Nonoy L. Lauzon
Why is it important for Philippine cinema to gain the recognition of the world? For so long, the country has lagged behind more advanced film cultures of other nations that many have lost all hopes that they would see the day that the Philippines would be truly at par with the most esteemed film industries across the globe.
It’s true that quite a stash of local titles have been adorned with all sorts of grand prizes and top plums in plenty of international festivals through the years. But the ones that actually matter have proved elusive even for the finest of films churned out from the ranks of the best in the domestic industry.
How else can one possibly explain that the Philippines is yet to score a nomination for the best foreign-language film category at the annual Oscars? It’s not just once that a full-length Filipino film vied for Palme d’Or at Cannes but in all instances, the country has failed to bring home the bacon so to speak.
And so it came to be a most welcome delight when Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo snatched the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2016. Pending the ultimate moment of winning the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film or the Golden Palm for a full-length feature at Cannes for the country, the latest Venice distinction for Lav serves now as the singular highest honor ever accorded to Philippine cinema.
The film had its recent exhibition for the current festival run of Cinema One Originals at UP Diliman. Upon watching it, one needs no convincing why the film deserves the victory it is destined for. News has been out that it is the only Filipino film from last year competing for Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong with nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay plus a Best Actress nod for lead star Charo Santos who staged an acting comeback with the film after decades of hiatus from big-screen appearances.
Lav’s latest oeuvre both takes after and departs from all the others he has done not only on account of its length but more on points of stylistics and thematic. In it, he once more pays homage to elder filmmakers he obviously reveres as one finds elements of Lino Brocka and even Ishmael Bernal as well as a smattering of Mario O’Hara, Celso Ad. Castillo and Mike de Leon.
Those one regards to be lumpen, unenlightened, apolitical and dispossessed are functional revolutionaries capable of drastic action that can shake the system and effect meaningful change and transformation. There is a magical-realism twist to the film. But it soars grandest with its statement and treatise on social revolution that must not make the mistake of excluding the wretched of the earth.
At the core of the film is vintage Lav’s preoccupation with philosophical truths such as the problem of evil and the existence of God. Is it possible that one retains the pureness of one’s heart? Is there a limit to one’s do-gooder ways? How can people mercilessly wronged enact the best they could be?
The film has managed to address all these questions in straightforward and uncluttered narrative without empty shrill and fanfare, minus hysteria and histrionics, and without having to resort to grandstanding, polemics and pontification. It is painstaking in its portrayal of the various circumstances that people get to bond with each other and in its assertion that humanity emanates from the deeply rooted instinct for imagination that all individuals since the advent of creation has been blessed with.