Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pahinga (2011, Khavn de la Cruz)

Work.  Family crises. Heartbreak. Natural disasters. Political hi-jinks.

Whew... We all need a breather once in a while.

Some go to concerts or karaoke bars to unwind. Cinephiles trek to movie festivals or line up their stash of DVDs. Book lovers curl up in bed to read novels or the latest comics.

Khavn de la Cruz does it differently than most of us. He chills out by blending music, film, and literature juices into a soothing drink. I haven’t seen Mondomanila but Paalam Aking Bulalakaw is a great example of his intoxicating brews. The latter is still my favorite ‘this is not a film’ hangover experience so far. Khavn’s latest brew Pahinga is not far behind. Both projects blur our definitions of what is a film, a poem, or a song. To quote the tagline of the .MOV International Film, Music & Literature Festival 2011, there are zero degrees of separation amongst film, music, and literature.

Pahinga (Breather) is a project made during a most difficult time for the de la Cruz family. Khavn’s father Leonardo is hospitalized due to lung cancer. In between regular trips to hospitals such as the National Kidney Transplant Institute, the prolific filmmaker takes a breather by shooting footages of places he go to and of people he meets. There are cameos by his friends including filmmakers John Torres and Lav Diaz, film critic Dodo Dayao, film archivist Ramon Nocon, and producer Kints Kintana. The names and places are usual suspects from his, and his barkada’s, films. His friends do their bit in shooting footages for his project. I noticed some scenes that were done the Raya Martin way (i.e. the birthday scenes recall Now Showing) and the John Torres way (i.e. the surreptitiously taken jeepney scene recalls Todo Todo Teros).

Some footage was taken by his nieces and nephew. Filmmaking becomes a way of relaxation and bonding for the de la Cruz clan. There are amusing and intimate hospital room scenes such as the tweens contorting their faces, a stage act that drew generous applause, Khavn’s mother belting out a song, and a heart-tugging cryptic charade. They are truly a close-knit clan with all members rowing in sync to weather a crisis. The sterile hospital rooms become a warm home because of the camaraderie, good vibes, and laughter in the air.

The heart of the project is an interview with the patriarch Leonardo. Broken down in snippets, we get a glimpse into the father-and-son relationship. The interview is, in turns, a reminiscing, an unraveling of a secret, and an admonition to find a true friend. I’m not sure if the younger de la Cruz has find that rare person but I’m sure that he, along with countless cinephiles, views cinema as a trusty companion that one can go to for comfort and rejuvenation.

During the premiere of Pahinga on September 1, 2011, Khavn’s mother and other family members came in attendance. His friends came in droves. His father, Leonardo, though, was not present, having died in July 2011. The elder de la Cruz should have been 65 years old exactly on September 3, 2011.

I’m not an expert on Khavn’s films having watched a mere handful but I believe Pahinga is one of Khavn’s best films so far. It is deeply personal yet paradoxically accessible due to scenes of familial love. It is brave and gentle. It takes guts to open your homes, hospital rooms, and minds to people. I admired Khavn for not going overboard with this openness. He wisely kept away from funeral or cemetery scenes. No one was seen crying. We were left with a gentle portrait of a lung cancer patient who bravely, and merrily, merrily, merrily accepted his illness and impending mortality.

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