Interview with Lav Diaz (Extracts, Part III)

This is the third and last installment of my interview with Lav Diaz. Parts I and II can be found here and here. I have more material, but it needs to be incorporated into my chapters in order to make sense. So you will have to wait another year or so before you can read those passages 🙂

Nadin Mai: The brush was a good point. How familiar are you with the aesthetics of painting? If you remember I tried link your aesthetics to Chinese painting. There are so many similarities.

Lav Diaz: I didn’t become a filmmaker. Maybe I’m a painter or a musician, or a writer. So, it’s one of my passions, painting. Cinema and painting is almost the same in terms of playing with the light. Cinema is light, you know. You deal with the light. The same, painting is about light. You have to apply the same principle, the same philosophy. You’re like a painter. You’re sourcing the light of your work. You put the character, and then you check the sources, the particulars. What are the particulars? It’s about sourcing. The same with cinema. You just start doing the palette, the canvas. It’s about sourcing. Where is the light coming from? The very very first principle is the light with cinema and painting. So it’s almost the same.

NM: Are you still painting?

LD: I stopped. I couldn’t paint because of cinema.

NM: You didn’t have time, or you couldn’t focus on it anymore?

LD: I couldn’t focus. I respect that medium, so I don’t want to make it as a hobby. I can paint as a hobby. But I would feel bad for my peers, the real painters, who are really working hard to do painting, and I’m just doing it as a hobby. [laughs] That would be sad. The same with music. I want to compose songs but then I want to have focus also. I want to concentrate. It’s so easy to create music, really, for me. It’s so easy to compose songs. But then, I have to really focus so that I can be good. I don’t want to make it as a hobby also. It’s an easy thing to do for me, really. Compose songs. It’s really easy. I don’t want to make it like a hobby. Be able to make money out of it. No, no. It’s all hard work. You have to respect the medium. You have to be very responsible. Ethics – you put ethics always. You have to be very ethical. To be able to put (the medium) on a level on an art form.

NM: I don’t know whether you know the writer Milan Kundera.

LD: Of course I know Milan Kundera.

NM: He once argued that “a nation which loses awareness of its past gradually loses its self.” Is you filmmaking an act against forgetting in that sense?

LD: Yes, of course. That’s very true. It’s a very honest statement. If you forget the past, you can’t really move forward. You’re in denial. Everything becomes pseudo. Everything becomes fake. You create a persona. There’s no rootedness. It’s not rooted in anything. … It’s not an honest existence anymore. It’s also about nations that just forget the past. It becomes a myth. … The Philippines are like that. You keep forgetting things. We don’t have a sense of history. It’s a myth. How can you call yourself a nation if you don’t know how to confront the past? If you don’t examine the struggle, it’s not a nation at all. Nation is all about that. There is this holistic view of existence; the past is important. Memory is important.

NM: So you’re the memory-keeper.

LD: [laughs] Sort of. I don’t want to be accused of being a revisionist one day. Somebody will say: all these things are lies. He’s not saying the truth. I may be accused of that one day. I don’t know. I just throw the thing out. I’m just trying to be very ethical and honest about these things. But then, if it becomes a lie one day, then…I’m okay with that. The works are there. It will create a discourse. Then I’m okay with that also.

NM: Have you ever thought of ending your career as a filmmaker?

LD: Every day I want to stop. Every day. It’s just a struggle also.

NM: Why is that? Béla Tarr once said he had nothing more to say. He would repeat himself. So he stopped. And then Tsai Ming said that it’s really difficult to receive funding and he gets tired of it. He’s still making the short films with the Walker, but he doesn’t want to make feature films anymore.

LD: It’s a different position. I know Béla’s position and I can understand it. I love his works. I love him. But at the same time I have my own struggles also. The condition of my country is a different condition. If I stop, then one responsible artist is gone. So that keeps me going. Fuck Lav Diaz. It’s about the work. I want to keep doing the works, so that I can create a model, some template, some model that will even in a very small way help my culture. It’s a responsibility. That’s why I don’t want to stop. But give me the chance, and I just want to go home and take care of my grandson, man. I’m better that way. It’s better for me. I would feel better, because I miss my grandson every day. I love him. I want to be with the children. But at the same time, there is this greater struggle also, this greater responsibility that needs to be done. So maybe in three years I will stop. Maybe in two years. Maybe five more films, maybe three more films and I’m gone. If I say, oh it’s enough, I have this body of work that can sustain the so-called model that I want to do, then I’m okay. I’ll do a Béla Tarr and a Tsai Ming-liang [laughs]

NM: I think it’s quite brave to say, I’m fed up, I quit.

LD: Yes, it is actually. I admire them for doing that, and I’m jealous that they’re gone. I’m jealous. I want to stop also. I want to be with my family. Maybe three, five more films. [laughs]

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