Raya's light

Film dreams and the state of Independencia

FILM Like only the very best filmmakers, 25-year-old Raya Martin knows that a movie screen in a theater is a site for waking dreams — and also a window into forms of sleep. Martin's first feature-length effort A Short Film About the Indionacional (2005) commenced with an extended foray into one woman's nocturnal restlessness. His new and stunning work Independencia (2009) is sprinkled with stark sequences of characters lying down to fight or embrace their dream lives.

The second entry in a trilogy devoted to the history of the Philippines, Independencia takes place during the first American occupation, and is set and shot in a manner evocative of American studio films of the time. Its lush jungles are largely lensed in stunning black-and-white by Jeanne Lapoirie, and foliage commingles with painted backdrops. A young man (Sid Lucero) and his mother Allesandra De Rossi) flee to the forest when invasion by American troops is imminent. There, they encounter a young woman (Tetchie Agbayani) who has been raped by soldiers, and in time, the young man and woman raise a son born from colonialist violence.

If the forest domain and its invocation as a place of temporary respite and sensuality calls the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul to mind, Martin is the first director who doesn't come up entirely wanting in comparison to Apichatpong. This is partly because his use of these elements is distinct, and also because his recreation of early cinema techniques isn't mere stylistic whimsy but a alluring, barbed form of commentary, a prodigious act of imagination in zones of erased or abandoned memory. At 78 minutes, Indepedencia's braiding of incident and interlude is light in feel and heavy in content in a manner that lingers within and teases the mind after viewing. As a writer (with Ramon Sarmiento) and director, Martin uncovers and reimagines the folk tales and myths buried beneath official histories. His feat, as his late friend Alexis Tioseco wrote, is akin to that of an inventive jazz musician. This movie's siren call — embodied by Lutgardo Lubad's stark and lovely score — is strong, and will remain for years to come.


Fri/12, 7 p.m.

Pacific Film Archive

Sun/14, 4:30 p.m.

Sundance Kabuki 5

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