Khavn dela Cruz, the festival director of MovFest, an international showcase of film, music, and literature, has a new film out called Pahinga, which he dedicates to his father who passed away a few months ago. It’s no surprise that dela Cruz believes that there’s really no boundary between film, music, and literature: all three elements are weaved into Pahinga. The film intersperses vignettes of images of the city, poetry, piano music, videos of family and friends, and snippets of an interview with Leonardo dela Cruz, the director’s father. Each of these elements on their own has their charms, but the movie was obviously conceptualized after, not before, it was shot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach. John Torres, for one, successfully used old footage he took to concoct a potent brew of a movie in Todo Todo Teros (which is actually referred to in Pahinga). But with the case of Pahinga, the thread that stitches everything together is very loose, if at all extant.
I wish dela Cruz focused more on the story of his father. His interview snippets were actually the best parts of the film for me. His stories of his childhood, his view on true friendship, and his admiration of his own father (the filmmaker’s grandfather) were the most engaging sections of the film. Perhaps the filmmaker could have traced back the story of his father by interviewing his grandparents, uncles, and aunts; or wrote new poetry that deals with themes of fatherhood, or manhood, or anything that deals with his personal relationship with his father. Sure, the filmmaker’s poetry is admirable (more so in the spoken Tagalog) and the time lapses and frame overlays are impressive. There are also some funny moments in the videos with his family and friends (with cameos by fellow indie stalwarts Lav Diaz and Torres), particularly in the scenes where they were in a room playing parlor games while wearing face masks. But on the whole, the film only feels like a hodgepodge of artistic endeavours and home videos.
One habit that some indie filmmakers have acquired over the years is the “have film, will shoot” mentality. Because of the cheap cost of digital equipment, the tendency is to shoot everything and make the camera the third eye, so to speak. This is not a bad thing in itself because most film directors actually begin their careers this way. The danger lies in underestimating the value of the Great Idea. I deeply admire Terrence Malick for only making films he thinks is worth his and the discerning audience’s time. Obviously, I’m more a fan of the “have great idea for a movie, will shoot” mentality than the “have old footage and scribbles of poetry in notepad, will find a movie in there somewhere” mentality.
Despite this, though, I believe the film needs to be seen, if only for its style, which is a welcome respite from typical narrative-driven films. Dela Cruz is one of the most prolific but underappreciated (even unheard of by the general public) filmmakers working today. And, based on his oeuvre, I know he is more than capable of making better films in the future.
Note: MovFest films are being shown in UP until Sept. 6. For schedule, check out www.movfest.org.