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The Auteurs Daily: Toronto and NYFF. Independencia

The Auteurs Daily

Independencia

"Although it occasionally gets carried away by its own reflexive spirit, Independencia is far more than the cute formal exercise its premise suggests," writes Andrew Schenker in the L Magazine. "As he spins his myth-like tale of three generations of Filipino villagers hiding out in the forest from the threat of occupying Yankees, director Raya Martin fits his colonialist story with a colonized aesthetic to match.... [H]e steeps the picture in the look of early Hollywood silents, an appropriate framework through which to process the experience of the colonized Filipinos who were likely exposed to these very movies."

"Tracking a mother and her son as they flee the American military occupiers for a life in the jungle, Martin dresses his soundstage with a rich leafy foreground in front of simple, beautifully painted backdrops that are as flat as a pancake," writes Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "In velvety black-and-white, lensed by French cinematographer and frequent Ozon collaborator Jeanne Lapoirie, the forest has the fake, yet rich feel of a mythological place, as mother and son enact their own form of independence, growing potatoes, learning to hunt, and so on. It recalls nothing so much as Josef Von Sternberg's achingly beautiful, wonderfully phony-looking jungle saga, Anatahan, which also concerns a parallel history played out in isolation. If you've been fortunate enough to see the Von Sternberg, you'll no this is no small praise, indeed."

"Raya Martin does not lack for ambition," writes Michael Joshua Rowin in Reverse Shot. "A rising young star of Filipino cinema with seven films chronicling the history of his country already under his belt, Martin initially received laudatory notices for 2005's A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of the Filipinos), has completed the first two parts of a planned 'Box Office Trilogy' (Now Showing and Next Attraction), and now with this year's Independencia can claim to be the first filmmaker to represent the Philippines in Cannes' Un Certain Regard competition. He's all of 25 years old. Independencia is obviously the work of a promising filmmaker, yet even while it displays confidently sumptuous imagery in the service of a cleverly ironic critical indictment of cultural colonialism, it also betrays an incoherence and incompleteness that a more seasoned talent would most likely not commit to celluloid."

"The 77-minute feature is divided into two parts, separated by a mock newsreel (at once satirical and horrific) that portrays a murder committed by an American soldier as if it were a Keystone Kops short." Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York: "He saves his biggest flourish for the finale, when color intrudes on the elegant black-and-white aesthetic with an enlightening, blood-red vengeance."

"I'm not sure how much credit to give the politics of Independencia's content," concedes Darren Hughes, "but its form strikes me as being something quite original and potent (despite the many idle comparisons to Guy Maddin I keep reading)."

"Martin takes his film so seriously that it makes his sparer-than-spare allegory look like a product of creative constipation instead of thoughtful consideration," finds Simon Abrams, writing in Slant.

"Though its not a complete success, its shows some real complex thinking from Martin about his films and should help in turning Martin's idea around on him by finally bringing a larger Filipino presence to the US film scene," suggests James Hansen.

Update, 10/7: Acquarello: "Martin incisively explores the intersection between national history and cinema history to illustrate the idea of a mediated gaze that defines the other through distanced, imprecise, subjective codes that ingrain a sense of hierarchy."

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.

the only thing that annoyed me, as i found out later after drunkenly accosting Martin outside of a bar, was that the spirits played a bigger part in an earlier cut. And was removed, save for a .9 second shot in the second reel. Otherwise, I quite enjoyed it—but post press conference when he described why the newsreel was relevant.

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