palpable soundscape at the beginning, a soundscape that makes the scene come to life. One could think, believe even, that one is part of the film, standing there off-screen and looking at the old wooden table. The result of the director’s sound design is an immersive nature that cannot be shaken off throughout the film’s duration.

Vānĭtās – emptiness – permeates every scene of the film. It is not only about the utter scarcity of the mise-en-scène. There is also the actual process of emptying oneself. This is primarily metaphorical, as is often the case in Pontuti’s work. In Onere (available on tao films), for instance, this metaphor is one that symbolises the burden of identity, the burden of the I, in the form of a shapeless, and yet almost human-like “package” that a woman carries through the woods under extreme efforts. In Vanita, Pontuti is more explicit in his representation, but he remains faithful to his approach of not showing. Rather, his work demands of the viewer to interpret, to read, the frames he has constructed. What underlying meaning is there in a woman pulling hair out of her mouth? Is it an extension of Onere’s burden, a burden one wants to rid oneself of? Why does this woman, previously calm, brushing her hair, vomit excessively only to then return to complete normality as though nothing has happened? Is there a meaning?

Pontuti’s latest instalment of his Poetry of Penance series represents strongest the sentiments of horror, of darkness, even of violence, albeit not explicit, that the viewer might associate with the Medieval Ages. What remained under the surface in Onere comes to the fore in Vanità. The horror of the unexplainable, of the mysterious, is the core of the director’s representation of vānĭtās, which comes to life through the strong acting of his regular lead actress Alexandra Loreth, who lives her role despite all the horrors that comes with it in this film.

More than perhaps his previous works, Vanità asks one to reconsider the idea of film. Pontuti has created a cinematic piece that challenges our belief that films must be seen in cinema, by seemingly merging static and moving image art. Vanità is more than just a film. With the help of utter simplicity, it creates strength and challenges, and poses questions that are not always easy to answer.

(The original title of this short essay is “Vanità – The horror of the unexplainable” and is part of the promotional efforts following the release of Pontuti’s new film.)

tao films subscription pre-sale

As part of our effort to increase tao films’ visibility, we are running a pre-sale campaign for subscriptions to our VoD platform, the only platform that is dedicated to the art of contemplative cinema 🙂

There are several reasons behind this campaign. First of all, even though we started off as a no-budget platform, we can no longer hide the fact that it costs money to run a platform like this. I would love to have things differently, but it’s sadly not always possible. Our campaign is therefore an effort to raise at least 600 EUR in order to keep going for the next 12 month. It is also a way to find out whether subscriptions would be a viable way forward as the campaign will show whether there is an interest in subscriptions or whether it is more attractive to price each film individually. I believe it is the former, but we offer different price models for our campaign, so we will see what attracts people most. The money we raise with this campaign helps us not only to keep going but to focus on advertising, on partnerships, on generally increasing our visibility, especially in key cities around Europe and North America (as our main targets) in 2018.

For the duration of the campaign, we offer a one-month subscription for 10 EUR, a three-months subscription for 25 EUR, a six-months subscription for 50 EUR, a twelve-months subscription for 100 EUR and one lucky lifetime subscription for 500 EUR. Each of those subscriptions will become available in the new year and you can then decide when you want to start watching our films. All films are available to you, all the time, for the duration of your subscription.

Our campaign runs until 16 October. If you love what we do, please consider a subscription. If you cannot support us financially but love what we do, we would appreciate it if you could share the link to our campaign and tell everyone how amazing we are 🙂

Do check our campaign on Indiegogo (click, click!). Thank you so much for your support in the past. I appreciate your help and support, and I’m looking forward to continuing this contemplative journey through world cinema with you!

tao film selection and other news

Welcome to a new selection tao films films for you, handpicked just for you 🙂 Before you dive into it, let me say that tao films will start a free collection very soon. We’re currently preparing it. In order to give you a taster of our work, some films will be available for free on our platform. I’ll let you know once everything is up and running for this. And now, please welcome…

