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Reviewed by:
  • Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur ed. by Parichay Patra and Michael Kho Lim
  • Nadin Mai
Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur
Bristol: Intellect Books, 2021. 216 pages.

When Filipino director Lav Diaz received the Pardo d’Oro at the Locarno International Film Festival in the summer of 2014 for his film From What Is Before, followed by his success at the 2016 edition of the Berlin International Film Festival with A Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery (He won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear.), there was an apparent momentum that had previously only existed in arthouse circles. After years of existence in the underground, Diaz’s films made their way into A-list festivals, received public recognition, and reaped rewards. And yet, it took another several years before the first substantial English-language publication on the director would be published.

Sine ni Lav Diaz: A Long Take on the Filipino Auteur, edited by Parichay Patra, assistant professor of film studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, and Michael Kho Lim, lecturer of media and cultural policy at Cardiff University, sits alongside Conversations with Lav Diaz (M. Piretti, 2020) by Michael Guarneri, and Lav Diaz: Faire Face (Lav Diaz: Coping) (Post-Editions, 2022), a French-language collection of articles on the director, edited by Corinne Maury and Olivier Zuchuat and published in 2022. All three books come at a time when Diaz’s films have left the underground [End Page 279] circle of film piracy and entered the world of mainstream streaming through collaborations with Mubi and, perhaps most surprisingly, Amazon Prime.

In Sine ni Lav Diaz (A Film by Lav Diaz), Patra and Lim aim to “situate Diaz at the crucial junction of ‘new’ auteurism, Filipino New Wave and transnational cinema” (2), adding views on the problematic of exhibiting and distributing Diaz’s films. They bring together established writers of Anglo-Saxon academia to create the first coherent look at Diaz’s oeuvre, as the director transitions from “a niche, cult-admiring cinematic secret society to the red velvet and flashlight” (1).

The book contains ten chapters, which are complemented by an in-depth interview conducted by the book’s editors with Diaz and a reprinted tribute to the director’s work by the late film critic Alexis Tioseco. The chapters are divided into five parts, each of which attempts to look at Diaz’s oeuvre from a different standpoint. The historical perspective, grouped together in part 1, “Lav Diaz through Cinematic Histories,” opens the book, thanks to a concise piece by Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., who situates Diaz within post-Brocka Philippine cinema. Del Mundo’s chapter is an in-depth look at the history of Philippine cinema, beginning with what he identifies as the first generation of Filipino filmmakers that was active before the Second World War. Belonging to the country’s fifth generation, Diaz, as many other directors from this generation, liberated himself and his filmmaking thanks to the availability of MiniDV (Mini-Digital Video) cameras. Digital filmmaking would create a considerable boom in the filmmaking output of the country. Del Mundo’s look at the successive generations of filmmakers gives way to Tom Paulus’s analysis of the intertwining connection between Diaz and Russian literature, specifically that of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In his excellent reading of both auteurs, Paulus wonders “why . . . Russian epics feel more present in Diaz’s cinema than the great Philippine nationalist epic” (24). The author’s arguments are engaging, yet their density and the author’s depth of analysis could potentially be inaccessible to readers unfamiliar with Dostoyevsky.

A truly novel contribution to existing literature on Diaz can be found in the book’s third part, titled “No Cinema, No Art Either,” which comprises contributions by Adrian Martin and William Brown, as well as the book’s editors. Brown’s “Evolution of a Filipino Family and/as Non-Cinema” proposes an in-depth analysis of Raynaldo, one of the film’s protagonists, and a discussion of cinema as a medium that has always stood for modernity. The [End Page 280] author creates a...