“My Faith (and It’s Not Catholic) In My Cinema Remains Pure”: Lav Diaz on Genus Pan
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Genus Pan

It is the end of the gold mining season and time for the workers to pack and head home. Andres (Don Melvin Boongaling) and Paulo (Bart Guingona) wait in line to receive their payment while Baldomero (Nanding Josef) takes a nap in his hammock. The lifelong friends made a deal. Baldomero arranged her trip to the construction site for part of her salary. But come payday, Andres protests: his sister is sick and he has to buy her medication. After her manager gets his cut and the captain and sergeant who overlook their bayan blackmail theirs, he doesn't have enough money to pay for it. But Baldomero won't hear. A deal is a deal, and so the three of them begin their long, damp, and troubled hike through the woods at home with grudges in tow.

The genus Pan (Lahi, Hayop) by the filmmaker Lav Diaz, which premiered at the Orrizonti competition at the 77th Venice Film Festival, plays something like a paranoid road trip film in the first half and suddenly expands the scope from second to second. At 150 minutes, it's Diaz & # 39; s shortest film since 2011, Elegy To The Visitor From The Revolution (actually just a strange omnibus exception), which is known for its eight- to eleven-hour films. Its epic lengths convey the slow, sedentary paths of the pre-Islamic, pre-Catholic Filipino civilizations that survive inland in various forms. Genus Pan's significantly shorter length could feel as if its dialectic was being attacked with this culture. Diaz & # 39; clever and lazy psychopath Inngo (Joel Saracho) undoubtedly embodies a threat to the existing traditions of Hugaw ("Dirt") Island, where the film is set and where Andres, Paulo and Baldomero were born and never made it to go.

Much is being made of Spain and the colonization of Filipino identity by the United States, but the Pan genus further complicates it with Japanese occupation and galleon trade. A haunted Japanese ancestry and mythology invented by the Spanish, Chinese and wealthy Malaysians are victims of islanders who practice the religion that was replaced by their previous colonial rulers, Catholicism, to protect themselves. Genus Pan is another masterpiece from Diaz, the rare supplier of Filipino history and slow sprawling cinema. It is hoped that Genus Pan's shorter running time will attract new admirers, although the length of its next film proves it will stick to its daunting lengths (it's 9 hours so far). Before the film premiered, Diaz and I discussed the film's historical references, the symbols it invented, how its long durations speak to these elements, and the production process that makes these unique lengths possible.

Filmmaker: Andres, Paulo and Baldomero feel doomed from the start. Haunted by the myths of Hugaw Island, invented by the Chinese, Spanish and wealthy Malaysians to keep people away from the contraband of the galleon trade, they have only Catholicism, a displaced religion, to fight them. What do you think of Catholicism as the "answer" given that it is the religion that Spain imposed on the Philippines?

Lav Diaz: Of the three protagonists, Paulo is the only one who shows real faith: he prays and stands up for the teachings of the Bible through review and application. Andres, beginning to question the status quo, rejects God's justice and conducts an amateur investigation into his older brother's death and other crimes on their island – though lacking a dialectical approach to it, understandably in a build-up of the rag -Proletariat. And Baldomero exudes a more relaxed personality, but he is clearly a solipsistic and imposing one. Paulo, the true believer, is the only one who is still clearly dependent on the idea that religion or the Catholic perspective is the answer. In general, the nuances of an imposed understanding of morality are felt through the way the characters behave, whether through their discourses and reactions – a mixture of a Catholic and atavistic perspective. The ghosts of the past, personal and their milieus, weigh heavily on their behavior, and here they are all on the same plateau. It is no longer really true that Filipinos still really believe that religion is the answer. While Catholicism, Islam, the large and very well organized Protestant and born again groups and cults remain strong in the country, the masses have clearly shifted towards seeking certainties from a strong leader, as in the case of Duterte. In his first three years of reign, his vulgar and overt attacks on Catholicism, its hierarchy, the Pope, and even God were relentless, but the so-called Catholic mighty did not even take a step. It became even more popular, even with its bloody “drug war” that has already claimed thousands of lives.

Filmmaker: What does it mean that Paulo and Baldomero, both biracial sons of the Japanese occupiers of Hugaw Island, indulge in the same sexual tryst with a sex worker on a "holy day" before they travel home as the Japanese did when they met women from the neighboring islands their occupation of the Philippines?