BYRON JONES by Ashish Pant (2013, US/India, 108min)

“If there is something that characterises contemporary “Slow Cinema” in particular, then it is the directors’ focus on the everyday. They hold a mirror in front of us, in front of our pains, our joys. Ashish Pant’s Byron Jones belongs to this category of filmmakers., but he stands out, taking the focus on the ordinary everyday further than other directors do. Byron Jones is a two-hour long portrait of an elderly man. We see him sleeping, showering, preparing meals, eating. In particular the last two daily habits might evoke in some viewers the memories of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman; the almost hyper-real depiction of a woman’s day-to-day going ons. Jones, a widow perhaps, lives alone, which the director enhances with an almost oppressive silence that characterises the man’s solitude. With his insistence on showing Jones’ daily activities in detail through the use of almost extreme long-takes, Pant has created a hyper-real portrait not only of Byron Jones, but of most of us.”

ART 35.5. HOURS A WEEK by Mariken Kramer and Eli Eines (2017, Norway, 22min)

“The front security door opens and the first visitors enter the National Gallery in Oslo. Another day at the gallery begins. But while this is another day of leisure for local visitors or foreign tourists, several coming from far away to see the classics, it is another day of work for the security guards who surveil the precious paintings the National Gallery is home to. Artist-filmmakers Mariken Kramer and Eli Eines, both alumni of the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art, focus in their documentary on the behind-the-scenes at the National Gallery, singling out those people who spent the most time with the paintings in front of them. In careful long takes, Kramer and Eines evoke the required slow look at a gallery, all the while speaking to the guards in order to learn about their work, but most importantly about their relationship to art. In the background of the directors’ frames, viewers speed through the different rooms only to take a picture of a famous painting; a beautiful contrast that forces us to think about our relationship to art, our willingness to take time for what surrounds us, and our appreciation of it.”

ONE TIMES ONE by Chris Bell (2016, US, 20min)

“It is not easy to leave one’s home. It is even more difficult to build a life in another country, a country that is, perhaps, very different of one’s own. Ahmad emigrated to the US from Syria but struggles to find his feet. His days are spent idling, waiting for job opportunities that rarely arise for him. One Times One tells the story of Ahmad and a curious, if at times ambiguous, companionship with Mike, a 50-something American who lost his arm in an accident and keeps himself busy by drawing cartoon characters. Chris Bell uses the same patience he has shown in his feature film The Wind That Scatters in order to dig deeper into Ahmad’s daily life and struggles. It’s an episode that plays out so many times in our world that it gets overlooked and forgotten, but Bell brings it back into light and makes us aware of this enforced idleness that puts our life on hold.”

LADDER by Simo Ezoubeiri (2015, US/Morocco, 8min)

“An elderly man, alone, wakes up. He appears to be in a state of arrest. His movements are slow; he is sleepy. He is being drowned by something, something that weighs heavy on his shoulders. In one scene, we see a woman leaving the house with a suitcase. The house falls quiet, and it becomes clear what the weight on the man’s shoulder is. There is a profound sentiment of loss that Simo Ezoubeiri attempts to bring across in his film. The loss of a partner, through death of a break-up, causes a temporary stoppage of time and opens up a hole both in the person’s life and in the person itself. In long-takes which show the elderly man do nothing but idling, Ezoubeiri gets to the bottom of this sudden emptiness and loneliness, and lets us feel what it means to be left behind.”

KHOJI by Yudhajit Basu (2016, India, 20min)

“Set in the lower Himalayas, Yudhajit Basu’s short film Khoji is an ominous piece that uses the violent history of its people as a background in order to explore (and explain, perhaps) the people’s struggle today. And yet, this history is visually absent from the screen. In carefully framed long-takes, Basu lets the images speak as well as the dialogue in which parents consider sending their daughter to the city because it is no longer safe where they live. Or a dialogue in which a brother, almost surprised, asks his sister whether she wasn’t aware of what was happening in the neighbourhood. Something is happening; it hovers over Basu’s film, over every frame. The director suggests rather than tells, using still and quiet imagery that show resemblances to some of the big names in Slow Cinema.”

