Presented in conjunction with Crows and Sparrows, Balagan welcomes Manila-based filmmaker and curator Shireen Seno to present a program of Filipino experimental film and video from the past three decades. The Kalampag Tracking Agency is an ongoing curatorial initiative of Shireen Seno (Los Otros) and Merv Espina (Generation Loss). A discussion with Shireen will follow the program.
This program is funded in part by a grant from the Brookline Commission for the Arts, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. Further support is provided by the Harvard University Asia Center.
Overcoming institutional and personal lapses to give attention to little-seen works—some quite recent, some surviving loss and decomposition—this programme collects loose parts in motion, a series of bangs, or kalampag in Tagalog, assembled by individual strengths and how they might resonate off each other and a contemporary audience. Featuring some of the most striking films and videos from the Philippines and its diaspora, this is an initiative that continues to navigate the uncharted topographies of Filipino alternative and experimental moving image practice.
They say it always starts with a bang. Or a series of bangs.
Like the tiny explosions in your brain that rattle you to take action, it could be something simple and small, not necessarily earth-shattering. The act of capturing the fleeting moments, ideas and visions and down both entail a certain slippage of forms and time, something that tends to elude us but cannot be ignored, something which we liken to kalampag, a Tagalog word that roughly translates to a ‘bang’; the act of tracking them something of an alert, a warning that something may worsen or interrupt the journey, versus the stable engine hum of a giant system, a well-oiled machine; like the rattling of loose parts that collide while in motion.
This is a collection of loose parts in motion, a series of bangs, assembled by individual strengths, and how they might play off each other in the context of a screening program. Featuring works from the Philippines and its diaspora, it is here that we present some of the most singular, fragile, and striking moving image works by Filipinos over the past thirty years. It could have been from forty years, or more. But we are limited by time and resources, and what we have current access to.
This is by no means a representative program. This selection is personal, subjective. Like the works assembled here, the act of assembling this program is itself informed by a certain agency, by an independent urge to act on one’s will.
With no small amount of detective work to address the institutional and personal gaps of proper cataloging, archiving and storage, we tracked down individual people and individual works, from the nooks and crannies of several libraries and collections, to tiny islands in the Visayas, to the Los Angeles sprawl.
With a variety of formats, techniques and textures; from 8mm and 16mm to HD and cellphone video; from found-footage and optical print experiments to ethnographic documents and video installations; this is a collection of works assembled not by theme, history, medium or other arbitrary concerns: this is a confluence of uncanny juxtapositions and pleasant contradictions, an experience not unlike revisiting a familiar place in a new light. But before you get to where you’re going, you hit a speed bump or a pothole and you hear a loud rattling coming from your car. Sometimes you think something’s amiss; sometimes it’s the sound of it that comforts you.
NOTES ON THE SCREENING VERSIONS:
This program would be impossible to put together without the kind support of the individual artists, the Mowelfund Film Institute, UP College of Mass Communications, UP Film Institute, Ateneo Art Gallery, Green Papaya Art Projects, Terminal Garden, and the National Film Archive of the Philippines.
The screening prints of the 8mm and 16mm films created in the 80s and 90s that are featured in the Kalampag Tracking Agency are mostly missing or completely decomposed. Some of the lucky ones have negatives and/or preservation copies left. The screening versions of the films in this screening program come from crude U-Matic, VHS and Betamax transfers. The Agency is still in the process of tracking down the surviving prints.
2014 | 7:21 | Super 8 transferred to HD video | black and white | sound
A Super 8 tourist film about the Los Angeles landscape through the lens of Filipino immigrants, examining cultural identity by documenting the intersections of American pop culture and Filipino traditions.
Miko Revereza is an award-winning experimental film and video artist based in Los Angeles. Since relocating from Manila as a child, he has been living illegally in the United States for over 20 years. This struggle and exile from his homeland has influenced the content of Miko’s personal films that explore themes of diaspora, colonialism and Americanization. He also makes music videos and live video art installations for LA’s experimental music scene.
Minsan Isang Panahon (Once Upon a Time)
Melchor Bacani III
1989 | 4:00 | 16mm transferred to 2K video | color | sound
An experiment in optical printing using Super 8 home movies and hand-colored found film material. The film was created during the influential Christoph Janetzko workshops, conducted in 1989 and 1990, in collaboration with Mowelfund Film Institute, Goethe Institut and the Philippine Information Agency.
Melchor Bacani III is a director for TV and was an active participant of the Mowelfund Film Institute (MFI) film workshops in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
1985 | 5:22 | Super 8 transferred to HD video | color | sound
An experimental animation, decidedly crude in approach, part sociopolitical commentary and surrealist whimsy, advocating for a new and personal take on the alphabet.
Roxlee is an icon of underground Philippine cinema. Apart from making animated and collage films, he is also a comicstrip artist known for ‘Cesar Asar’ and ‘Santingwar’. In the late 80s, he was featured in retrospectives in Hamburg and Berlin. In 2010, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Council of the Philippines.
Bugtong: Ang Sigaw Ni Lalake (Riddle: Shout of Man)
1990 | 3:20 | 16mm transferred to 2K video | color | sound
Rumoured to have used footage salvaged from a commercial studio dumpster, the film is a commentary on Filipino onscreen macho culture and one of the rare surviving works in the brief filmmaking career of Ramon ‘RJ’ Leyran. It was a product of the last Christoph Janetzko film workshop, with a focus on experiments with optical printers, held in 1990.
