Insiang and shorts from the Philippines

After the storm devastation in the Philippines, I thought back on Independencia, the only Filipino movie that I can remember having seen, an excitingly stylized though thematically depressing attack on colonialism, and thought maybe I should watch some more – a Filipino film fest! Only made it through one feature and a bunch of shorts so far.

Long Live Philippine Cinema! (2009, Raya Martin)

How do you not open your Filipino film fest with a movie entitled Long Live Philippine Cinema!? I think Martin is perhaps being ironic, though. Woman working in a cinema back room is killed by some guys, who then burn the evidence. A film can is filled with dirt, and the title spirals onto it. Apparently the woman represents Mother Lily, a producer who is thought to have control over the Manila Film Festival.

Track Projections (2007, Raya Martin)

Silent, camera on its side shoots a partly sunny sky while futzing with the aperture. Gets kinda good around the 3-minute mark. Nice how the sideways camera combined with motion results in a filmstrip look.

Insiang (1976, Lino Brocka)

The Philippines’ all-time most beloved movie is a grimly realistic drama about a young woman whose mom takes in a younger man who starts raping the daughter. So much for escapism. Everyone is poor and hungry and has a bunch of kids they can’t afford, and young Insiang spends the movie bouncing from one pole of desperation to another.

Her mom Tonya is shitty to everyone. Possibly it’s a survival mechanism – can’t tell if the movie is judging her or not. Insiang has a fully pathetic puff-haired boyfriend called Bebot who finally gets her to sleep with him on the pretense of taking her away from rapist uncle Dado, a sleazy mustache-man with his own name tattooed in a heart on his chest.

“Maybe [your father] left because he couldn’t stand your mother” – these are meant as encouraging words in this movie – and “As soon as I get a better job we’re going to leave this place” is its mantra.

Finally Insiang gets her revenge on everyone at once. She cuddles up to Dado and asks a favor: for him to beat the living hell out of Bebot, which he does, knocking all his teeth out down by the river. Then Insiang (exaggerating) tells her mom that Dado just used the mom to get to the daughter, hates the mom and plans to leave her. Result: mom kills Dado and goes to jail. You’d think this is the movie’s idea of a happy ending, but just in case we saw a glimmer of hope in Insiang’s revenge and independence, she visits mom and says she feels no better.

At least there’s a character named Nan Ding. Nice Slint reference.

Our Daily Bread (2006, Khavn)

A woman digs through the trash, sells junk to buy baby food, returns to the trash and feeds the rest of her family with chicken scraps she finds. Gross.

Can and Slippers (2005, Khavn)

Two things at once here: first, it’s a fast-cut, handheld high-action percussively-scored short of a kid kicking a coke can through town and out to the makeshift goal, where he shoots/scores. One the other hand, the kid is revealed to have one leg, he doesn’t have a real ball, the town is infested with garbage and the goal is on a trash heap.

Rugby Boyz (2006, Khavn)

Group of boyz play ball (with a real ball this time), tell jokes, dance to karaoke, huff something in plastic bags, then go swimming.

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