 

Other news

This autumn, Sebastian Eklund (director of The Blind Waltz) will open his first solo exhibition at the Konstepidemin in Göteborg, Sweden. He’s a great visual artist, so if you’re in or around Göteborg, do use the chance and see his work.

Pilar Palomero has been awarded a Special Mention at the Sarajevo Film Festival for her film WINTER SUN. The special mention has been awarded by one of the festival’s partner in the larger context of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Student Programme Award. Congratulations!

If you want to learn ore about the director of Onere, Kevin Pontuti, there is a new interview with the filmmaker available, conducted as part of the short film programme of the Prague International Film Festival. You can read the interview here.

Scott Barley’s Sleep Has Her House will have its Canadian theatrical premiere on 24 September as part of Art House Theatre Day. You can read more about the event and book tickets here.

La Pesca by by Pablo Alvarez screened at the Camden International Film Festival this month . The film will come to tao soon, and I cannot wait to show this beautiful short film to you!

More news about Kevin Pontuti. The filmmaker has taken the helm of a new study programme called “Media X” at the University of the Pacific this semester. You can read all about the director’s new university programme here.

While his short film Ladder is being shown on tao films just now, Simo Ezoubeiri’s new project Inner Marrakech begins to travel the festival world, starting with the Kaohsiung Film Festival in Taiwan.

We hope you enjoy the new selection. Do join us in our tao films Facebook community, or follow our Facebook page, or our Twitter account for the latest updates on tao films and festival news from around the world.

Tao Films Selection and Other News

In the last six months, tao films has gone a long way. We started off with a mere six films in January that were replaced by a selection of eight films in April. By now, we have a permanent selection of 15 films available for streaming. And many more films are to come. We have around 80 short films and 50 feature films which wait to be uploaded, and we can’t wait for you to see them. But all in its own time…

This July, we have switched to a permanent collection, a library of films that cannot, for the most part, be found somewhere else. We pride ourselves with selecting films from mostly young and emerging talents from around the world in order to give them a chance to showcase their work. We have added 4 films this month, ranging from fiction films to experimental cinema.

In The Night of all Things/La Noche, director Pilar Palomero explores themes of loss as a result of death in connection with childhood. Her film is a quiet study, a study that makes palpable pain and grief transmitted through silence and the slow progression of time.

The night of all things – Pilar Palomero (2016)

Eli Hayes’ Mercury Vapor is an experimental film that, over the course of two hours, asks you to free your mind, to be open to the moving images, not always clear, blurred at times, open to what is happening on your screen. Hayes does not tell a story; the story shapes up in your head alone. The film becomes what you see in the director’s images, and it is this characteristic which makes Mercury Vapor a special experience. 

Mercury Vapor – Eli Hayes (2017)

In his short film Onere, which is part of a larger project, Kevin Pontuti metaphorically explores the theme of self and the role of our identity. What does it mean to carry the weight of ourselves? Can we detach ourselves from our identity and choose a new one?

Onere – Kevin Pontuti (2016)

In A Place Called Lloyd, Danish director Sebastian Cordes takes us on a trip to Bolivia. Even though the national airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano has gone bankrupt, its workers show up at their workplace every day. In at times vast and impressive shots, Cordes captures the stories of these people and their sense of dedication and pride. 

A place called Lloyd – Sebastian Cordes (2015)

Some films from season one have returned and others from season two have stayed on. We’re happy to say that the following films are also available on tao films: Bare Romance by Belgian director Karel Tuytschaever, Centaur by Aleksandra Niemczyk from Poland, Ecce Homo by Dimitar Kutmanov from Bulgaria, Metropole by Ozal Emier and Virginie Le Borgne from France/Lebanon, Osmosis by Nasos Karabelas from Greece, Remains by Yotam Ben-David from Israel, Seaworld by Hing Tsang from the UK, Sixty Spanish Cigarettes by Mark John Ostrowski from Spain, A Souvenir from Switzerland by Sorayos Prapapan from Thailand, Transatlantique by Félix Dufour-Laperrière from Canada, and Wanderer by Martynas Kundrotas from Lithuania. 