Ramon Jose ‘R.J.’ Leyran was active on and off screen in the late 80s and early 90s independent film communities. He was also an actor in several television soap operas, commercials, and movies, including Radio (2001), Ikaw Lamang Hanggang Ngayon (2002) and The Great Raid (2005).
Very Specific Things at Night
2009 | 4:29 | video | color | sound
A mobile phone film that captures the peculiar tension between the beauty, violence, and raw exuberance of New Year’s Eve in Manila. Shot on Mahiyain Street (Shy Street), Sikatuna, a stone’s throw away from the house of Chavit Singson, who also led the masses to bring thenPresident Estrada out of the presidential palace.
John Torres is a filmmaker and musician known for his idiosyncratic style of filmmaking that features prominent on- or off-screen spoken texts, including the poetry of local authors. The imagery and structure of his films are not prosaic, but associative and fragmented. Retrospectives of his films have been shown in Seoul (2012), Vienna (2013), Cosquín, Argentina (2014), and Bangkok (2015).
Juan Gapang (Johnny Crawl)
1986 | 7:18 | Super 8 transferred to HD | color | sound
A man searches for his destiny while crawling the streets of the metropolis at the height of the Marcos dictatorship, traversing the main EDSA thoroughfare, and tracing the shadows of the pillars of the Manila Film Center, all just before the People Power Revolution and the storming of EDSA that toppled the Marcos regime.
Rox Lee is an icon of underground cinema in the Philippines. He has had retrospectives abroad since the late-1980s. His book Cesar Asar in the Planet of the Noses, a collection of his cartoons and short stories, was published in 2008.
Chop-chopped First Lady + Chop-Chopped First Daughter
2005 | 1:54 | video | color | sound
A tongue-in-cheek poke at our own culture and recent history. The First Lady is none other than Imelda Marcos, the First Daughter none other than Kris Aquino. Both women’s lives and antics juxtaposed with gory evocations of the highlypublicized chopchop lady murders that were exploited by those 90s slasher films Aquino herself starred in.
*This was piece was last shown as a 2-channel video installation at the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG), and is reformatted as split screen for the purposes of this screening program, with kind permission from the artist and AAG.
Yason Banal obtained his BA at the University of the Philippines and MFA at Goldsmiths. His works have been exhibited at the Tate Modern, Frieze Art Fair, Guangzhou Triennale, Singapore Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, Christie’s, Queens Museum of Art, among others.
The Retrochronological Transfer of Information
1994 | 9:33 | 16mm transferred to VHS transferred to HD | color | sound
Less a documentary than a marvelous if irreverent parody of science fiction films. A humorous meditation on time, politics, and point of view in cinema. Hoping to send a message back in time by equipping the camera to shoot through Rizal’s portrait on Philippine money, Ermitano plays with the boundaries of different points of view: Rizal’s, that of Philippine politics, the camera’s, the filmmaker’s, and ours—as well as with the temporal relations between them.
Tad Ermitano co-founded the pioneering multimedia collective Children of Cathode Ray. His works are distinguished by an aural and visual sensuousness underpinned by a sequential logic that reflects his training in philosophy and the sciences.
2011 | 1:13 | Hi8 transferred to 35mm transferred to video | color | silent
A structural commentary on both colonialism and globalization through medium translation and generation loss.
Shot on Hi8 video, then hand-coloured on 35mm black-and-white film, then transferred to video, this brief piece is evocative of both aging and scratched silent film iconography and trashy image-collapsed analog video.
Raya Martin has an ambitious, constantly evolving body of work of more than a dozen films including fiction features, documentaries, short films, and installations. He was the youngest artist on Cinema Scope’s 50 best filmmakers under 50 in 2012.
Tito & Tita
2012 | 4:41 | 16mm presented on 35mm | sound
Shot on a single roll of expired 16mm film, this ‘photography film’ injects evokes faded memories and injects lyricism and humor into the archetypal class picture, alongside the fleeting sound of waves crashing on a beach.
Tito & Tita is a collective of young artists working with film and photography. They have been featured in festivals and art spaces including TIFF-Wavelengths, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Silverlens Gallery, Blanc Gallery, Green Papaya Art Projects, and the Lopez Museum.
2012 | 8:08 | HD | color | sound
An animistic festival Christianised and incorporated into Folk Catholicism slowly turns into modern day madness. A tragicomic portrait of a small island town whose livelihood is deeply rooted in and bound to the sea.
Martha Atienza lives and works in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Bantayan Island, Philippines. Her works are sociological in nature, reflecting a keen observation of her direct environment, making intensive use of video and sound, and usually viewed as multi-channel installations.
hindi sa atin ang buwan (the moon is not ours)
2011 | 3:31 | HD | black and white | silent
Travel footage from a family holiday on the island of Bohol, Philippines, is captured in black and white, without sound, on a basic video camera, in this contemplative piece on lost love, distance, resignation and sadness.
Jon Lazam is an experimental filmmaker based in Manila. His works have been screened in Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Montreal, Paris and San Francisco. He also works in theater, reflecting a deep interest in the interplay between reality and artifice.
Cesar Hernando, Eli Guieb III & Jimbo Albano
1989 | 6:33 | 16mm | sound
One of the most prominent and well-crafted films that emerged from the Christoph Janetzko experimental film workshops, Kalawang is a satirical piece that uses found footage of war, sex, and pop culture to unpick the cultural and libidinal complex of colonization.
Cesar Hernando is a filmmaker and one of Philippine cinema’s best production designers, having contributed to films of Mike De Leon, Ishmael Bernal, and Lav Diaz.
Eli Guieb III is a filmmaker and award-winning fiction writer.
Jimbo Albano is an editorial cartoonist and illustrator.