By: MARNE KILATES
I JUST CAME from the Gala Screening of Kristian Sendon Cordero’s “Hinulid.” I must put down a few notes before I turn in for the night.
There is a pleasant irony in watching one of the saddest, most elegiac movie I’ve seen in years, and starring the reigning drama queen of Philippine cinema, Nora Aunor, and yet nowhere in the almost three-hour "magical drama" does she shed a tear. It is probably the director’s conceit, or the actor’s challenge to herself, or both.
Not in any negative manner, after the movie I felt like I was coming from a wake and I half-desired to perform the post-wake practice (perhaps superstitious) of “pagpag.” But perhaps it was a wake. An ambivalent lament for lost values whose opposites were expressed by people in the “wake” of the main character, Lucas, and their distorted sense of what’s important in terms of recalling the virtues of the dead. “He was a lady’s man,” said the militia leader. In an earlier scene (in the movie’s flash-back, flash-forward narrative), the academic was enumerating the grieving “favors” from the dead’s alma mater—mass cards, corporal acts of mercy, requiem masses by the school’s priest-officials, etc., like accumulated indulgences. Then there are the frat men.
It was a poet’s movie, not only with liberal quotations from the director’s favorite poets (Hopkins and Rilke, and later the director’s own lines), but in the visual execution and the use of visual symbols to move the narrative, and the simultaneity of the time element (the past, the present, and the future crisscrossing all throughout), among others.
The poet-director is firstly a poet who is comfortable in the visual medium, conversant with movie techniques and adding some of his own. Thus thoroughly contemporary. And it will take lots of courage, actually, to somehow impose the imaginative or imaging “quirks” of the poet on the more than partially commercial nature of cinema. Fortunately, it won initial funding in a festival (QCinema International Film Festival), but had to crowd-fund itself later as it may have underestimated its “realization cost.” As I told the director half-jokingly as the crowd milled around after the screening, it was a poem more than a movie.
Perhaps there is a new or emerging tradition in either the national cinema or the Bikol portion of it—as I’ve seen some samples from Director Alvin Yapan and the previous work I’ve seen form Cordero, and what Vic Nierva’s (Victor Dennis Tino Nierva) new short film is promising. Are our newer films becoming more “literary,” or perhaps is there a new “thinking cinema”? Or is it only the Bikol portion that might be even straying from current tendencies towards “poverty porn” or the unremitting urban noire? Or is “regional” cinema less constrained and thus more free to weave in the already extant “magical realism” that lurks in the provincial hinterland?
The film’s theme line is “Memory is stronger than justice.” Because memory is the only human weapon against unjust death and death by injustice. Perhaps it is the only human weapon. It may also be said that to remember is human, to be just divine.
Enthusiastic applause at the end, not at all hesitant or tentative, indicated that even if there were some hints of a longueur in some segments, these were probably ignored by the instantaneous tribute. 'Hinulid' (incidentally, the word means “laid to rest” or “laid on a bed and tucked in,” like an infant fast asleep; but which also refers to the dead Christ enshrined in one of the barrios near Naga City) is opulent in substance and form.
It might be funereal and elegiac, esp. in its use of poetry and the traditional and chanted 'pasyon', but at the same time it probes the sources of our grief and interrogates the causes of our somnambulant peace. Kristian Sendon Cordero, the poet I know, continues to show his deft and confident hand in the complex genre of filmic poetry or poetic cinema he has chosen.