by Yvette Pantilla
Heremias was screened at the Greenbelt theater November 15, 2006 as the closing film of the CineManila international film festival.
I've been going to all these different film festivals in Shang and Greenbelt by myself for maybe ten years now and all I can say is, Lav Diaz has balls, man. Heremias was brilliant.
I sat through nine hours (except for five minutes when I got up to pee) along with JP and maybe twenty other people whom others would probably consider stark raving mad.
I'm not going to give you a prim-and-proper review because you can always Google search Noel Vera or Alex Tioseco anyway if you want more information.
Opening shot and closing shot being reversals of each other...brilliant. The things you think are fireflies in the distance are actually those caravans of handicrafts sellers coming toward you. Brilliant.
On the actors: Ronnie Lazaro as Heremias. Brilliant. The whole fucking cast. Brilliant.
Even the cows were brilliant.
The Buddhist idea of slowing things down is evident and serves its purpose. The jarring effect of rock music after days of silence waiting in the forest. Brilliant. The prolonged drug trip of the teen-agers and the way they come down off it, truthful. The shift in POV in the forest was brilliant. Lav Diaz is reinventing the medium.
I have always wondered about those guys who sell handicrafts on those carts. You may have thought in passing them on the way to Baguio or wherever, that they probably take several days to get to where they have to go. Well, now we know. People who live in the city want everything now, now, now. It's a good exercise to try to slow things down. Pay attention, and then act with purpose when you are sure about what you want.
I wish more people had the balls to just say fuck it to everything else and do what their heart tells them to.
I am learning to do that a little bit each day. Lav Diaz has shown the way, and not just for filmmakers, but all those who create and see it as a lifetime (pre)occupation. Just do what your heart tells you, man.
He is not just a brilliant filmmaker, he is questioning how films are made and viewed. Perhaps we should also rethink the way we do reviews, and why we read them. Why spoonfeed the audience? I prefer not to rely on the reviews or approval given by people from abroad. I am invited to a screening by filmmakers or their friends, and I attend. I don't wait to see first if it's won some award in all the festivals. I see it ahead of most people, so it hasn't done the festival rounds yet. I don't like reading the reviews because I like to enter the theater without any preconceived ideas about the film. I sit and go blank. Waiting to be astonished.
There isn't any Filipino filmmaker alive who is exploring and pushing the form, challenging the audience not to be lazy, the way Lav Diaz is.
Who was the guy who recently sent out an e-mail saying independent cinema in the Philippines is dead? (Siyempre dineadma siya ng community) Was that a call to action or a call for attention? First of all, independent cinema has nothing to do with the funding. In all the arts, if you want a project done your way, you fork out the money, understood. Unless you're a mighty good asslicker and schmoozer, you and your parents will provide the funds. It's about the idea. It is possible to be in the mainstream and use studio resources, as long as you hold on to the integrity of the idea and see it through. And we cannot single out film because it holds true for dance, music, design, theater, architecture, and all the arts.
If you read The Fountainhead, Howard Roark would pay for building works out of his own money, just to realize his idea and keep his integrity. It's the same with film.
Why are we such a lazy audience? I try to attend as many exhibit openings, theater plays, and film premieres as I can ( I get a ton of invites in email and text) and even though I hate schmoozing because it's tiring to weed out who is being sincere and who isn't, all while balancing my glass of wine and pica-pica and making sure I look good in the photo opps, I still make the effort to go. If I didn't get off my lazy ass last Independence Day and didn't go see Indio Nacional, I would've never met JP (much to the chagrin of a few other women who probably wish I hadn't showed up that night, but that's another story).
Have you had to deal with a lingering illness that forces you to do what you need to do before it's too late? This is where Lav Diaz is coming from, the perspective of someone who got a second chance.
I am fortunate to be in love with someone who has a manifesto taped to his wall to remind him everyday he must act now. Not tomorrow. Not when you have the money or the time. Now. Do what you need to do now. And that's not the hurry hurry now of the city people I am talking about. I believe in slowness in appreciating things: like how you appreciate and savor your food, make love, take a long walk, etc. But doing things that matter Now is about a quiet urgency. It should dictate your entire being and permeate your life. Your compass is different from others.
There are the people who live that way who I am very drawn to, and there are the people who don't do things they really want to because of fear. If it means saying No to many people to pursue our selfish passions and try out new things, then so be it. I see that people are happier when they take this advice and tell their bosses to shove it, apply to jobs they really want, and travel to places they have always wanted to go to. They stick to the people they know will stand by them.
Just do what your heart tells you, man.
In reading about Buddhism and in other spiritual writings we learn the law of nature. Fish don't try to swim, they simply swim. You don't try to act happy, you just are. You don't try to breathe. You just breathe.
Lav Diaz doesn't try to be brilliant. He just is.
What an inspiration.