In other news…

There is a lot happening with our filmmakers and they make us proud. First of all, we’re happy to say that Yudhajit Basu, whose film Khoji will show on tao next month, has been accepted at the prestigious National Film and Television School in India. Congratulations! 

Emily Cussins’ Diviner Intervention, to be released on tao soon, has been selected for the Science Arts Cinema Festival (if this is not a curious festival, we don’t know what is!).

Kevin Pontuti’s Onere keeps traveling to various festivals, so many, in fact, that I lose track of them.

Centaur by Aleksandra Niemczyk was screened at the International Film Festival in Madrid this month.

Félix Dufour-Laperrière, director of Transatlantique, is putting the finishing touches to Ville Neuve, his new film.

The Slow Short Film Festival, all new, will kick off in September and they have selected quite a few tao films. Check out the line-up, or rather impressive screen grabs of the selected films, on the official website. I’ll try to be there and maybe I meet some of you 🙂

There is a lot going on, and I will keep you updated here on The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. Stay tuned!

Wanderer – Martynas Kundrotas (2016)

!!! This film is now available on tao films until 30 June 2017 !!!

Three months ago, I have moved to Brittany after two pretty depressing years in the north of France. Now that the stressful study time (PhD time) is over, I’m trying to take a lot more time for me and my natural surrounding. My new home is a two to three minute walk away from a canal where you can have a daily walk and watch the ducks making their way to whatever place they would like to go. A five minute walk away is a prairie, a sort of wild place; lots of trees, bushes, birds and even rabbits! If the weather allows it, I’ll make sure to walk through this peaceful place, a place where I can breathe, where I can think or not think, where I can just be.

Now, why am I telling you all this, you might wonder. When I walk through the prairie, I’m always thinking of Martynas Kundrotas’ Wanderer, a simple short film about a young wanderer roaming about in nature. I agree, it doesn’t sound like the most spectacular film, and it is, in fact, the least spectacular film I have offered on tao films so far. I have programmed it nevertheless, because I think that Kundrotas’ Wanderer is the closest a slow film comes to what I think some slow film directors want to achieve: bring us, disconnected as we are from our natural surrounding, back to our environment.

Martynas Kundrotas – Wanderer

I believe that we have lost touch with nature. If anything, we think we’re the master of nature, which is also shown in Western painting. I spoke about Chinese painting on this blog before and how Chinese painters painted Man always in a sort of miniature size in order to show that nature is more powerful, more forceful. The size of humans in Western painting is an indication of what we think of ourselves: we’re the crowning glory, we have the power to control nature. Indeed, our relationship to nature is one of control, power and exploitation. We straighten rivers; we hunt animals just for the fun of it; we cut down trees because they’re in our way; we exploit our natural resources in order to live in luxury. If we do walk through a park here and there, it is only to walk through. It’s usually not in order to stop and look at trees, grass, or flowers.

Looking at the bark of a tree, for longer than a second, as does Kundrotas’ wanderer, is the opposite of our terribly fast life. We need an adrenaline kick nowadays in order to feel alive, and the bark of a tree is everything but. However, the more time you spend looking, the more you see. There is so much life, a life that runs parallel to others, but a life which we aren’t aware of, because we don’t take the time to become aware of it in the first place.

Martynas Kundrotas – Wanderer

Kundrota’s wanderer roams through fields, touching the grass. He stands at a riverbed in the rain, seemingly enjoying every drop that falls from the sky. While we would open our umbrellas or run for cover, the wanderer remains at one with nature. Water, precious source of life, is something else we merely use without being aware of the meaning of it for us. We have become ignorant, blind, and numb, and Kundrotas attempts to rectify this. Wanderer is not a film that seeks to teach. Rather, in simple, unspectacular frames, the director tries to raise awareness; awareness of what what is around us, awareness of what we no longer see.

