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Disappointingly beautiful: Raya Martin’s Maicling Pelicula Ñang Ysañg Indio Nacional (O Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan), 2005 September 22, 2007

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Indie Sine, Noypi.

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 à la François Truffaut– I indulged in seeing Maicling Pelicula Ñang Ysañg Indio Nacional (O Ang Mahabang Kalungkutan ng Katagalugan). Almost a-third of it is familiar, for it is Raya Martin’s 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-d’oeuvre, 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 Martin’s 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 café, deliberating its images, its language, and its resilience that somehow reminded me of Jean Vigo’s A Propos de Nice, except that there’s 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. * * *



1. ilayaonline - September 22, 2007

san ang indie sine?

2. lilokpelikula - September 22, 2007

waaah, di mo alam? sa Robinson’s Galleria!

3. yoshke - September 25, 2007


wala ako masabi. you know how i feel about Infancia en las Islas de Filipinas sin fecha. but your Indio Nacional review is convincing. Guess have to see it then.

4. dodo dayao - September 25, 2007

Hi chard. Nice review. And I agree with it ,for the most part
– – -also the Garcia Marquez parallels speak to me, although I’m more inclined to follow Raya’s ouevre more than Gabriel’s. Writing up my take on Indio myself. Coming soon.

5. lilokpelikula - September 26, 2007

yoshke: yeah, i guess seeing it would be better. thanks for visiting.

dodo: thanks. i only have read three of Garcia’s works (i got weak afterwards as usual) and i don’t know why i sense some parallelism between the two of them. but of course, that assertion is too immature to elaborate as of now. will be reading your post as soon as you finish it. :) by the way, have you seen Autohystoria?

6. dodo dayao - September 26, 2007

Yup. Saw it before seeing Indio which made for an interesting experience. Combining both in one “review”.

7. lilokpelikula - September 26, 2007

huwaw, astig. sige basahin ko. di ko napanuod! wala kong pera nun e. haha. :)

8. moalboalmango - November 26, 2007

too bad it’s not availbale on DVD for the rest of us.

9. lilokpelikula - November 27, 2007

hi, it might be playing in some of the theatres during film festival season. you might catch it there. also, raya martin’s autohystoria will be shown in UP cine adarna next week. not quite sure about the sked but you can check it on the Internet.

10. moalboalmango - December 29, 2007

thx for the response, but I’m in San Francisco. Caught it at SFIFF, but that’s history now.

11. moalboalmango - December 29, 2007

by the way, the latest online e-issue of Cahiers du Cinema was actually pushing Indio Nacional as a great film seeking distribution.

12. lilokpelikula - December 31, 2007

hi, sorry i thought you were in the Philippines. anyway, what are your thoughts on it? have you also seen autohystoria? that Cahiers du Cinema news is great. Hope it will push through.

13. moalboalfilmsociety - January 3, 2008

Yes, I thought it was very interesting and unique. It’s the kind of film a non-filipino should see more than once to absorb it all…hence my dissapointment at no DVD being available. The only other thing I’ve seen is a youtube clip for autohystoria. Given all the works by Martin, Diaz, De La Cruz, et al…please suggest these directors get there act together and start on-line self distribution. No reason to wait for Regal !

14. lilokpelikula - January 5, 2008

I’ve seen some copies of Khavn’s films in Video 48, a local rental shop here, so I guess there might be some form of distribution. As for Diaz and Martin, I’m not really sure of that. Raya has a blog, which you could click on the right side, and perhaps you could ask him about it. Some of Lav Diaz’s films are distributed locally, Hesus Rebolusyunaryo, Kriminal ng Barrio Concepcion, et al, but again — if it is being released abroad, that I am not sure of. This shows, however, how much our film industry needs help.

Thanks for dropping by again, moalboal :D

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