Paris, January 2020: I had the most wonderful opportunity to meet Mr. Lavrente Indico Diaz, or more popularly known as Lav Diaz. The “ideological father of the new Filipino cinema,” his films were featured in the exhibition in Paris in January 2020, when he participated in the 15th edition of the Hors Piste Festival at the Centre Pompidou, the prestigious cultural center of France.
Eight of his films were featured in the event. These include the following: “Evolution of a Filipino Family”, “Batang West Side”, “Ang Panahon ng Halimaw”, “Ang Hupa”, “Mga Anak ng Unos”, “Death in the Land of Encantos, Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” and “Mula sa Kung Ano Ang Noon.”
Of these, my friends Tricia and Allen and I were only able to watch an hour and a half part of the first film shown on 25 January 2020. We were informed that the film duration was almost 11 hours and we were actually willing to stay, if not for my friends’ limited stay in Paris, who were here for only two days. So, we were thrilled when we spotted Lav Diaz outside during the film break, as he was being interviewed by a journalist. We immediately approached him after the interview. We talked for a few minutes and did not miss the chance have a photo taken with him!
Lav Diaz is a soft-spoken man with no air of arrogance and who dressed casually; I was star-struck. Here is a multi-awarded personality who has received several recognitions from various award-giving bodies such as the Gawad Urian, Golden Leopard, Golden Lion, Orizzonti Award, Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, Prince Claus Award of the Netherlands, and The Radcliffe Fellowship of Harvard University, yet he was very approachable. We said our greetings and congratulated him. We requested for his autograph; he signed copies of our program without hesitation although he said smilingly, “Hindi talaga ako ma-autograph na tao.” Upon learning that we are currently abroad for our foreign assignments, he said that we were all still so young and wished us the best.
About the film “Evolution of a Filipino Family”, it is about a poor farming clan who survived in the context of a very militarized, authoritarian set-up. The film spans events from 1971 to 1987; it has references to the martial law years under the rule of former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, which in Diaz’ own words is a “very dark period” in Philippine history. The film is unusually long which is a distinct characteristic of his art.
His spiritual and zen approach to films is evident in the “Evolution of a Filipino family”–the panoramic, slow-sweeping shots; the realistic dialogue; the unhurried pace. I wish I could explain more but that would be pretentious of me since I have not even watched half of the movie. But the part that I watched plus meeting Lav Diaz himself made me sure of one thing–Lav Diaz is an artist in the truest sense; he creates beauty not to impress but to express; he shows the world in his own lens but in the process makes viewers see and reflect on themselves and their paradigms. The movie may not be commercially appealing to many but I must say, it’s a real work of art.