Posts

On the Disinformation and Harassment Against ‘Tu Pug Imatuy’

By the Concerned Artists of the Philippines

We condemn the uploading of black propaganda against the film Tu Pug Imatuy (2017), directed by Arnel Barbarona who is a member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Set in Mindanao, Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill) revolves around the story of Manobo couple caught amidst anti-insurgency operations by the Philippine military in a community targetted for mining operations, inspired by a lumad’s actual account of similar events in the region. A notable work of independent, regional, and progressive cinema, the acclaimed film recently completed a series of screenings since its premiere and successive wins at the Sinag Maynila 2017 Film Festival, the Gawad Urian, and the Famas awards.

On September 21, an anonymously-produced video was uploaded and shared via Facebook. It branded Tu Puy Imatuy as a “deceptive indie film” full of untruths and with ties to the CPP-NDF-NPA. The video used film clips, obviously without permission from the filmmaker. It was flagged but continues to be uploaded across other fake news sites. Barbarona also noted a recent incident that points to the possibility of him being surveilled.

The release of such black propaganda is an assault on freedom of expression and the freedom of the artist to critique, reflect or respond to social realities. This sends the message that artistic and creative works that contradict the narrative of the Duterte administration can and will be attacked with impunity.

These acts of vilification on social media happen at a time when alarmist spectres are peddled to discredit criticism of the current economic crisis and political repression in the Philippines. These are no different from the Palace’s and the military’s singling out of critics or advocates from other sectors as “terrorists” and targets for harassment or worse. The Presidential Communications Operations Office, through Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, promotes the spread of dangerous disinformation. For, for instance, it interviewed supposed lumad leaders who want the peace talks scrapped and condemn alleged CPP-NPA killings of “legitimate” leaders—claims that are strongly contested by people’s organizations on the ground.

These cases of red baiting and surveillance are a dangerous throwback to the repression and proliferation of lies, rife during the Marcos dictatorship. Let us not not wait for these to escalate into full-blown harassment of artists and cultural workers or for such black propaganda to become normalized. We call upon our colleagues in the film industry to speak up against the incident and the wider phenomenon of McCarthyist red-baiting of dissent.

Stop the attacks on artists and cultural workers.
Stop the attacks on lumad and indigenous peoples communities.
Stop the attacks on the Filipino people.

A giant of a film waiting to be born

“Yield” is a film that has already made history by being included as finalist to six categories in this year’s 66th Famas Awards. It may be the first ever documentary film to be nominated in the best film and best director categories–traditionally exclusive to full-length feature films. It is also a finalist in the best cinematography, best editing, best sound, and best documentary film categories.

Yield’s co-director, cinematographer, editor, sound engineer Victor Delotavo Tagaro told Kodao the film will finally be launched after the Famas Awards ceremonies.

Following is Kodao’s short review of the film. (Tagaro was once a Kodao filmmaker.)

= = = =

Filipino feature films usually rely on long-winded dialogues to move their stories along.  Video documentaries, on the other hand, mostly rely on voiceovers to stitch its sequences together.  In both cases, they betray their radio drama roots by almost always describing what is already being shown.

Comes now Yield, a 90-minute pictorial feast that eschews the voice-over and the dialogue as story-telling tools.  The film relies almost entirely on the visual to bring the viewer from one situation to the next, in a bracing roller-coaster ride of both despair and hope.

The documentary does not reveal a script—an unconventional approach realized successfully by its directors.  There are no interviews either, the film firmly sticking to the unhindered interaction between the camera and the subjects.  Thus, there are no perspectives but the subjects’ and the viewers’ reactions are entirely their own, unencumbered by manipulative dialogue or an interviewer’s questions.

Instead, the film relies solely on gorgeous sequential cinematography to move the story along.  The deliberate composition of each frame and the beautiful movement of each sequence offer the viewers a visual tour-de-force that is unlikely to be forgotten in a long while.

Yield’s narrative benefits from this unusual and brave approach in filmmaking.  It is a presentation and discussion of the lives of poor children all over the Philippines that is un-proselytizing but pregnant, silent but incendiary.  It lets poor children tell their stories just by living, the camera recording them almost incidental.  It lets them tell the viewer a thing or two about their struggles to live—and die—with dignity.

Within an hour-and-a-half, the film takes us to five years of these children’s lives.  It also subtly reminds us while watching of the epic amount of dedication and creativity spent to produce it, as well as bonds and relationships formed between the filmmakers and the subjects in those five years of pain and joy, of loss and creation.

Yield is co-directed by its executive producer Toshihiko Uriu and Victor “Onin” Delotavo Tagaro who, to date, is most famous for his 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre documentary, “Sa Ngalan ng Tubo.”  He is also the primary cinematographer and editor of this TIU Cinema production.  The film’s unobtrusive yet powerful music is by Diwa Felipe de Leon

Whenever this documentary’s launch date may be, it should be marked as the day Philippine cinema gave birth to a giant of a film.—Raymund B. Villanueva