Lav Diaz to compete in Locarno anew with ‘Essential Truths of the Lake’
Nine years after he bagged the Golden Leopard (best picture) award for “From What Is Before,” Lav Diaz will once again represent the country in the main competition section of the 2023 Locarno Film Festival (LFF) in Switzerland with “Essential Truths of the Lake.”
The festival will run from Aug. 2 to Aug. 12. “Essential Truths of the Lake,” which stars John Lloyd Cruz and Shaina Magdayao, will have its world premiere there on Aug. 6, according to the LFF official website.
“We’re proud to be able to have it screened there. It’s in Locarno, which is a great film festival because of its programming,” Diaz told Inquirer Entertainment on Tuesday. “Our being there is our contribution to cinema’s relevance to world culture. We are sharing our stories, our struggle, the struggle of humanity. We are part of the greater discourse.”
Diaz, who is a key member of what is called the “slow cinema” movement, is one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary Filipino filmmakers. In fact, in 2016, he bagged the Golden Lion—the highest yet for the country—at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival for “Ang Babaeng Humayo;” as well as the Silver Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival for “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis.”
“Locarno is no different from Venice, Berlin and Cannes. It is really up there with those three festivals. The head today of Berlin IFF used to be the head of Locarno, while the head of Locarno today used to be the programmer of Venice,” he pointed out.
When his film won in Locarno in 2014, Diaz said, “We’re really proud because … it was the first really big cinema prize for the country.”
When Diaz was asked to share more information on the new film, the multiawarded director began with an anecdote that showed the project’s association with his other film, titled “When the Waves are Gone,” which premiered in Venice.
“We started shooting ‘Essential Truths of the Lake’ a few days after the Taal Volcano erupted in January of 2020. With John Lloyd, we were able to go inside Barangay Tranca, Talisay, which is one of the most devastated areas in Batangas. We disguised ourselves as bureau reporters of ABS-CBN, so we were allowed access to the area by the soldiers supervising the evacuation,” Diaz began.
“The place was covered with thick mud. Ashes were everywhere, and there was hardly anyone around anymore,” Diaz recalled. “I made up a story about a police officer investigating a cold case—a missing model/activist. At the time, I still didn’t know where the story would go. I just wanted to record images that show the irony and contradiction of one’s search for truth in a place that’s desolate. As one of the film’s characters say, ‘Nag-iimbestiga ka ng kasong labing-limang taon nang walang sagot sa isang pook na nilibing ng bulkan? At nariyan pa ang napakamisteryosong lawa.’”
Using a 16mm digital camera, Diaz returned to the area twice in 2020. Film production was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I pursued the completion of the film in late 2020. I went to Sorsogon to find locations there, but during my two months of stay there, the story evolved. I pursued the new incarnation of the narrative and it became ‘When the Waves are Gone,’” Diaz recalled.
Around the first quarter of 2023, Diaz returned to Taal Lake to finally finish the original story. “So, in a way, ‘When the Waves are Gone’ is related to ‘Essential Truths of the Lake,’ but only because of the character Lt. Hermes Papauran. It’s not connected like one is a sequel or prequel of the other. They’re independent of each other,” he declared.
The film, which runs for three and half hours, also features Hazel Orencio, Bart Guingona, Agot Isidro, Susan Africa, Dido dela Paz, Reynan Abcede, Ivan Raborar and Paul Jake Paule. It is a production ng Epicmedia, sine olivia pilipinas, Rosa Films and Films Boutique.