petak, 14. veljače 2014.

Jet Leyco - Bukas na lang sapagkat gabi na (2013)

Eksperimentalna elegija o filipinskim komunističkim pobunjenicima.


"Bukas na lang sapagkat gabi na (Leave it tomorrow for night has fallen)." It is a phrase most commonly used by doting mothers who keep secrets from inquisitive children. Jet Leyco, who has heard the phrase as a kid curious to know the fates of his two grandfathers, takes the phrase from personal memories to encompass a nation troubled by a history of institutionalized silence.
The film opens with a montage of photographs of smoke bellowing out of the land. The photographs are revealed one by one, with bits of cryptic information, such as the year presumably when the eruption happened. They do not reveal much. In fact, the figures do not pertain to anything definite or specific, but the images themselves evoke something troubling, something pertaining to events of cataclysmic proportions. The greater tragedy however is what is not revealed, that nagging impression that something important has happened but was not disclosed for whatever reason. The montage has a feel of evidence being laid out in court, pertaining to a truth masked for decades. Without the comfort of definite answers, the pictures immediately come to life, exposing both the enormity and the spectacle of a calamity.
The rest of Bukas na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na follows the same maxim of censorship, although in various degrees and for various intentions. Its first episode, an observation of a provincial wedding as captured from the camera of an amateur videographer, reveals nothing but riddles surrounding what supposedly is a celebration of love. Mystery necessarily looms as questions trickle in from guests unlucky enough to be the subject of the videographer's impertinent mind. Nothing is definitely divulged, just bits and pieces about a priest gone missing, rebels in hiding, and in-laws quietly fuming.
The second episode, an observation of the affairs of the communist rebels that were briefly spoken of during the wedding, concentrates on a rebel soldier's own inability to tell his father of his homosexuality, a subject that is also taboo within the armed revolution. Leyco dissects a movement that is plagued with an identity crisis. The montage of actual footage of communist rebels that closes the episode serves as both ode and elegy to a struggle that has survived through years of being quelled into the margins of both national consciousness and history by a campaign characterized by government propaganda and censorship.
While communist rebels are struggling to topple a prohibitive regime, the clergy indulge in prohibited pleasures that are kept hidden from the public. The third episode, aptly pervaded by a certain sense of godlessness, has a young sacristan witnessing the priest perform sexual acts in his private chambers. On their way to a wedding, the priest would eventually abuse his sacristan in the guise of showing him the ropes towards his sexual awakening. Wrapping up Bukas na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na is the story of the communist rebel's father, who is hired to drive an ice delivery truck to the military camp. Little does he know that inside the truck are bodies of fallen rebels to be used as propaganda tools by government troops to cause fear in the hearts of the villagers.
Through Bukas na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na, Leyco exhaustively and compellingly dissects a nation's culture of suppression. He even becomes his own censor, replacing drastic sounds of gunshots with innocuous noises from low-budget sci-fi laser beams. He upends the immense gravity and seriousness of his episodes with ironic turns only a repressed over-imaginative mind can cook up. The video-captured moments prior to an imperfect wedding surprisingly give way to a sequence straight out of a cheap action flick. The abusive military's victory over rebels is interrupted by a montage of communist propaganda. The morally depraved priest peacefully passes away with an amusingly paternal parting sermon for the sacristan he victimized. Dead rebels come back to life. Leyco proposes that fantasy, in all its shapes and forms, is but a product of a vast unknown, which is but a product of curbed information.
And who else could be the most apt mascot for censorship but Ferdinand Marcos, who masterminded an entire country's ignorance with several decades' worth of laws and rules that suppress basic freedoms. When Leyco, in the spirit of worthwhile mischievousness, concludes his film with the famous bust of Marcos crudely animated to mouth the same words mothers tell overly-inquisitive children, the effect is both humorous and quietly disturbing. The dictator's shadow still looms, and his legacy remains, although evidently not in the same degree as when he was in power. Still, like children forced to sleep to dream of answers to unanswered questions, the nation remains bamboozled and blinded by tall tales and fantasies, all in the name of paltry escape from a country's persisting calamity. - Oggs Cruz

