Lav Diaz’s ‘Norte,’ 4-hr Filipino film hailed overseas opens in PH
That Lav Diaz’s four-hour film “Norte, Hangganan ng Ka-saysayan” will finally be screened in local cinemas can only be described as groundbreaking.
A multi-awarded filmmaker, Diaz has built a solid reputation in art house circles, and has defiantly avoided commercialism throughout his career.
In spite of its length, “Norte,” which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 66th Cannes International Film Festival last May, was one of the most acclaimed movies in the world—figuring prominently in the year-end “best films” lists of various critics’ groups and publications.
“Norte” weaves together the stories of a failed law student and a wrongfully convicted laborer—in a tragic tale that echoes Dosteovsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”
It’s about apathy and gross injustice. “It’s about the ghosts that continue to haunt our country,” said Diaz, who hails from Maguindanao.
The “Norte” cast and crew feel strongly about sharing the film with their countrymen.
The last time a Diaz film was screened in local theaters was in 2002—and that was “Hesus, Rebolusyunaryo,” produced by Regal Films and top billed by Mark Anthony Fernandez and Donita Rose.
The long dry spell will be broken on four dates this month, with “Norte” screenings at Ayala cinemas: Trinoma (March 11), Ayala Center Cebu (March 18), Greenbelt 3 (March 25) and Glorietta 4 (March 31). All screenings will start at 6:30 p.m. and end at 10:40 p.m.
The usual length of a film is two hours.
Diaz’s “Batang West Side” (2001) is five hours and 15 minutes long, while his “Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino” (2004) is 10 hours. Both films were not released commercially.
Among 10 best films
The British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound picked “Norte” one of its 10 Best Films of 2013. “Norte” placed 9th, tying with Alain Guiraudie’s “Stranger by the Lake.” (Recent Oscar winner, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” was No. 2 on the list.)
La Internacional Cinefila ranked Diaz’s film No. 6. It was also picked by Artforum—placing first, second and ninth in the lists of three of the five critics polled by the magazine.
Jason Quandt, senior programmer of the Toronto fest (where “Norte” was also shown), dubbed it the “best film of the year.”
Screen Daily’s Jonathan Romney hailed its “grace, humanity, narrative verve … [and] intellectual clout.”
Slant’s Calum Marsh said: “Diaz doesn’t just convey time, endurance, perseverance—he makes us feel them.”
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called it one of the “must-see underdogs at the New York Film Festival … [it’s] poignant, fascinating … each moment flows beautifully to the next.”
“Norte” also landed in the Top 50 list drafted by the web site The Film Stage. It placed No. 38 in a roster that included some of this year’s Oscar nominees and winners: Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” Spike Jonze’s “Her,” David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”
Producer and actor Moira Lee told the Inquirer: “This film is about us. It talks about our past and how that is linked to our present state as a nation. Lav says it’s also a ‘warning’ against fundamentalism and fascism, against twisted ideologies that cause the suffering of good people.”
Actor Sid Lucero said that “although it takes a critical look at our society … Filipinos should see it because if we do not confront our shortcomings as a people, how can we move forward as a nation?”
“It’s good to let Filipinos have their own experience of the film … I believe it’s better to let ‘Norte’ speak for itself,” Diaz said.
Diaz acknowledged that he was aware how difficult it was for independently produced films to get slots in the local theatrical circuit. “I thought it would be shown in two parts. I am happy that Filipinos can watch it in full … that they have that choice.”
Actress Angeli Bayani related: “I hope more cinemas like Ayala would screen films like ‘Norte’ which deserves to be seen by more Filipinos. The movie industry should not just be about box office earnings, but also about educating our people and enriching our culture.”
Actor Archie Alemania said: “After receiving good reviews abroad … that it will now be shown in the Philippines is an even bigger blessing. It’s a masterpiece … I am proud to be part of this film and to be part of history.”
Last December, “Norte” was shown at the Cinemanila International Film Festival—where it won Best Director and had an SRO screening in a 200-seat cinema in Taguig (SM Aura).
“The most oft-repeated comment I heard from viewers (whether foreigner or Filipino) as they left the theater was that the movie did not feel like it was four hours long,” Lee said. “Time somehow ‘flew’ … and some wished that the film was even longer. I think this means they found the experience of the film immersive and ultimately pleasurable.”
Lee said that “Norte” had been picked up for distribution by international companies: Shellac in France, New Wave Films in the United Kingdom and the Cinema Guild in the United States.
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