Diaz: I call it the garrison mentality that is commonly practiced when a group or large number of male species are concentrated in an isolated area and the natural desire to bond with the female species overwhelms them. This culture (resorted to) crimes against women during wartime and occupations (most seriously). Japan, for example, admitted to the atrocities committed by the comfort women, in which women were kidnapped in their occupied territories and forced to be sex slaves of the imperial soldiers.

Unfortunately, as shown in the film, the garrison mentality is still practiced in the Philippines. It has taken the form of a tradition, particularly among workers in construction, mining, shipping, even on plantations, and soldiers in isolated outposts. On payday, usually the 15th and 30th of the month, they hired a prostitute, took her to a makeshift room or hut, and stood up to satisfy her lust. They would contribute money potluck style to save and the prostitute would receive higher take-away pay for the service in return. They argue that it is only a natural thing, a reward and a vacation for their work. In one of his infamous speeches – it's still on YouTube – President Duterte spoke of a rape that took place in the Davao penal colony in 2016 when he was the mayor and "regional chairman of the Peace and Peace Committee" for a councilor. "The victim was an Australian missionary. He said when he went to the scene, he checked the dead missionary's face and realized that she looked like an American actress and that" the mayor "(Duterte) should be first in line. His followers had a ball out of it that established it was just one of his jokes, but it speaks so much of the shameful acceptance of this sexist and macho culture.

Filmmaker: Is Paulo trying to make up for this with altruism on the way home?

Diaz: Paulo's kindness is real. He certainly bears the burden of guilt, again a Catholic attribute, but his concern for Andres' situation is also true to his nature.

Filmmaker: Your extended durations have always been a way for me to preserve the slow life of ancient Filipino culture, governed by nature, through form. Whenever the run times have been cut it seems like conservation and culture are under attack, and the film literally ends with Inggo, a symbol of lazy opportunism, who haunts the slow-moving Mariposa as if encompassing your own form. Does the shorter run time in Lahi, Hayop mean your form is under attack, perhaps by the depressing conditions of today's country?

Diaz: It can be interpreted that way, especially by the avid followers of my early long works, and I understand and respect them for that. I wish I could keep it that way Insofar as I write, photograph, design and edit my work, I can respond flexibly to the requirements of the respective task. It is a simple principle that respects a freer way of creating, pursuing an aesthetic that is not hampered by convention, orthodoxy, and imposition. And I make sure that my works don't go over to dogma and propaganda where a form or a certain style and an idealized perspective control the process. Often this type of thinking hinders and invalidates any fluidity in creation and a larger discourse. Ideologies and institutions fail because of the petrified reluctance to accept change and reject even the simplest act of necessary adjustments. My belief (and he's not Catholic) in my cinema remains pure. In times of doubt, during the process, and in any work I do, the purest solution is to just be free. Lahi, Hayop is two hours and 37 minutes and that is the length of this film. I've just finished the rough cut of the next film and it's been over eight hours. I think it may take nine hours as I realized that more scenes would have to be added to fill some characters and parts of the narrative.

Filmmaker: Who are the Christian men in costume wandering through the heat, and what does it mean that they are also a target of Ingo's destruction?

Diaz: You are what we call mga nagpipinitensya, penitent, a fixed point during the observance of Holy Week in the Philippines. In some parts of the country, particularly in the Central Luzon region, penitents fully mimicked Christ's suffering by being crucified. In the film, men in robes most commonly practice self-flagellation, an act of continually flogging themselves until the skin starts to bleed. Inggo is apparently just raging, a series that criminals have in common. He enjoys it and until he is confronted head-on, he won't stop. This is how evil works insidiously.

Filmmaker: Should the snake Andres encounters represent something like the Bakunawa (a snake in Filipino mythology that causes eclipses, earthquakes, rain, and wind)? Or just a feeling of nature that pushes him back into the group with Paulo and Baldomero?

Diaz: It's nature's stuff – the snake as an integral part of the forest backdrop – but it's clearly an element of premonition and omen for the development of the narrative and the characters. You can look at the picture subjectively or objectively anyway.

Filmmaker: What does it mean that Ingo's version of the story (his "false news") that he is forcing Mariposa to confirm for the soldiers and the captain is presented as a handheld? Why is the handheld camera the lie?

Diaz: The sudden, obvious shift in movement, here using the physicality of the camera as language and methodology, serves to reinforce the character attributes – via the malleability and inadequacy of Mariposa, the manipulative and evil ways of Inggo – and definitely the change of perspective via the shift in truth. And it represents a larger discourse because even if Mariposa's version appears to be imposed, the trajectory actually points to Andres: is his version true? Or is he telling the truth?