The years under dictator Marcos (1965-1986) were a time of great suffering for the Philippines. This filmmaker was born after the dictatorship, but felt its ongoing effect on his family. Searchingly, Leyco brings fragments from that confusing time back to life.
On 21 September 1972, the Philippines were plunged into a dark night lasting sixteen years. On that day, President Marcos announced a state of emergency. Censorship, intimidation and distrust tarnished the days in the oldest democracy in Asia, until the dictator fled the country after the controversial elections of 1986.
‘Leave it for tomorrow, for night has fallen’ is the answer Jet Leyco was given as a child when he asked about the old days. He never knew his grandparents, on either side, and the only story he knew about his mother was of her simple wedding. In Leave It for Tomorrow, for Night Has Fallen he reconstructs the past; a past of which he has only hazy childhood memories.
Using four interwoven stories, he sketches an era that gradually dissolves into no longer wanting to know and deliberate silence. Leyco’s experimental style, which at times leaves the viewer grasping for something to hold onto, increases the sense of indefinable threat.-

Whoever utters this evasive expression may be hiding the truth. Does the counsel of a pause inhere in the darkness of the hour, or the darkness of the story? Perhaps, either way, the film forebodes a harrowing outcome. As it slowly unfolds, true enough, the narrative confirms our worst apprehensions and the lasting wound it has already left on our collective psyche, so that it cannot be told in a straightforward way. Such a telling entails the perspective and distance of time and space, both requisites of which Leyco possesses with serendipity and acuity. 
Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na, to begin with, hints at being chapters in a historical book. A paratextual instance  intercalates “figures” or pictures at the beginning which we often see in illustrated volumes. They occupy small areas of the frame, but we discern a series of smoke clouds billowing within the pictures. They all bear captions of the 1970s, and the smoke appears like the aftermath of volcanic eruptions. 
Where there's smoke, there must be fire. This is going to be about a a cataclysm, a catastrophe, but what we suspect it is going to be isn't a natural calamity but something wholly man-made. This is hinted at by the peritext: an epigraph that speaks of solidarity and unity in a continuing struggle. True enough, as the chapters of this quasi-volume unfold, we see the darkness of the socio-politcal climate of the 1970s, the looming large of Martial Law. There are four chapters told asynchronously, in reverse order. They tell stories of death and disorder, where everything sacred gives way to the profane, the civilized to the savage.
At first, when the outlines of a story remain to be established, it appears a miscalculation to sequence the movie in this way. But this strange deferral of ultimate cause and effect, this erasure of narrative sequencing, allows the film a patient pacing to gather momentum, although the opening chapters seemingly have a tenuous synchronic connection. The first chapter is a middle-class wedding gone haywire, with the father of the bride-to-be running amok, possessed with personal and parochial affront, shooting down everybody in his way. The period detail is perfectly established by how it is captured: through the lens of an old video camera, monochromatic and full of technological static, handled by a wedding videographer. The second chapter is about how a father of a guerilla tries to contact his son about a matter that might save him from the military operations in the mountains where the guerillas are hiding out. The chapter ends with the apparent firefight between guerillas and government troops, capped off with archival documentary footage of the New People’s Army.
Closer and closer toward the beginning, redolent of our kind of demented engagement with history that goes in circles or backwards, the third and final chapters are what bring the film to a powerful close. The third chapter is about a priest who performs bestialities upon the dead. He has set up a laboratory in his parish to keep the cadavers fresh and free from necrosis. The fourth chapter reveals a most aggravating circumstance, the possible identity of the dead and their dehumanization, but also perhaps their symbolic resurrection and immortalization.
Paratextually again, the film exits with yet another “figure”  -- this time a tiny icon of the infamous mountain face of President Marcos mouthing the titular line in a cartoonish way, in comic contrast to all that preceded it. After its dark portrait of authoritarian, religious and military treacheries, the film stamps this stretch of history with an unexpected watermark -- an affirmation, perhaps, that Leyco may not write history in a literary way, but he may certainly write it cinematically. We know our history, what came after the epoch in question, but Leyco’s film has the hint of a playful rendering of those times that may be construed, in a way, as a staking out of a vantage point, a leaving behind of his signature, and certainly, an irreverent gesture at the brutal Marcosian repression, fueled by the stabbing and penetrating script of the equally irreverent and iconoclastic person of Norman Wilwayco. It is an act of solidarity with revolutionaries and social reformers as well, though Leyco's ways suggest that his contribution to the cause may be to some extent idiosyncratic, since it is personal, since his voice may be a generation removed from the era in question. The utilization of paratextual elements emphasizes this: the parodical 70s-inspired film's poster is impish epitext, as well as the visual presence of video game snippets, the use of artificial, arcade-game-like sound effects to punctuate gunfire -- all tell us that history need not be consigned to books in the intermediality of contemporary times. History must always remain fresh in our memory. As such, it ought to be given expression in all forms of mass media, and perhaps none more artful, none with more unique perspective, none with greater valency than film itself. - 
Noli Manaig

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