Kidlat Tahimik: I’m not anti-Hollywood
“Don’t be intimidated by that national artist title. I’m still your National Tatay.”
This was what filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik told a group of young Baguio-based artists, who came to Manila with him to attend and perform at the recognition night that the Dutch Embassy hosted for him on March 16.
Kidlat flew to the Netherlands in December to accept the prestigious Prince Claus Award, which is given to “extraordinary people active in the cultural field in areas where cultural expression faces challenges.”
Not so long ago, in October 2018, Kidlat was conferred the Order of National Artist by President Duterte in a ceremony at the Malacañang Palace.
“I’ve always been responsible to my community, to the next generation, and even now. The fact that I’m a national artist means more people will want to listen to me now, even those who are nonartistic,” Kidlat told the Inquirer. “At the same time, I also have a responsibility. I have to be more consistent with what I say … and with my actions.”
Donning his signature bahag at the event, Kidlat added: “A lot of people who become directors or doctors turn to nostalgia. Some of them take their title too seriously, then their ego takes over. I’ve always been somebody who easily gets along with young people, maybe because I treat my children as barkada.”
At the party held at the Bellas Artes in Makati City, Dutch Ambassador Saskia de Lang and Prince Claus Award program coordinator Fariba Derakhshani handed a plaque of recognition to the man who is often referred to as “the Father of Philippine Independent Cinema.”
Also present were Kidlat’s wife Katrin, fellow indie filmmakers Rox Lee, Khavn dela Cruz, Raya Martin, Treb Monteras, Jet Leyco, Sari Dalena and Keith Sicat, as well as producers Moira Lang, Achinette Villamor and Kristine Kintana, and National Committee on Cinema Chair Teddy Co.
“I have been trying to stay indie for 42 years now. Because of that, I’m not able to tell stories like I would like to tell them—with super cameras and superstars. Maybe it’s a blessing not to have those because I am able to find unique ways to tell my stories,” Kidlat said when asked about the importance of receiving the Prince Claus Award. “Because of this uniqueness, I get recognized by the Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) or receive the Prince Claus Award and the Fukuoka Prize, and even the National Artist Award. It’s a good pat on the back.”
“It’s flattering,” the director added. “I felt it was not only for me, but also for those who have been neglected because of colonization. We have neglected the wisdom of the tribal people. They have become a big part of my storytelling. It would be such a waste if our young people will not hear about Inabyan (wind goddess of the Cordillera) and would just watch ‘Wonder Woman’ and all these Marilyn Monroes.”
Kidlat, however, clarified that he did not want Filipinos to “totally shun Hollywood. If only our filmmakers knew about the great stories about our grandparents. We should not be ashamed that we come from a group of ‘indie-genius’ people.”
Asked for his advice to the industry in general, the National Tatay replied: “I’m not anti-Hollywood, per se. I just want to say that there are many stories that are not being told because most of us need to adhere to formula.
“We’re copying our mentors from Hollywood. What happens is that we create stereotypes that are not even possible for us to emulate. As a result, stories about Inabyan, Bernardo Carpio and Macling Dulag are not being shown on film. We’re stuck with the illusory superheroes that are just made for profit.”
“We have a choice,” Kidlat declared. “They may be limited because producers are only interested in profit, but we can make reasonable profit and still support an industry, as long as we have a wide range of stories to offer.”
He then recalled a conversation with award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee during one of the latter’s seminars. “I asked him if he was already able to show his best scripts to Mother Lily (Monteverde, Regal Films producer), and he said they are now at the bottom of his trunk. He probably knows that the industry will not show these films—that’s the sad part. Maybe one day, more indie directors will become the Trojan horses and help change the industry.”
In the end, Kidlat admitted he had his work cut out for him as a multiawarded film icon. “These awards encourage me to continue planting seeds; and the best way to do this is to closely work with young filmmakers, artists and writers.
“The goal is to open their eyes and show them new perspectives, to make them realize that young audiences are waiting to see different stories. Let’s make those enlightening stories.”
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