EIFF Student Critics' Best of 2013: Day 2
Our Student Critics' coverage of their top films of EIFF 2013 continues today with Catarina Mourão's review of The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children, directed by Gutierrez Mangansakan II of the Philippines.
Set in an isolated community in Philippines beside the river Daguluan, Gutierrez Mangansakan II’s The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan’s Children is an enigmatic and challenging film. Consisting of long still shots of village inhabitants performing their domestic duties – women cooking and washing while children play and sit on tree branches talking – the film has the appearance of an observational documentary. However, the approach goes beyond an impartial gaze, investing in situations that forcefully convey an idea of how this place is destined to die as its inhabitants gradually migrate to the city.
The film’s enigma lies in its intentional asymmetry – and by this I mean the way it’s constantly playing the relationship it establishes with the viewer, even when we are always in the position of observer. Sometimes we are too distant and contemplative, like the static long shot scene where boys are comparing the shape of clouds to objects of daily life, playing on our desire to come closer. Other times we are almost too close like the night scene indoors shot with available candle light from a very high angle of the couple having sex.
The soundtrack is also constantly breaking the established harmony. Over atmospheric nature shots of an almost virginal forest, or the daily life of the village, we hear the roaring sound of a car passing in the background or the sound of news on the radio. In between the Philippine words, we listen to fragmented words in English, which make us feel the menace of a war, taking place nearby. These disruptions of daily life in the soundtrack and the somewhat fractured editing from scene to scene, remind us that although we are in presence of daily life in all its universality and organicism, there’s always a dimension of mystery and unknown we cannot grasp.
Being part of the same generation of Philippine filmmakers as Brillante Mendoza, Mangansakan also believes in the contamination between documentary and fiction and how this is key to represent reality in all its beauty and complexity. This is felt not only in the mixture between professional actors, and non-actors but also in the open narrative: each scene has a fragmented feel to it within the whole film. At the center of this microcosm lies the river Daguluan. Its theme is circular within the film, it is the holder of peoples’ secrets: it gives life and takes it away.