He very much follows Chantal Akerman’s mantra, which I described last week. In order to see, you need to look for longer than a few seconds. Seeing means more than recognising. It means getting to know, it means letting oneself drift off maybe for a chance to learn something new. It is entirely up to you whether you take the journey with the wanderer or whether you dismiss the reality of what nature really is and what it means to us, to our presence, and that, without it, we wouldn’t be here.

A souvenir from Switzerland – Sorayos Prapapan (2016)

!!! This films is available on tao films until 31 March 2017 !!!

In 2015, Europe saw a huge influx of refugees from Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan – countries that had become more and more dangerous, and too dangerous for some people to be able to survive. Especially in Europe, the year 2015 will be remembered as such, and, to many, it will be remembered as the year humanity failed. Refugees were treated like potential terrorists, they were locked up in camps, shot at at borders. It was a year of numbers. The famous one million that has “flooded” Germany, for example. But what is going on behind those numbers, who are those people who flee their home, not willingly, but as a pure attempt at survival, putting themselves at risk, knowingly, by choosing an unsafe boat trip across the Mediterranean, organised by corrupt smugglers?

I was surprised to see Sorayos Prapapan’s film, which deals, beyond the surface, with exactly this. I had seen the Thai director’s Boonrem before and was taken by how the young filmmaker places emphasis on detail, on observation, and on exploring a character’s mind. His short film A souvenir from Switzerland is different in that it is, first of all, a documentary. Or is it? In some ways, it is. In others, it is more a personal description of the director’s trip to a film festival in Switzerland. The film opens when he is back home. But we don’t see Prapapan, nor the friend who visits him. Instead, the director uses almost cliché images of Switzerland he has shot during his trip.

Voice-overs are pretty common in film, and it is a method that guides this film, too. However, I’m not too sure whether we can speak of a voice-over here. The film made me question the term. I don’t think it’s applicable to A souvenir. To me, the term voice-over suggests that the real action happens in the image. This isn’t the case here. Prapapan creates the action in his words, and I do believe that the voice is the guiding principle, so why do we not speak of an image-over? Yes, I’m going wild with thoughts now, but I genuinely believe that the term voice-over is limited and that A souvenir might just be the right starting point for rethinking this.

If I compare the film to the other five films we offer on tao films, then I can easily say that this the film in which the least happens. If you wait for visual cues, for some sort of action in the images, you will be disappointed. A souvenir asks you to listen instead, and it tests your patience. The film is based on a conversation between the director and his friend. Prapapan tells his friend about Switzerland, the way the people live in that country, and how expensive it is. It is a normal conversation which you would not consider as worthwhile putting on screen. But if you’re an attentive listener and an engaged citizen, then you reconsider your position.

Prapapan brings a souvenir from Switzerland with him. For his friend. A gift. The title suggests another aspect of the word “souvenir”, namely a memory. In the second half of the film, the director mentions an Afghan filmmaker friend of his. He met him by chance, and he was taken by what he told him; that he became a refugee and is now seeking asylum in Switzerland. The souvenir from Switzerland becomes a story of an unfortunate artist who had to leave his country because he spoke up against oppression. This is the souvenir that Prapapan really takes homes with him. Interestingly, he never shows the Afghan filmmaker. The choice is deliberate: this is a film not only about this particular filmmaker, but about many thousands of people who were forced to leave their country. A souvenir from Switzerland tells the story of one specific person, but renders it universal by using absence as the main aesthetic formula.

A souvenir is certainly minimalist. It is an improvised piece that developed out of the director’s encounter with his friend. Yet, it is a contribution to the current developments and puts the spotlight onto the person, and puts aside the numbers that have been so prominent in writing about refugees.