Filmmaker: Even though Inggo, the captain, and the soldiers' laziness are evil, it's always clear that they are the result of the collateral damage of colonialism. In view of the almost exterminated or manipulated ancient history of the Philippines, what can still be used to assert against it?

Diaz: There is a study that says the trauma of colonization never leaves cultures that went through it. But I believe that with a deeper understanding and awareness of the past and a dedicated dialectical examination of history, some forms of emancipation can arise.

Filmmaker: Ingo's character is quickly and horribly summed up when he spits on his own reflection in the mirror shortly after killing someone.

Diaz: In fact, that was a congratulations from Inggo. And if you analyze it psychoanalytically, it is an overtly psychotic act. It's his "wow, I'm so cool" move.

Filmmaker: How do you deal with the depiction of violence in your films?

Diaz: Violence is human nature – again it's the animal side of us. When faced with executing a violent scene during production there is no rule for me, but I am working on finding ways to make it not as open and not as graphic and working on how it feels.

Filmmaker: Andres is angry with the regime but doesn't seem to be effectively channeling against it. After camping in front of the captain's camp and imagining an ambush, he waits until morning and instead hits a bush with his machete.

Diaz: He still doesn't have the appropriate ways and means. His naivety and rudeness are felt when he starts questioning and researching, but it's a sign that it can progressively grow. Even the greatest revolutions began like this.

Filmmaker: Andres tells the story of how his father died on a fishing trip when a storm struck a supposedly dangerous part of the sea. Is he falsely accusing God? Is he confusing impersonal nature with God's will against him?

Diaz: He didn't blame God for his father's drowning, but he questions God's justice over his brother Peping's death, Aling Imang's imprisonment, the rape of the Perez sisters, and the eviction of Mamay's tribe. He questions the exploitation and disappearance in the mining camp. His outburst when talking to Paulo was pure anger, an outpouring. But it is true that Filipinos generally and directly associate God with the ways of nature. That His "hand" is always in everything. When tragedy strikes, even if it is struck by major storms, for example, there is resignation and acceptance that it is God's will. The common line is: "Kalooban ng Diyos, Kaya Tanggapin Natin." ("It's God's will, so let's accept it.")

Filmmaker: An abrupt radio broadcast played at the beginning of the film suggests that the "evolved mind" is the religious, altruistic mind, and that the undeveloped "chimpanzee" brain is one that "still" has the capacity for anger , Envy and desire has power to kill and rob. This sounds like the classic, paradoxical propaganda for pacifism that colonists have historically passed on to the colonized. The joke might be that they actually described their own culture perfectly as that of the undeveloped chimpanzee brain?

Diaz: The mention of names in radio discourse is more influenced by culture. Here it's Filipino Catholics (and it's a radio program in a remote province). The radio guest happened to make examples from some names of religious icons, but a deeper understanding of the discourse does not, of course, suggest religion as the basis for the study. It's science. It has never been said that "the developed mind is the religious". And it is not about "the developed mind", but about the development of the brain, the evolution of the cell – that the really "complete brain", as suggested, is the basis of altruism. A developed mind can refer to a PhD person, an amazing novel writer, a union organizer, but then they exhibit rude qualities; Then there is the indigenous person who is still communicating in the mountain. He cannot go to school, but his brain is already fully developed and he sees more calm in his environment. His entering would be limited to serving his people, and that is enough fulfillment for him. In a different setting, say a campus radio, the natural choices would be Socrates, Confucius, Laotzu, Beethoven, Marx, Einstein, or even the great Filipino revolutionary Andres Bonifacio and the fisherman who really understands the currents of the US than with greater brain development. And you are very right – colonization is an animal act. So they showed the chimpanzee act as they upset our cultures.

Filmmaker: Will Mariposa Be Vulnerable to False News After Breaking the Glass of Truth? Is the Jar of Truth a reinterpretation of something from actual Filipino history? And is it desirable because it is one of the last vestiges of a forgotten culture?

