Thursday, May 22, 2014

Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional (Raya Martin, 2005)


‘Know yourself first,’ said the old man. And thus, the brilliant, multi-storied film Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional unfolds the history of the common man. For more than 300 years of Spanish rule, the common man was fed with tales of miraculous cures, manna, and promised deliverer. He was taught Christian teachings such as loving your enemies and being patient.

The first story features a young bell ringer, who grows up steeped in religion and miracles. Even a natural occurrence like a solar eclipse is seen as a miraculous event like the raining of manna. The children with their mouths wide agape seem to be in the act of receiving communion. The darkened sun may have been enticing as a eucharistic host.

There is a remarkable shot of elderly women streaming out of a church. In all of Martin’s films, this sepia-tinged shot was one of a few times wherein Martin got the effect he always wanted: an early 20th century picture coming to life. What makes it doubly memorable was the preceding segment dealt with a religious statue that allegedly comes to life.

Another story deals with an actor involved in a theatrical presentation of the Legend of Bernardo Carpio. The legend, as propagated by the Spaniards, tells the sad fate of an insurrecto trapped between two moving mountains. Every time Bernardo Carpio tries to break free, the earth shudders. The people content themselves with the thought that some day, Bernardo Carpio will successfully break free and lead them out of bondage.

The theatrical people participated in a game wherein they come up with words that define nationhood for the common man. One word seems to encompass all given words; and that word is yearning.

The penultimate story focuses on the yearning for freedom. Abuses by the friars and the Spanish government took its toll on the patient indios. A stunning and highly effective shot sees a group of indios throwing a Spanish friar into the river. A young man enlists to become a member of the revolutionary army. Unfortunately, the proletarian revolution failed because of lack of arms. An illustrado-led revolutionary army continued the fight against the Spaniards.

Raya Martin's A Short Film About the Indio Nacional ends with the sidetracked indio contemplating on his ideas of freedom and nationhood, while bourgeois-led events unravel on. These events will lead to the prolonged sorrow of the Filipino nation. Until now, the masses still yearn for a Bernardo Carpio, a hero, or a leader who will lead them out of poverty.

With allusions ranging from Jose Rizal’s novels to Andres Bonifacio’s failed revolution, the film works on various levels that it needs to be seen repeatedly to fully grasp its beauty and intellect. Every viewing unleashes new things. I can’t wait to see it for the nth time!

Original online posting in September 2009

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