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Philippine New Wave: This is Not A Film Movement (3 stars)

An illustrated oral history of the vibrant Philippine independent filmmaking scene

Philippine New Wave: This is Not A Film Movement

If you’re looking for an introduction to the largest – and, arguably, the most exciting – of the several new sections introduced into the EIFF programme this year by debuting artistic director Chris Fujiwara, you could do no worse than take check out Philippine New Wave: This is Not A Film Movement. It’s a look at the vibrant independent filmmaking scene that is, through showcases such as EIFF’s, breaking out of the Philippines and making waves on the international film festival circuit.

Directed by Khavn De La Cruz, himself one of the new wave of independent filmmakers (you can see his latest, Mondomanila, elsewhere in the EIFF’s Philippine cinema section, which De La Cruz also programmed), Philippine New Wave takes the form of an illustrated oral history. A lengthy montage of film clips is followed by a series of talking heads interviews with, one suspects, just about everyone, old and young, currently making independent films (De La Cruz also interviews himself, and, rather amusingly, keeps himself out of the picture, as it were, by focusing on a nostril or an ear and never his whole face). During the course of these interviews, which are intercut with more film clip montages, we listen to De La Cruz’s contemporaries ruminate on personal taste, working methods (digital technology is, in a large way, responsible for fostering the independents), the independent scene, the Philippine film industry and their country’s native post-colonial history and culture.

Despite the film clocking in at a tight 75 minutes, there’s a lot of material here. That said, one might have liked a bit more historical and cultural context, particularly of Philippine cinema past and present and the mainstream. And, given the new wave films are, for the most part, pretty out there, it feels like De La Cruz has missed an opportunity to show us that through the less than dynamic film clip montages. Nevertheless, his film does get to the root of what the Philippine New Wave is all about: an anarchic punk attitude (perhaps what the Filipino’s call their ‘sariling dwende’ or inner spirit) that has produced a wildly eclectic array of films. As the subtitle of De La Cruz’s informative documentary has it: This is Not A Film Movement.

Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival Sat 23 Jun.

Philippine New Wave: This Is Not a Film Movement

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • Philippines
  • 75 min
  • Directed by: Khavn De La Cruz
  • Cast: Brillante Mendoza, Lav Diaz, Raya Martin, Kidlat Tahimik, Adolfo Alix Jr

Less a documentary and more an illustrated oral history of an emerging independent filmmaking scene in the Philippenes. Densely packed it targets the root of the movement, but lacks historical and cultural context.

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