Keimena #24: Ának Araw
by Gym Lumbera

Monday May 29, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Ának Araw, 2013, Philippines/USA, 70 min.
Director: Gym Lumbera

Gym Lumbera’s Ának Araw begins with words on the screen: a procession of basic English nouns accompanied by pictographic representations. These are followed by their live-action representations, subtitled in Tagalog. Words, but no dialogue.

Though the conceit is never fully revealed, the film follows a Filipino albino who, believing he is of American descent, teaches himself English using a dictionary. Like other Filipino filmmakers of his generation, Lumbera’s central concern is the postcolonial imagination. Set in the 1950s, the film seamlessly integrates original celluloid footage with archive material in various shadings and scratchings. The effect recreates a psychological state of overlapping binaries: the countryside and the city; man and animal; colonizer and colonized; documentary and fiction; life and death.

An astonishing, genre-defying debut feature, Ának Araw is itself an avant-garde work of cinematic translation, taking piecemeal from history for its own use. It evokes the early silent ethnographic films of Robert Flaherty, the American experimental cinema of Hollis Frampton, the Filipino (re)creation of a filmic past that never existed by filmmakers like Raya Martin, and the European art film represented by Béla Tarr. And that’s just the first ten minutes—the jungle boogie brass band and Nat King Cole’s legendary rendition of the Filipino classic Dahil Sa’yo come later. Constantly renaming and transmuting, Lumbera moves fluidly between spaces in a suspended portrait of people unable to define themselves through language. Ának Araw’s soulful magic is summed up by the onscreen juxtaposition of two other contiguous Tagalog words: pagaginip—“dream”—and panahón—“time.”

—Mark Peranson, writer, curator, and director

Posted in Public TV on 05.29.2017