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Afterimage: The Films of Kidlat Tahimik, Indigenius

November 8, 2012 - November 18, 2012


An idol of iconoclasts worldwide, a pioneer of the postcolonial essay film, and the grandfather of the Philippine New Wave, Kidlat Tahimik has made a career of—as he puts it—“straying on track.” Born Eric de Guia and educated at the Wharton School of Business, Tahimik renounced both career and name to become Kidlat Tahimik (roughly translated as “Quiet Lighting”) and embrace a filmmaking aesthetic unabashedly personal and defiantly political, filled with both warmth and fire.

Tahimik’s postcollege sojourn in Germany resulted in a friendship with Werner Herzog (who cast him in The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser), a marriage, and a deceptively ramshackle debut film, Perfumed Nightmare (1977), whose easygoing interrogation of neocolonial identity, Philippine culture, and global economies turned it into a surprise international “hit.” Praised as “the joyful discovery of blasé film buffs from Berlin to Belgrade and beyond” (SF Chronicle, 1980) and “likely to become some sort of classic” (Village Voice, 1980), the film is now heralded as a key text of both Third World Cinema and the personal essay film, offering a pairing of politics and pleasure that has continued throughout Tahimik’s oeuvre. Never shying away from embracing a proud, postcolonial identity, yet always grounded in personal observation and a quiet, understated humor, Tahimik’s works take special joy in highlighting the indigenous cultures and history of the Philippines and beyond, whether honoring Tahimik’s beloved bahag loincloth, profiling local craftsmen and women, or recounting tales of Magellan’s Filipino navigator/slave. Assembled from countless hours of filming, drawn from months and years worth of work, “my footages are like tiles in a mosaic,” he writes. “You shuffle them, change them around. In my process, nothing is permanent.”

“My best friend always mispronounced the word ‘indigenous,’” Tahimik noted in an interview in the book Philippine New Wave. He’ll say ‘indigenius.’ I would always call it cosmic mispronunciation. . . . The genius of the indigenous culture is still within us. We just have to recognize it, and let it flow out.” Committed to documenting the “indigenius,” yet always iconoclastic enough to “stray on track” to capture the wonder of life around him, Kidlat Tahimik is one of cinema’s true originals.

Jason Sanders, Film Notes Writer

Thursday, November 8, 2012
7:00 p.m. Who Invented the Yoyo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy?
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1979). Stuck in the German lands of “Yodelburg,” our hero Kidlat dreams of space and muses on humanity’s endless capacity for creativity, whether on the moon or at home in the Philippines. A delightful, self-proclaimed “third-world space spectacle.” (93 mins)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
7:00 p.m. Perfumed Nightmare
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1977). Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and author Christopher Pavsek in conversation. A Cape Canaveral–obsessed Filipino slowly awakens from his “cocoon of Americanized dreams” in Tahimik’s pioneering, proudly indigenous, cheerfully ramshackle essay film. “Makes one forget months of dreary movie-going, for it reminds one that invention, insolence, enchantment, even innocence, are still available to film” (Susan Sontag). (93 mins)

Thursday, November 15, 2012
7:00 p.m. Why Is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow?
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1980–94). Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and author Christopher Pavsek in conversation. Tahimik's virtually unknown masterpiece chronicles Tahimik and his young son's lives as they traverse the tumultuous 1980s and early 1990s in the Philippines—a great democratic revolution deposes a dictator; a massive volcanic eruption covers the world in ash—and asks how one might build a new and better future out of the disasters. (174 mins)

Saturday, November 17, 2012
8:40 p.m. Turumba
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1983). Kidlat Tahimik in person. A Philippine village switches from making small-market handicrafts to international Olympics memorabilia in Tahimik’s warm-hearted yet ultimately devastating parable on the global economy, as essential as during its 1983 debut. Both a witty, almost Swiftian satire of the effects of globalization, and a documentary-like portrait of Philippine rural life. (95 mins)

Sunday, November 18, 2012
2:30 p.m. Home and Abroad with Kidlat Tahimik
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1990–2006). Kidlat Tahimik in person. Filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik presents several of his globe-trotting personal essay-films/documentaries, including Some More Rice, Roofs of the World! Unite!, Our Film-grimage to Guimares, Orbit 50, and Celebrating the Year 2021, Today. (87 mins) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012
5:00 p.m. Memories of Overdevelopment and Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1980–2011). Kidlat Tahimik in person. Filipino documentarian/essayist Kidlat Tahimik presents two of his major works, Memories of Overdevelopment (inspired by the true-life tale of Enrique, Magellan’s Filipino slave/navigator), and Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi, on the bahag, a traditional Filipino loincloth. (74 mins)

Series coordinated by Kathy Geritz. Afterimage: Filmmakers and Critics in Conversation is made possible by generous funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association® and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees. Thanks to Jed Rapfogel, Anthology Film Archives, and Aily Nash, for organizing this retrospective and rare visit by Tahimik to the U.S.