Kidlat Tahimik

20 March, 2016 - 18:00
BOZARcinema, Brussel
talk+screening
“A cultural politics, a politics of daily life, which emerged in earlier decades but as something of an adjunct and a poor relative, a supplement, to ‘politics’ itself, must now be the primary space of struggle. This is indeed precisely what Kidlat’s film teaches us: that the other levels must be inscribed – from the sheerly eventful or punctual to the great class warfare of the national liberation struggle – but that today as never before we must focus on a reification and a commodification that have become so universalized as to seem well-nigh natural and organic entities and forms.” – Fredric Jameson

In the presence of Kidlat Tahimik.

Werner Herzog counted the film amongst the most original and poetic works of cinema made anywhere in the 1970’s. It reminded Susan Sontag that “invention, insolence, enchantment – even innocence – are still available on film”. And Fredric Jameson hailed it as a model example of how cinema could invent new geotopical cartographies within the landscape of late capitalism. But for all these words of praise, Perfumed Nightmare, Kidlat Tahimik’s first feature film, has overall remained a hushed secret within the dominant historiographies of cinema. If it is mentioned at all, the film tends to be associated with “Third Cinema”, a catch-all term that once embodied the hope for a new kind of cinema that could challenge the hegemony of the dream factories of Hollywood and Mosfilm, a hope that coincided with a political aspiration that was called “Third-Worldism”. Today, the idea of a “third” world or cinema seems to have become nothing less than an embarrassment in view of a time of globalization whose economic reality has, or so it appears, supplanted all possibilities of alternate ways of life or alternate modes of production. Perhaps this explains why a Marxist critic like Jameson is fascinated with the work of Kidlat Tahimik, which succeeds in remapping the new into the old and the old into the new, rather than aiming to simply replace or destroy old paradigms. In Perfumed Nightmare (1977) Tahimik plays a jitney driver in a Philippine village who dreams of becoming an astronaut or at the very least to strike it rich in the land of dreams which is the United States. He makes it as far as Europe, where a series of rude and comical awakenings unfolds and Kidlat learns that the modern Western world is far from paradise. In the follow-up film, the self-proclaimed “third-world space spectacle” Who Invented the Yo-Yo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy? (1979), our hero finds himself as a guest worker in the Germanic lands of “Yodelburg,” where he dreams of organizing the Philippines Official Moon Project. After all, even the global juggernaut of the American space program can’t get to the moon without Philippine innovations: the yo-yo, the early cousin of the gyroscope, which was placed on spaceships to the moon, was invented by Philippine tribesmen, while a Filipino living in the U.S. created the moon buggy. Both films, as Sontag pointed out, “makes one forget months of dreary moviegoing”. Like the festooned “jeepny” that Tahimik’s character constructs from an abandoned U.S. Army vehicle, they create something wholly original and imaginative from the discards of colonialism, like a pair of omnibuses hovering back and forth between different worlds with generous hilarity.

 

In samenwerking met Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Cinematrix distribution en het Birkbeck Essay Film Festival.

DISSENT! is een initiatief van Courtisane, Auguste Orts en Argos, in de context van het research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), met de steun van VG.

Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare)

Kidlat Tahimik
,
PH
,
1977
,
16mm
,
93'

Kidlat Tahimik (‘stille bliksem’ in Tagalog) baseerde zijn debuutfilm Mababangong Bangungot op zijn eigen ervaringen. De film laat ons kennismaken met een taxichauffeur, trouwe luisteraar van radiozender Voice of America en oprichter van een Werner Von Braun (de Duitser die tijdens WOII de V2-raket ontwikkelde en zich later in de Verenigde Staten vestigde als ruimtevaartingenieur) fanclub. Stilletjes hoopt hij op een carrière als astronaut of – op zijn minst – een andere manier om fortuin te maken in land van zijn dromen. Maar hij raakt niet verder dan Europa en daar leert hij uit komische maar ook ruwe incidenten dat de moderne wereld in het Westen geen paradijs is... Tahimik, die later een protégé van Werner Herzog werd, blijkt een faux naif die via een oprecht naïeve held (genre Chaplins arme zwerver) een krachtig beeld ophangt van de Amerikaanse kolonisatie van Filipijnse dromen. Net zoals zijn held die een charmante ‘jeepny’ in elkaar knutselt uit onderdelen van een afgedankt Amerikaans legervoertuig, creëert Tahimik uit afdankertjes van het kolonialisme een unieke film boordevol verbeeldingskracht. Dat de film internationaal werd uitgebracht, hebben we deels aan Francis Ford Coppola te danken.

Ook Susan Sontag was een bewonderaar van Tahimik: “Perfumed Nightmare doet ons vergeten welke troosteloze films we de jongste maanden hebben bekeken. De film herinnert ons eraan dat vindingrijkheid, onbeschaamdheid en betovering – zelfs onschuld – nog altijd beschikbaar zijn op pellicule.”

Who Invented the Yo-Yo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy?

Kidlat Tahimik
,
PH
,
1979
,
16mm
,
colour
,
93'

“Has anyone ever played the yo-yo on the moon?” inquires a wondering Kidlat Tahimik at the start of this beguiling treatise on humanity’s endless capacity for invention, whether in space or the Philippine jungle. As the film highlights, even the global juggernaut of the American space program can’t get to the moon without Philippine innovations: the yo-yo, the early cousin of the gyroscope, which was placed on spaceships to the moon, was invented by Philippine tribesmen, while a Filipino living in the U.S. created the moon buggy. Still stuck starry-eyed on Earth, though (specifically in the far-off Germanic lands of “Yodelburg”), Tahimik works as a carpenter/”guest worker” and dreams of organizing POMP: the Philippines Official Moon Project, so named after consultations with his fellow untethered idealists, a bemused assortment of adorably cheeked little kids (many “played” by his family members). “You’re sitting on the launchpad, Gottlieb,” he dryly notes to one tyke on a playground slide. While working out the details of turning his only commodity (onions) into rocket fuel, Tahimik also reminisces on his past in the Philippines, from boxcar races to his father’s dreams of architecture, and his mother’s role as mayor of his hometown. Connecting Third World and First World, the moon with the playground, and the yo-yo with the rocket ship, this “third-world space spectacle” blossoms with the energies of a creative mind willing to let itself go, fueled only by “your free will, your freedom to play the yoyo on the moon.” (Jason Sanders, Pacific Film Archive).