Still from Sakada Dir: Behn Cervantes, Philippines, 1976, 118 min., Tagalog with English subtitles
A screening of Behn Cervantes political drama Sakada
(1976) is followed by a conversation between artists Yason Banal, Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho as part of Melodrama Against Dictatorship
. This two-part programme features films produced in the Philippines during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship which elaborate methodologies of political consciousness through cinematic means.
Sakada dramatizes the class politics embedded in the sugar industry of Negros, a monocrop island located in the central region of the Philippines. Beginning with the killing of a worker by a plantation security guard, the film escalates into a sweeping allegory of suffering and redemption that simultaneously deconstructs the machinery of power within a semi-feudal society. Subversively delivering angry, melodramatic excess in a time of martial law, the film was quickly pulled from theatres soon after its release, with all remaining copies seized by the military, and the filmmaker Cervantes promptly arrested.
The conversation following the screening will cover the artists' respective research projects around the Manila Film Center and the Negros sugar industry, weaving together responses to Sakada
and Werner Schroeter’s experimental documentary Der Lachende Stern (The Laughing Star)
(1983), which screens on 26 June.
Ferdinand Marcos was, according to film scholar Talitha Espiritu, ‘a master of political spectacle, and melodrama was both the mode and modus operandi of his statecraft.’ The Marcos rule was characterized by plunder and crony capitalism in the economic sphere, in combination with a ‘renaissance’ of culture under the auspices of the state, spearheaded by the First Lady Imelda Marcos. Overflowing state support for cultural production and infrastructure was coupled with intensified censorship and repression. Under such conditions, cinema became a particularly fraught site in which the regime attempted to anchor its legitimacy, and through which numerous artists risked staging their resistance.
Just months after taking office in 2016, current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a known admirer of Marcos, successfully pushed forward plans to bury the preserved body of the late dictator at the National Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila. This dramatic gesture of historical revisionism is one of a series of attempts to infuse the present with nostalgia for an authoritarian past and with romance for a neo-imperial future. Continuing to govern in alignment with Marcos’ rule, Duterte could be thought of as another master melodramatist in the contemporary age of digital media.
Yason Banal’s (born 1972, Manila, Philippines) practice takes form across installation, photography, video, performance, text, curating and pedagogy exploring myriad intersections and refractions among seemingly divergent systems. He has been to invited to artist residencies at Kunsternes Hus Olslo , AIT Tokyo and CCA Singapore and his work has been exhibited widely including at Tate Modern, London; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Vargas Museum, Manila; Singapore Biennale; Shanghai Biennale; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung City; and the Asia Film Archive, Singapore. Banal represented the Philippines at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. He obtained a BA in Film at the University of the Philippines, and an MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. Banal is Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute and head of its Film Center.
Amy Lien (born 1987, Dallas, U.S.A) and Enzo Camacho (born 1985, Manila, Philippines) are collaborating artists, whose practice often draws on translocational formations of culture and discourse. Within this roving sensibility and method, Lien and Camacho also often engage with Philippine histories and contemporary circumstances. They have held solo exhibitions at the Hessel Museum at Bard, Annadale-on-Hudson; Green Papaya Art Projects, Quezon City; 47 Canal, New York; and Mathew Gallery, Berlin and have participated in group exhibitions at the Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover; the Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok; and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. They have been Artists-in-Residence at Sa Sa Art Projects, Phnom Penh; am Artspace, Shanghai; the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore; and Gluck50, Milan. Their writing has been published in Flash Art and Texte Zur Kunst, among others. They received their BA from Harvard University, and their MFA from the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, Germany.