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Fraternal Sobriety in Raya Martin’s Autohystoria (2007) December 3, 2007

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemanila, Indie Sine, Noypi, UP Screening.
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Written and directed by Raya Martin
Cast: JK Anicoche, Lowell Conales
Grand Prize Winner, 2007 Cinemanila International Film Festival

The risk of too much indulgence is that once a filmmaker lays all his cards and insists on it, the less his work becomes interesting. Aside from knowing which film to watch, loyal followers of cinema should also learn to deal with the idea that in every great film, there is always a touch of cruel indulgence in it — may it be In The Mood For Love’s drifting romance, Andrei Rublëv’s soporific images, Baryoke’s moments of narrative flight, or All About Lily Chou-Chou’s disconcerting details — the relationship is mutual. This is what clearly defines the line between a director and a filmmaker. A director interprets; a filmmaker criticises. Whether he loves his images too much that he chooses not to edit it (or color-correct it either) or he wants a jump-cut in every .0005 seconds of his film, it is just a matter of preference. Furthermore, cinematic indulgence is not only limited to form, as what local digital films these days may prove. Quite a few, like Mes de Guzman and Brillante Mendoza, are benignly lenient to their stories that seeing them is a breath of fresh air. But right now, only two among local filmmakers are capable of doing both, that is, indulgence in form and content, at the same time: Lav Diaz, whose works are constant reminders of artistic defiance, and his younger contemporary Raya Martin, whose films go beyond the shaky boundaries of his age.

The production of meaning is very critical in Autohystoria. How does one know what this film is about? How could he derive a meaning, a flow of narrative, and an understanding from those images? How could we not hate him for his long takes and ambiguity? How could we stand more than an hour of prolonged equivocacy, and, like I mentioned — such cruel indulgence? How could we? Frankly because this man is saying something, and we ought to listen to him — not to weep like his characters do but at least join them in their weeping — to rekindle years of forgotten memories — a national weeping to overflow the seas that surround us.

So does the magic of this film: you don’t have to know what it is to understand it. Everything feels so familiar — the conspicuous wandering from one place to another, the beauty of nature that we’ve lost, our lives turning into smaller and smaller circles, and our past that continues to elude us, to escape our grasp, as if we never needed it, why do we have to know our history anyway? isn’t it why it is called past? why bother to remind us of our suffering, of our failed coups d’etat, of our uprisings that went to waste? why lose ourselves in these things? (Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn’t life under the sun just a dream? Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world?*)

Autohystoria is a leap from Martin’s previous effort, Maicling Pelicula Ñang Ysañg Indio Nacional; from an elegy and now to a eulogy, it clearly shows his distinct calibre as a filmmaker, the way he weaves historical events and contemporary lives — nothing much is different between them I suppose — and his insistence to deliver a work not for himself but for a muster of lost souls, of an indignant population, of a forgotten race — clamoring to be heard, whispering boisterously. Like A in Ulysses’ Gaze, Martin begins his journey across epic boundaries to search for the lost reels of history we once had, of our past overkilled by apathy, of our memories drowned by sorrows, of our efforts to recover them but to no avail — and such cruel indulgence is rewarded by a bittersweet symphony, a hymn of an endless quest for one’s self, both constantly and consciously, in the land of imagined existence.

As Dodo Dayao perfectly encapsulates the feeling: “. . . Its subtext – – – that political homicide is in our blood – – – runs hardwired with marrow chill and black voltage, but its visceral jolt is the volatile that stays with you.” It kills. * * * *

*From Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987)

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Comments»

1. Oggs Cruz - December 3, 2007

Excellent review chard. Best I’ve read on the film.

2. lilokpelikula - December 4, 2007

Thanks oggs. I really appreciate it. :D I actually had to read your review first before I could write it, and of course, Dodo’s too.

3. dodo dayao - December 4, 2007

Astig, chard. :)

It’s that thin line between the futility and neccessity of history that this film toes beautifully.

Great piece.

4. lilokpelikula - December 4, 2007

Salamat, do :D

I forgot to mention that it is his ambition, not exactly his films, that I admire about him. That makes me look forward to his next feature other than anyone else.

5. Jules et Jim - December 8, 2007

grabe. parang lalamunin ako ng lupa dito.

6. Carlos - March 4, 2008

Hi all!, please I need help. I need to find where to buy the 3 movies from Raya Martin in DVD, but I can’t find. I’m from Spain.
Thanks!

7. lilokpelikula - March 4, 2008

Hi Carlos,

I’m not sure about the DVD release of his films. Best if you just contact him personally through his blog (there’s a link on the side bar). Good luck!

8. Carlos - March 5, 2008

salamat po lilokpelikula, I’ll try in “La cultura cinematografica en las islas filipinas” but I’m not sure, because no contact, only comments about others films or directors, but i’ll try.
Now I try to discover the good filipino movies, not comercial stories, because I’m interested. But is difficult here in spain. My wife (filipina) and filipino friends here likes only comercial stories, like telenovela, but I don’t like that kind of movies.
Thanks !

9. lilokpelikula - March 5, 2008

Walang anuman Carlos. :D

Where in Spain are you? Wow, I dream of getting there. Haha. By the way, what specifically are the Filipino movies they show there? In mainstream theatres or in festivals? It’s interesting to hear your opinion about our local cinema. Very insightful.

Raya occasionally replies to comments on his blog, so perhaps he will do so if he finds time. Keep supporting our local films (the good ones of course!) and thank you so much for visiting. :D

10. Carlos - March 5, 2008

lilokpelikula, I’m from Madrid, and here I never know about filipino movies here in theaters or festivals, but I’m not a good reference, because I spend all my time working/studying so we don’t have so much contact with filipino “information points” like embassy, metrobank …
Last time we go to the embassy I see a banner for a concert in Madrid of … Martin Nievera(?) but nothing about movies.
I know about Raya Martin because of a small new, about documental festival in the north of Spain, He come here like a judge.
That’s the time I discover another kind of movies there.
The only filipino cinema I know is the comercial movies, stories like a telenovela (love), or action (for me bad imitations of american action-adventure movies).
I’m interested in movies about the history of Philippines, or stories who tell something about the real problems of the real people. Real life my friend.
But as I tell, first I must find! hehehe, and I must check all your blog, to get information, references, check your links …

Sorry because of my bad english hehehe

11. lilokpelikula - March 6, 2008

interesting! haha, martin nievera spends a lot of time touring countries these days. (same goes with some of our local artists who don’t earn a lot from their albums and concerts here and decide to work in other countries because their talents are much appreciated there. another substantial discourse about this one of course)

aside from raya, also check out lav diaz, john torres, and khavn dela cruz. they are certainly the best that we have in our local crops today.

don’t worry about your english, it’s actually good! and forget the formality sir, me ilamo richard. haha. no good in spanish. no good in french.

12. Carlos - March 10, 2008

Hi Richard! I have a Raya Martin Answer :) He tell from now is impossible to find his movies :( but He work on the distribution. I hope early. Now I’ll try to check more times the filipino movies blogs to have some news about the movies there, and I’ll try to find movies from other directors, but I think so difficult here :(
I’ll inform here hehe


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