Photo by Joseph Pascual
Here’s the full version of the interview that I did with one of my filmmaking idols, Lav Diaz, for Philippine Star Supreme. In this long conversation, we talk about Lav’s beginnings, his filmmaking style, his memories of Martial Law, and how his cinema fits in the digital age.
What is your first memory of cinema?
We lived in this very remote area of Maguindanao. I grew up in the middle of the forest, but about two hours drive from our place, through a rough road, was Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat. There were four theaters there, and my father was a movie addict. He would bring us on the weekends. We would get there by Saturday morning and go home Sunday night. We watched the whole gamut, all the genres — action, horror, Hong Kong movies, Hollywood movies, Filipino cinema. What I liked watching was action — Bruce Lee stuff, Fernando Poe, Jr. was a favorite then, James Bond, of course, and also the slapstick comedies of Dolphy and Chikito. All the fares in the theaters were double bills, so we were watching eight movies a week. It was virtually a film school.
At what point did you get the idea of making films yourself?
It started in college when I watched, and I remember what a strong impact it had on me, “Godfather 1.” I was like, “Wow. What is this? This is stunning.” I saw it at the Delta Theater. Then our teacher assigned us to watch “Maynilia Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag” and write a reaction paper. With my classmates, we watched that film at the Coronet Theater in Cubao and then we talked about it the whole night, about how beautiful the film was and how good Lino Brocka is. This is where it started, where I got the idea, that, “Ah, instead of me doing music” — because music is what I really wanted to do, I was in bands — “maybe I can do cinema.” These two films were landmarks for me as a young man.
But then, I looked at cinema and went, “This seems to difficult.” I would peek at shoots in Manila and see there were so many trucks, so many lights, and I said, “How am I going to do this? How will I become a director?” But I started thinking about it; that maybe, just maybe, I can. That’s why I started paying attention to cinema, and there were cinema books at the Rizal Library at Ateneo, I would read them — the reviews, the biographies of directors. So that started it.