Tao Films Season Two, 1 April

I’m very happy to present the selection for the next season of tao films. We have increased the number of films available to eight; three feature films and five shorts. There is quite a strong focus on Europe, though it’s not an exclusive focus. For us, it’s a look at our home, before we’re going to South America and Asia in season three.

Our feature films were made by Mark John Ostrowski (Spain), Félix Dufour-Laperrière (Canada) and Claudio Romano (Italy). I’m particularly happy about the first two, having written about the directors’ Sixty Spanish Cigarettes and Transatlantique respectively here on this blog in the past. Now, I can finally bring these films to you.

Our short-film directors are Yotam Ben-David from Israel, Dimitar Kutmanov from Bulgaria, Hing Tsang from the UK, Karel Tuytschaever from Belgium and Martynas Kundrotas from Lithuania.

Trailers, interviews and more info about the films will be available in the next couple of days. As was the case in the first season, feature films are 4,99€ and short films are 1,99€. Our package price is 19.99€ this time due to the slightly higher number of films overall. Sixty per cent of your money goes directly to the director whose film you purchase.

Looking forward to seeing you on tao films! You can still see our handpicked selection for season one until 31 March.

The ebb of forgetting – Liryc de la Cruz (2015)

!!! This film is now available on tao films until 30 March 2017 !!!

The following is a repost from another blog I had worked on two years ago around which time I came across Liryc’s solo work for the first time.

After having worked with Lav Diaz on several projects, Liryc de la Cruz is embarking on his own filmmaking career. His short film “Sa Pagitan ng Pagdalaw at Paglimot” was selected for the short film section at this year’s Locarno Film Festival as one of only two Filipino films. Only recently, I had an issue with putting down thoughts on Martin Edralin’s short Hole. Pagitan is similar. It’s a film that needs to be seen. I more and more feel the limits of my own creation – blogs on which I can write about films, which are often so good that I would much rather not write about because words ruin the experience.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 09.42.10

Pagitan is about memory, about forgetting, about searching. Perhaps about absence. The film draws you in with a voice over of a woman: “Along with letting go of the memories, is to go back to the past and the things we used to do.” It’s a simple statement, but because it is so simple it’s rarely made. The black screen we see allows us to focus entirely on the woman’s voice, a soft voice, with a hint of melancholy. The voice sets the tone for the rest of the film. It introduces us to Pagitan’s world, which is minimal, contemplative, empty. The latter is by no means negative.

On the contrary, Liryc de la Cruz has made use of vast empty landscapes and only a single character in order to create a minimalist, but expressive portrait. Once the black screen is replaced by imagery, the strong voice-over still lingers in one’s head. We infuse the reading of the images with the woman’s statements on memory. Pagitan is shot in black-and-white. The contrast stresses every detail we see in the frames. At first, we’re positioned behind vegetation. A woman, presumably searching for something or someone, approaches the camera, but doesn’t acknowledge it. She’s distracted, she’s looking for something. But what is she looking for, for her memories?

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 09.44.39

What I find particularly interesting in this short film is the camerawork. We’re not speaking about a static camera. Instead, the camera is moving ever so slightly. It has a dream-like aesthetic to it. It is not intrusive in its movement. Nor does it makes us feel like a voyeur. It’s smooth. It’s there and yet almost not noticeable because it looks so natural. You kind of swing with it. Like Diaz, de la Cruz is using long-takes of at times beautiful scenery. This temporal aspect means one has the time to be with the character, to be with the young woman during her search. It allows us time to just be, to let the film happen to us. Contrary to his mentor, as I would describe Diaz in this context, de la Cruz does not turn his film into a hardcore treatment of psychology and history. Perhaps, this may come in future. Perhaps not. As far as I can see, Liryc is very much developing his own approach to filmmaking.

