English Title: A Short Film About The Indio Nacional (Or The Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos)
Written and Directed by Raya Martin
Cast: Bodjie Pascua, Suzette Velasco, Lemuel Galman
Forget the eclipse. I am sure it will not be worth your time, for I had seen one, torotot film strips and fake 3D glasses handy, and swear, it is nothing spectacular.
Later that night instead skipping my class, something to live a life la Franois Truffaut I indulged in seeing Maicling Pelicula ang Ysag Indio Nacional (O Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan). Almost a-third of it is familiar, for it is Raya Martins thesis in the UP Film Institute.
During that time, UPFI was the Department of Film and Audio-Visual Communication and semestral defenses were held in the basement. His film, Infancia en las Islas de Filipinas sin fecha, ran for roughly around 30 minutes longer than the usual allowed production time and the critique from the panel was diverse, unsurprisingly not all praises. On a certain note, Dean Tiongson received it coldly, with arguments that emphasized on its inaccurate subtitling and style.
Transfroming Infancia en las Islas de Filipinas into Indio Nacional, from a haste into an understated chef-doeuvre, his grand idea falls into place, subtle and articulate, a film that has its own texture and pace it is so rare it demands to be seen.
At a very young age, Raya knows his language too well; accusations of pretension are inevitable. His non-conformity lures the idea of pretension, and it seems that his films are way bigger than him as a person or as a filmmaker. Not everyday we meet someone of his age who can tackle historical maladies incorporating scholastic research and accounts into fictional narratives with such deafening stance. In a society that dictates a religion, a following that should not be questioned, Raya is waging a psychic battle not only with his audience and critics but to himself as well. Not a bad fight after all. A complete turn-around of belief, I choose to believe Raya is not ahead of his time. We are lagging behind his time.
Yet having only seen two of his feature-length works, the other is his Batanes documentary Ang Isla sa Dulo ng Mundo (The Island at the End of the World), it is appalling how a 22-year old dreamer, whose descent suggests his early exposure to the arts, can deliver a work of such vision something not really impressive but definitely overwhelming.
Perhaps the closest experience to relate the immensity of Indio Nacional is the agony of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. As it unfolds, every single page defies our sanity, grips us cardiovascularly, as if our heart forgot to pump the right cc of blood and our veins panicked in vertigo dying, dying, almost dying, clinically-dead, and I heard myself mumbling, I will never read a book by Garcia Marquez, ever, again. But a classic, as the adage goes, never lets its audience lose faith in art, for a certain feeling of grandeur, a realization coming out from numbness, no matter how long, materializes. Magnificence can never be too late.
Two people, including myself, watched the final screening of Indio Nacional in Indie Sine. Depressingly, it dawned on me: Like Macondo, after passing the Alzheimer stage, the Philippines is on its way to anonymity.
I admire the noble intention of Indio Nacional. It is in fact a very cerebral film, a poem succinctly layered an elegy to the Philippines and with reviews by Noel Vera and Oggs Cruz, I am sure that Raya Martins first feature created a following, probably inspired some, but certainly established his status in the local arthouse cinema. I actually imagine myself discussing the film after seeing it, inside a caf, deliberating its images, its language, and its resilience that somehow reminded me of Jean Vigos A Propos de Nice, except that theres no one to discuss them with. At some point, while watching it and expecting a raging silence afterwards, I just want this film to end. * * *
*Just a note, this "review" was initially written during the eclipse here in the Philippines, hence the first paragraph. Incidentally, the film also has its "eclipse" sequence. Kindly visit my film blog at www.lilokpelikula.wordpress.com. Thanks.