What Does It Mean To Be Original? Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik Shares His Thoughts
Our hybrid culture gives us an edge in creating films rich with potential. That is what Kidlat Tahimik, the award-winning filmmaker and National Artist believes. The director stresses, however, the importance of staying true to our own culture in order to unlock said potential. "Our new generation of Indies are winning laurels around the globe—kasi napaka-original ng storytelling nila! Why force the straitjacket of wanna-be-Hollywood formulas on the free, creative duwende spirits thriving in our multi-cultural film geniuses?" Tahimik questions.
Genius is indeed is at the heart of Pinoy creativity. "Basta hindi tayo creatively lockdown-ed in 'Patok-Sa-Takilya (PST)' stories," he clarifies. "Profit-driven storylines (heavy on sex and violence) [only] serve as 'economic censors' cutting out many culturally-meaningful stories." Fortunately though, with the advent and adaptation of film distribution, local filmmakers have been getting some well-deserved time under the sun. "Online movie-watching? Netflix still has a PST bias, even if we see flics Hollywood wouldn't touch. The Film Development Council of the Philippines [FDCP] sent me a cheque for 66,000 pesos—like 20 cineplex tickets per screening. It's my biggest box office sales since I debuted 40 years ago! [It's okay for me!] At least, this indie got an audience".
Slowly, as Filipino storytelling finds its own footing, Tahimik predicts that original films "with a 'Pinoy soul'" will be well on its way to promote themselves. "As long as we're not captive to the formulas of foreign flics!" He adds as a disclaimer. But for a "copy-cat culture" such as ours (as Tahimik would describe it), it's too late to reverse the centuries of colonisation that have made us so patronising of foreigners. "If we do not surrender to the bias of colonised trending (for PST profit) and look for a relevant centre of gravity in our storytelling, [then we can] put Pinoy films on the world map."
It's a staunch promise, but coming from a man such as Tahimik, we're sure it's not an empty one. This year, as the 500th anniversary of Lapulapu’s victory over Magellan looms closer, Tahimik is set to sponsor a short film contest for Senior High School students to encourage youth to research on little known local heroes (or as he calls them, the Unsung Sariling Bayani, or USB). "Hopefully somebody will make a great film about Lapulapu—our superhero who repulsed the colonial invaders. Unfortunately, our kids know more about Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Captain Amerika."
The renowned filmmaker will also voyage to Madrid in October of 2021 for the Quincentennial of the First Circimnavigation of our globe. There, he will work on a major art installation with the Reyna Sofia Museum. This will hopefully give Europeans a glimpse into the perspective of Filipinos and how we, as the colony, see Magellan: not as a hero but as a villain. "Hoy, listen to our version of history," Tahimik exclaims. "The Mactan warrior defeating Magellan, whom you frame as a savage, is among our pantheon of noble heroes. Mabuhay ang kadakilaan ni LapuLapu!"