Pagitan is rather a more minimalist investigation into memory and forgetting – without philosophical discourse, without much talk. Pagitan is very much an experience. All the film asks of us is to be there, and to be – a brave, and wonderful debut by an upcoming Filipino filmmaker.

tao films VoD – Full short film programme

As promised a little earlier this month, here’s the full short film programme for the launch of tao films VoD. The streaming will commence on 1 January 2017 and the programme will end on 31 March 2017. We’ll start all fresh and anew on 1 April with a new theme. Contrary to our first feature film programme, our short films take us out of Europe, either quite literally or in terms of memory. Here’s the line-up.

P.S.: You can still support us on GoFundMe.

(1) The ebb of forgetting, directed by Liryc de la Cruz (2016, Philippines)

pagitan-stills_3 pagitan-stills_2 pagitan-stills_1

(2) A souvenir from Switzerland, directed by Sorayos Prapapan (2015, Thailand)

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(3) Metropole, directed by Ozal Emiér and Virginie Le Borgne (2015, France)

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Day 14 – Nang Matapos Ang Ulan (Diaz)

It is strange to watch a (very) short film by Lav Diaz. I’m so used to his lengthy cinematic works that it is sometimes difficult to imagine to spend only ninety minutes in front of a screen. Or even less. Butterflies Have No Memories (which I might write about before Xmas) is only forty minutes long. But even this is too long compared to Diaz’s contribution to the omnibus Imahe NasyonPhilippine directors were asked to make a film no more than five minutes in length, which should reflect their views on society after the 1986 revolution, now termed the People Power Revolution, in which president Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.

Imahe Nasyon Poster

Imahe Nasyon is a compilation of twenty films by twenty filmmakers, covering twenty years of post-revolutionary history. Imahe was released in 2006 in its own country, but has seen no release in the rest of the world. A real shame. The sequences are great.

Diaz contributed to the omnibus, and even though the film is only eight minutes long (yes, he exceeded the five minute mark), it has the feel of a real Diaz film. The film opens with a shot through an open door. The camera is at a low angle. It starts off in sepia, which is very interesting for his way of filmmaking. It stands in contrast to his other films. A voiceover supports the imagery.

Nang Matapos Ang Ulan (2006), Lav Diaz
Nang Matapos Ang Ulan (2006), Lav Diaz

A woman is standing with an umbrella at the entrance, seemingly waiting. A male voice explains that his mother had left when the rain stopped. Indeed, after a little while, she is seen leaving. She leaves the right hand side of the frame, and we see what looks like an empty, ravished garden.

There is nothing else happening for four minutes. We remain with the shot of the empty garden (though it could easily not be a garden…), shot through the open door. From time to time, we see cars driving past in the far background, but it’s actually a temps mort of four minutes. Until, after four-and-a-half minutes, a man comes from behind our viewpoint and leaves the house (disappears on the left hand side of the frame). The voiceover remarks: “I saw father leaving.”

There is an eerie, lengthy temps mort again, in which we don’t quite know what will happen next. Or rather, if there would be something happening at all. And yes, a lovely turn, in fact, happens towards the very end of the film. A young boy walks into the house, look towards the camera, thus towards us, and the voiceover states: “I found myself.”

Nang Matapos Ang Ulan (2006), Lav Diaz
Nang Matapos Ang Ulan (2006), Lav Diaz

Nang contains themes at the heart of every one of Diaz’s films; the history of his country, revolution, colonialism, the effects on today’s society. The young boy might have found himself, but he has most likely never seen his parents again. I imagine Diaz implied in his films that they had been killed. This is only an assumption, though. What makes me think this is the teenage girl seen in his eight-hour film Melancholia, basically an orphan after an unnamed revolution, in which both her parents disappeared (most likely got killed). She, too, has found herself (her self) in the course of the film, but not exactly in a good way.

As short as the film is, it is a to-the-point statement about the past (and present?) happenings in a deeply conflicting society that still suffers from the aftermath of political turmoil. For me, Nang summarises all of Diaz’s work. Nang is a (very slow) synopsis of Diaz’s engagement with Philippine history, society and politics.