|From What is Before (2014)|
Lav Diaz’s cinema exists on the opposite end of the spectrum to the commercial cinema of rapid cuts and short takes. A one minute scene in these commercial movies consists of multiple cuts thereby eliminating the notion of real time. While these short take movies eliminate real time, they embody the sentiments of constantly scrolling social media where events take place in a blink of an eye. For some, these quick cut movies constitute exciting cinema. But it is a cinema whose purpose is to overload the senses and prevent any time for thinking or contemplation. Therefore, it is refreshing to find that a filmmaker like Lav Diaz exists whose films allow each scene to develop for as long as possible. A four hour film by Lav Diaz is considered a short film because many of his films are in the 9-10 hour range, with the longest film clocking in around 10.5 hours.
The films of Lav Diaz have been regulars at international film festivals but seeing them outside of a film festival used to be a quest in itself. For a long time, I was on this quest to see his films. Thankfully, my personal quest for seeing his films ended in 2013 when mubi.com showed CENTURY OF BIRTHING. Shortly after that, NORTE got a proper DVD release. I managed to see a few more of his films once again thanks to mubi.com.
After those mubi screenings, a traveling retrospective of his films took place at various Cinematheques and arthouses. This led to a lot more coverage of his films and proper film criticism that examined his works beyond the headlines about long takes and running time. It appeared to a matter of time before his films would get wider circulation.
Well, that time is upon us now.
mubi.com is doing an entire year long retrospective of his works online, releasing one film per month. So far, Lav Diaz’s staggering EVOLUTION OF A FILIPINO FAMILY has shown and currently HEREMIAS (BOOK ONE: THE LEGEND OF THE LIZARD PRINCESS) is showing.
Here is some reading about his films to accompany the film viewing experience:
2. The Seventh Art: JAFB wrote about Lav Diaz’s films long before most people had heard of the filmmaker or even seen a single work. His writing is a perfect introduction to Lav Diaz’s films.