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[InC-terview] 'Henrico's Farm' Filmmaker, Lav Diaz!

By Flora  /  14 Aug 2017 (Monday)
Photo Credit: Looi Wan Ping; SIFA

InCinemas speaks to Lav Diaz, the award winning Filipino independent filmmaker who has made more than 20 films, and won several top international awards including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival 2016 and the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival 2016. The Venice Film Festival even calls him “the ideological father of the New Philippine Cinema”.

In his new film 'Henrico's Farm', Diaz has chosen Singapore as the location for his new screenplay; and as part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2017, festival-goers are offered a rare opportunity to be on a film set and witness one of Southeast Asia’s greatest contemporary film auteurs at work. 

Henrico’s Farm is inspired by Diaz's real-life encounter with a Filipino migrant worker in Frankfurt. His new film is about the irony of domestics as "lifers”, women who serve life sentences away from home and loved ones, embracing alternative homes in alien lands.

(Head to the official SIFA site to find out how you can participate in this interactive programme!)


Photo Credit: SIFA

InCinemas: Could you tell us about the inspiration behind Henrico’s Farm?

Lav Diaz: Years ago, a stopover at the Frankfurt airport became a two-day claustrophobic ordeal because of a blizzard. This very elegant old Filipina befriended me. And she told me her story.

InC: How did this commission by the Singapore International Festival of Arts come about?

LD: In Amsterdam, in 2014, during the Prince Claus Award week, the suave Ong Keng Sen invited me for a cool breakfast and he broached the really utterly cool idea. To refuse such a challenging undertaking would be mortal sin.

InC: Your films feature a lot of beautifully shot long takes, can we expect those in Henrico’s Farm as well? Are you employing any new techniques in this film?

LD: For the first question, I’ll try. I’ll work hard on it. For the second question, let’s see if we can employ some. Technique will matter only if it pushes articulation. But it’s good to experiment as well, to be lost.

InC: Long takes are always difficult to shoot. How do you work with your filming crew (lighting, set, actors, etc.) to ensure the shooting of these long takes goes smoothly?

LD: Discourse, some rehearsals and loads of trust to boot.

InC: You are known as a director, but you also wrote, edited, and shot a lot of your films. Is it a necessity to you to be in control of how your films turn out?

LD: It is imperative for the filmmaker to have control from pre-production to the final output. It is his vision anyway. Once you lost control, then you lost the film.

InC: Is it easier or more difficult to direct your own scripts, compared to someone else’s?

LD: It’s the same process for me. The only difference in using other people’s works will be the revisions that I will do because I will have to adjust the material to my vision. Good examples are Norte, End of History and Naked Under the Moon where the original screenplays were written by other writers but I rewrote them ninety percent during the filming.

(Don't miss 'The Lav Diaz Retrospective', happening from the 24th August 2017!)

Photo Credit: Looi Wan Ping; SIFA

InC: A lot of your films tackle social and political issues, but apart from those, where else do you go to for inspiration for your art?

LD: Inspiration in art can just come from anywhere. It could be the book that you’re reading, the smell of gasoline, the sound of the bell from an ice cream vendor, the vanishing boat in the sea, the sadness of a secret lover, a horrifying item from a tabloid, the hues of late afternoon, the sudden shift of the weather, the highway, an orphaned shoe.

InC: What is cinema to you?

LD: Cinema is another forum for us to see life. Or for those of us who missed life, cinema is another chance for us to look at life. And for those who refuse to see at all, cinema is just there, waiting.

InC: How do you think today’s audience, especially young people, will receive your films when our attention span when it comes to media consumption is getting shorter and shorter?

LD: The young people will immediately resent it, to be very honest, or reject it outright, or mock it even with LOL appropriation for effect. That is informed of course by today’s culture, the very overwhelming power of the internet where everything comes fast and easy now. But I am not underestimating their capacity to embrace different territories as well. They’ll mature and maybe find it one day. I create cinema for cinema. So, cinema is just there for them to discover.

InC: Besides being a filmmaker, you are also a writer and a reader. How do you view the relationship between film and literature? Do they each mean differently to you?

LD: Film and literature may have different attributes, but they are the same, as they are fundamentally the artists’ mediums of engagement with existence.

InC: You have said in an interview that cinema is still very young. How do you see the future of cinema, and in particular, the cinema of South East Asia?

LD: The cinema of our region, Southeast Asia, has made its presence, quite persuasively in fact, in the festival circuit for almost two decades now. The perennial onslaught of Hollywood, its stiffening and stifling control, shall remain the biggest conundrum of course in our shores. Our systems/institutions/governments must create steadfast programs or even laws to address this problem.

InC: What do you think is the role of art, and cinema specifically, in today’s world, especially with the current political and social climate?

LD: I firmly believe that cinema can help change the world, or, at least, affect some sanity into this maddening world.

The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2017 runs from 28 June - 9 September 2017!
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