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A Lav affair with Venice

/ 07:49 PM August 21, 2011

After a three-year absence, Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz is back in the circuit with his latest work, “Siglo ng Pagluluwal (Century of Birthing),” which will have its world premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival next month.

Fest consultant (for South Korea/Southeast Asia) Paolo Bertolin relayed the good news to Inquirer Entertainment via e-mail: “‘Siglo’ will be shown in DCP (Digital Cinema Package) format. It’ll be the first time that Lav’s film will be presented in real digital quality.”

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Added Bertolin, “It will be a visual treat.”

The Film Development Council of the Philippines will take care of the DCP expenses, said Diaz. A surprise “guest,” “Siglo” will be screened in the Orizzonti Events (out of competition) category, he noted.

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“Siglo” also made it to the Visions section of the Toronto International Festival, running next month. “Cool,” Diaz said via e-mail about the Venice and Toronto screenings. “Just like Toronto, the Venice fest is like home to me. Kampante ako doon. (I’m relaxed there.)”

Diaz’s “Death in the Land of Encantos” won Special Mention in the Orizzonti (competition) section in 2007; his “Melancholia” won the Orizzonti prize in 2008.

Six hours

Last year, Diaz served as juror in that section, which showcases new trends in world cinema.

“Siglo,” which the Venice website describes as “a grand meditation on the various roles of the artist,” runs for six hours, Diaz revealed. “But the length is hypothetical,” he said, because he was still shooting and editing at the time of this interview last week.

His only hope about Venice, Diaz said, is that he can unveil the work in time as the Orizzonti’s closing film on September 10, along with Finnish filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s “Marian Ilmestys (The Annunciation).”

“Sana mairaos,” he said.

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Toronto is a bittersweet homecoming for him, too. “My first film festival experience was in Toronto. The late David Overbey invited my first feature, ‘Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion’ there in 1998,” Diaz recounted.

Like a tempest

The story of “Siglo” came to him like a tempest in the middle of a reverie.

While waiting for a friend in a convenience store in Marikina, he overheard three people chatting about a coming storm. “The vision of an artist and a crazy woman walking on a highway during a storm came into my head,” he recalled.

As typhoon Falcon ravaged the country, he “forced” two actor-friends, Perry Dizon and Hazel Orencio, to shoot up north. Thus, the new thread of “Siglo” was woven into the fabric of his unfinished film, “Babae ng Hangin.”

“Unobtrusively because there’s a clear story line… ‘Siglo’ critiques fundamentalism, fascism, feudalism,” he said. “It was eerie. While we were editing, the CCP controversy exploded. Wow, that was exactly what we were discussing during the shoot,” he said.

Diaz finds the entire CCP fiasco “sad.”

He explained: “They surrendered the autonomy of the arts. They compromised the independence of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Senate hearing was really sick. Walang karapatan ang Senado na gawing kriminal ang sining. (The Senate has no right to make the arts look criminal.)”

He called “Siglo” “one steely dirty finger against feudalism, fundamentalism and fascism.”

Draining

“It’s my cinema. It’s free,” Diaz said. As far as he is concerned, “Siglo” is about “a filmmaker’s struggles to understand the medium.”

A character in the film reflects: “Through cinema, we can create or re-create our memories. Cinema will bring us to the past, present and the future… now! Cinema is being. Art is being.”

Then again, Diaz has realized, being a maverick indie filmmaker could be draining. “Marami akong gustong gawin, pero namumulubi na ako. (I want to do so many things, but I’m becoming a pauper.) Cinema is faith,” he said.

E-mail: bayanisandiego@hotmail.com.

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