Diaz: She is frail. The helpless portrayal of her person, which destroys the symbol of truth, has a darker meaning. How can we protect the truth when it is in the hands of the weak; H. The Filipino masses? Or are we still able to reconfigure the truth once it is destroyed? And it's more frightening to believe that the criminal and supplier of lies, Inggo, actually dreams of finding the glass of truth. The idea of ​​the Jar of Truth can be exploited and it becomes a populist tool. I invented the glass of truth in history, but it's a mixture of the common belief of the masses, especially in the most remote areas, that the truth is only hidden somewhere, usually in a mythical cave that is home to a wise old man cares about it and they will find it one day, or it will appear and materialize, or it will be bequeathed to the best of their fate and inheritance will lead them to the promised land and deliver them from their hardships. And so the messianic Inggo fantasizes that he is the one who is the true bearer of the glass. And the danger is real – that one day he will become the head of the island by advocating to keep the truth. Underestimating him would be a mistake, as evidenced by his lengthy articulated discourse on the galleon trade and the history of the island, where we hear him speak for the first time about the glass of truth.

Filmmaker: Pedro Costa sometimes talks about being forced into a smaller film industry that he learned to master. How have you improved the economics of your films, budget, crew size, digital camera, and all those pragmatic things that have a positive or negative effect on the final creative outcome?

Diaz: In my case it's the other way around. I started making films practically on my own, with nothing in my pocket but the ambition to make movies no matter what. I did a Super 8 short, then another short and then I took the plunge. I worked and worked, practically killing myself from exhaustion, took three jobs to buy 16mm reels, and started filming Evolution of a Filipino Family. I didn't know how to move then and it's really hard to move because I'm so poor and I'm raising a young family. However, obsessively I had to do things so that I could eventually integrate into a group to learn how to do it in a collective way. I did four really small productions in a studio system setup, found it wasn't for me, and did it all on my own again. These were the early feature films. But when I completed it, of course, I sought help from a few individuals. I now care for five to eight people who help me every time I shoot and that way I still have a semblance of loneliness in practice. I work better alone.

Filmmaker: I like the way the fluctuation of the sun creates movement here in the still images. Which camera do you take photos on these days?

Diaz: On the last shoot I used the Panasonic Lumix S1H and the Sony A7SII. For Lahi, Hayop, I used the Panasonic GH5. These are cheap hybrid cameras – they can be used for both video and still images – and very small but high-performance cameras.

Filmmaker: Can you talk about your approach to sound design in general?

Diaz: I just want natural sound. Using a soundtrack is often a cheap trick because it is jewelry. Yes, I have favorite soundtracks, but that's not for me. I find them distracting and very manipulative.

Filmmaker: Can you talk about some of the unmotivated lights in the night? Is that a pragmatic choice?

Diaz: My type of lighting is simply sourcing and using internships – what's out there in the places I use. Sometimes you actually have to use light because it is already very dark and the camera and lens cannot compensate for this. So I bring two or three cheap and very light lights just in case, and they're handy.

Filmmaker: What Determines Whether You Have Your Own Film DP Or Not?

Diaz: When I feel that the load is just too high, I invite a friend to do the camera operations. I do the writing, directing, cinematography, production design and ultimately the editing. If you're not careful, going to the movies is harmful to your health.

Filmmaker: Do your films match their original concept in length and size, or do they grow during the production process? And can you give us an overview of what your typical turning and machining plan looks like, since I imagine it is very different from most?

Diaz: The actual writing for the film takes place during the production days, the so-called shooting days, regardless of whether a script has been written beforehand. I usually wake up at two or three in the morning and then write the script or rewrite it for the day. The script will be distributed to everyone involved by breakfast and we will prepare it. A lot is written and rewritten during this time. A full month is usually blocked as the first phase of production, a period in which twenty-two days of shooting are allotted. Then we would have a break and I would try to work on a rough edit. I do different versions of the rough cut, maybe two, three or more. This is where I usually rate and see what I would add or what is needed to fulfill a thread, be it in terms of the narrative, the characters, or just the flow of images. This is also the phase in which an estimate of the possible length would occur. If more need to be added, I plan the next phase of production. Often times, we return to the same location or find a location that suits the needs and requirements of the scenes to be added. I will return to editing afterwards. If a new idea or thread came up I would go back and take more photos.

Filmmaker: And you can only patiently work this in the intimate economy of filmmaking that you found?

Diaz: Whether you are alone or with a small crew or involved in a really large production, the process of cinema can easily take the form of a mental health department, construction site, basketball game, news room, or even a cockpit and worse a funeral march. They all have the same characteristics, often a mixture of calm and disaster. What matters is an organizational appearance, or at least a clear view of the variables. In my case, despite the very organic nature of my process, through years of work for my sanity, I have already developed a method that is truly my own, and working in this area offers what is called stability, even freedom.

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