J. Pilapil Jacobo
Alvin Yapan’s An Kubo sa Kawayanan tackles the domicile as site, equipment, being.
Mercedes Cabral plays Michelle, an embroiderer who lives in a bamboo hut by the Bicol River. Cabral portrays such residency with lackadaisical nonchalance, embodying the drawl of Bicolanos in the peninsular interior, as if she has truly understood the “tristes tropiques” that turns anyone at home at world’s end into the “gens beatissima” of absolute autochthony.
Of course, this indigenous innocence can only be false, but Yapan makes it a point to furnish the error with a folk intelligence that finds joy in what the outside may deem as faulty sentiment. At the very least, there must be a domesticated form of outrage in this persistent anti-modernity that entitles Yapan to allegorize the cubistic hut as an infrastructure of nativity where alienated labor is foreign to the craftworker, while calibrating an atavistic rule of metaphor to deface distinctions even surrealism would not dare to retrogress into, so that affective labor may be fully experienced as the only acceptable way of wordliness.
Yapan avoids the perilous path of noble savagery through a recourse to cinema as “object-oriented ontology,” where earthly matter takes precedence over human agency. I am not sure yet whether the cinematic language the director has experimented with can be said to apprehend the neo-impressionism this kind of paradigm shift must evince, or if such a metaphysics of the tropical can take us to an analysis of historical modernity through a critique of empire that has coopted even the sensorium Yapan himself protects with impunity, but yes, at least, this spirited instance of possibilization; a tactile programme might have been laid out for our cinema from Yapan’s torrid zone, where worldly objects have always been waning beside earthly things witnessing our contemporary habitude from their truth only most anterior.