This is another unofficial site for Lav Diaz, "...the great Filipino poet of cinema." (Cinema du reel, Paris).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Lav Met Guy

By Bayani San Diego Jr.

Talk of this film uniting two superstars of Philippine cinema, Nora Aunor and Lav Diaz, is making the rounds in blogs.

Diaz confirmed this with Inquirer Entertainment, saying the movie, “Reclusion Perpetua,” has been in the works for the past three years.

(Aunor is also set to shoot “Do Filipinos Cry in America?” next year, according to its director, Celso Ad. Castillo.)

Diaz finally met with Aunor recently in Santa Monica, California.

“I went to see Nora,” Diaz explained, “to see how committed she was to the project. We talked at length about it.”

Diaz liked what he saw and heard: “She’s committed.”

He calls it a “collective” effort: “Her fans are raising money. If we meet the target, we’ll be shooting soon.”

Meanwhile, Diaz is off to the Thessaloniki film fest in Greece, where he’s a jury member and where his latest short, “Butterflies Have No Memories,” will be featured in a retrospective on Pinoy indies.

Then, “Butterflies” and his Venice-winning feature, “Melancholia,” will be screened in Warsaw.

Diaz received the Indie Spirit award in the just-concluded Cinemanila fest.

What was the meeting with Nora like?

It was cool. She was in jeans and rubber shoes, no makeup. The sun was shining so bright that day, but a cool breeze, like Baguio’s, was hovering. We had a late lunch and a few beers. We realized we were in LA’s gay district because we kept seeing men holding hands while strolling, and women lustily kissing. Nora joked, “Alam ko na ngayon kung saan pupunta (Now, I know where to go).”

What is “Reclusion Perpetua” about?

Nora’s character is looking for her husband, who disappeared in the US.

Why is it important to you to make a film with Nora now?

It is a cultural issue for me. It is dialectical. Nora Aunor is a Filipino icon, arguably our greatest actress. So, on the level of cultural discourse, she is very much a part of our struggle. I am not a fan ... though my mother is a fanatic. As a cultural worker, I acknowledge her importance.

Why is it important for today’s audiences to see her act again?

Any respectable Nora Aunor film can be used to educate our people. This is my responsibility, to use the medium to create a greater aesthetic and socio-cultural discourse for our people. The most potent modern medium now is cinema. Why not use an incredibly potent icon in the process?

I am using the term “use,” or “paggamit” in Tagalog, in a very dialectical way. That answers the need for a Nora Aunor film. I am not doing a propaganda film, though, not a Nora rah-rah movie. The film’s core shall remain aesthetic. This is still free cinema. It can run 40 hours.

Why is it described as a collective effort?

Everybody is working almost pro bono. Her responsible fans are doing patak-patak (passing the hat). We will work on people’s donations. I am actually announcing it now: We need help! The objective is greater cinema, not profit. Should money come later, it would just be consequential.

How do you know Nora?

In Cotabato, as a kid, I experienced the phenomenon. It was crazy. My mom had some of her records at home.

The screenings of Nora Aunor movies were out of this world. You can actually see truckloads of people arriving in front of movie houses—people from the barrios. They’d be bringing kalderos and platos.

Every time Nora appeared onscreen, there would be screaming, wailing, shrieking. Some would faint. You couldn’t breathe or move. It wasn’t just standing room; it was bumper-to-bumper, sweat-to-sweat, laway-to-laway, bahala na kung mamatay (spit-to-spit, who cares if we die).

What are your favorite Nora Aunor movies?

I love Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala.” She’s also great in Mario O’Hara’s “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.”

What’s the latest on your other projects?

“Babae ng Hangin” is still evolving, yet again. I am following new threads to finish it. I submitted a more than three-hour rough cut to Venice but some problems ensued, so I pulled it out. But I’m really thankful that it happened, as I now have a clearer view of how to finish the film in the aesthetic realm.

The Gregoria de Jesus project remains a work in progress. I tried to do some test and pre-production, but I just couldn’t push it properly. The hardest part is finding the right Gregoria de Jesus.

I am also making this call to the brave ones: If you think you can be the great Oryang, please submit your résumé and tell us why. Marami pang karakter na puwede sa lahat (There are other characters for everyone else), if they know the story of the Philippine Revolution.

What’s your take on the retro on Filipino films in the Thessaloniki fest in Greece?

It’s good for RP cinema. They can’t just dismiss us now.

What should Filipino filmmakers do to sustain this international interest?

Just keep working hard, but not so much because of vanity. Everyone wants to be a rock star ... but there’s more to be done in the aesthetic domain. If we really want a revolution, we must work harder and dig deeper. The real revolution that can save our devastated culture is a battle to destroy ignorance and apathy. This issue is a cultural struggle. Let’s examine our history as a people. Why is our culture so dysfunctional? Let’s examine the past and present.

Just ask the obvious questions: How could we have allowed more than 300 years of Spanish rule ... almost 100 years of American imperialism ... 20 years of Marcos dictatorship ... nine years of Macapagal-Arroyo?

With the advent of digital technology, how has filmmaking changed for Filipinos in the last five years?

The last five years have been a watershed. It created greater dynamism on the part of practitioners. Emancipation of the process was delivered by the digital age. We’ve finally destroyed feudalism in cinema. That alone is a huge leap. Greater freedom could hopefully lead to more visionary works. But let us be careful and cautious, because with greater freedom comes greater responsibility.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 25, 2009

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