Friday, September 30, 2011

The Road to Melancholia: Sagada Diaries (Emman de la Cruz | 1st Reinvigorating Documentary Filmmaking Workshop)

Emmanuel de la Cruz / Angeli Bayani
An example of the refreshing documentaries from the 2010 workshop, this docu provides a penetrating glimpse into the making of Lav Diaz’s film Melancholia. Cool as the Amihan wind, the maverick filmmaker is seen shooting guerrilla style with a sparse crew in the mountains of Sagada. During a scene that has taken forever to complete, he calms down the actors by saying “Relax lang.”

Does he ever get angry? Rarely.

There was one time when he encountered a child actor who couldn't follow his instruction. Tasked to make a sad face, the boy dilly-dallied because he says he is basically a happy child. An irate Lav halted the shooting and packed up.

Emmanuel de la Cruz does a wonderful job of providing tidbits and insights about Maguindanao-born colleague, Lav Diaz. In just over a half hour, I’d learned a lot about his background and source of ideas. Lavrente Diaz, whose first name is of Russian origin, grew up in a home filled with books by Russian authors. The Dostoyevskian characters he relished in his youth will soon appear in various forms in most of his films.

The Diaz family was a victim of the vicious war in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. A series of hamlettings forced family members to vacate their home and become refugees. The idea of being displaced is a major theme in his films. A crime from the past or pursuit of artistic endeavor or natural/political disasters will cause main characters to leave their homes or towns. The displaced and dispossessed characters then grapple with deep melancholia, chilly loneliness, and the search for redemption.

Rebels on the run
The film Melancholia deals with a trio of dispossessed characters, Alberta, Rina, and Julian. Instead of missing valuable things, they are ruing the disappearance of their loved ones. The film is still the best I’ve seen about desaparecidos or enforced disappearances. Film critic Noli delivers a wonderful review of the film here.

I remember a Melancholia scene wherein an Ifugao elder is clearly heard complaining about being filmed. There is nothing degrading in the shot having been merely a market crowd scene. But, the thought I had then was the tribesman must have been wishing for some payment. Sure enough, as seen in the documentary, a female local government employee is running after the filmmakers. She is asking for the group’s permit to shoot. A female member from Diaz’s group does the damage control. Meanwhile, Lav is nowhere in sight. He is probably holed up in a distant place and coolly relaxing away from it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment