The 4th .Mov International Film, Music, & Literature Festival included a workshop with film critic and author Chris Fujiwara, who also served as one of the judges in the festival. In this short interview, he talks about film criticism and his thoughts on Philippine cinema.
As a critic and journalist, you’ve written a lot about movies and cinematic sensibilities of different personalities. How do you approach a critique of a particular film? And do you always keep a specific audience in mind when you write about these films?
It’s a bit hard to answer the first question. I hope that when I write about a film, I approach it with a certain openness to what the film is doing, and I try to avoid boxing it in and defining it in advance by my own beliefs, values, and prejudices. But at the same time it’s difficult to free ourselves of our beliefs, values, and prejudices, and there is no requirement that we should, unless they prove to be inadequate or inappropriate to the real content of what we are facing (in a film, or in the world).
I sometimes have to keep a specific audience in mind when writing - for example, if I’m writing for a general newspaper, or a printed film magazine, or a cinephilic web site, in each case the readership is different, and I have to adjust myself.
This year’s festival pays tribute to the late film critics Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc. What sort of legacy do they leave behind in terms of the international audience’s appreciation of movies that come from the Philippines?
Alexis was a tireless proponent of Philippine cinema, and he helped bring films from the Philippines to the attention of people all over the world. He also helped promote the awareness that there were complex interconnections among many of these films.
Where do you see criticism heading towards, particularly here in the Philippines? Do you see a resurgence or a decline in the next few years?
I don’t know enough about the situation of criticism in the Philippines. I know Oggs Cruz’s writing, and Noel Vera’s, though he’s based in the United States. I’d assume film criticism in the Philippines faces problems that are directly linked to the conditions of exhibition of independent films. I’m fairly optimistic about the prospects for film criticism around the world, and I think that in the Philippines there is every reason to believe there will be a resurgence. You have so many people making interesting films that it seems unthinkable that there wouldn’t be people to write about them, and readers for that writing.
What place do films made in the Philippines hold in world cinema? What direction is Philippine cinema gearing towards?
I think already the situation has become like this: so many interesting films are coming out of the Philippines that, even though it might have seemed possible four or five years ago, it’s no longer possible for international festivals or critics to identify a certain type of film that the Philippines is good at making, or a precise role that films from the Philippines play in world cinema. The Philippines is simply an Asian country that has a number of filmmakers who are recognized auteurs, and where new filmmakers always seem to be emerging or about to emerge. Most of these filmmakers are dealing in some way with what might be called questions of national identity, and it wouldn’t surprise me if in the next few years there were a reaction away from this tendency, with filmmakers making more globalized films, or films on subjects that have no particular local stamp.
Do you have any particular filmmaker that you find interesting and would definitely watch out for?
You mean filmmakers from the Philippines? I could mention some famous names, but that’s not necessary. There were some interesting short films in the Silvershorts competition in the .MOV Fest, for which I was on the jury. I’d mention especially Mark Mirabuenos’s Cut, Lito Tabay’s Undo, Jet Leyco’s Blank, Gym Lumbera’s Because of You, and Jon Lazam’s The Moon Is Not Ours, which took the top prize. I look forward to seeing the future work by those directors, and by some of the others in the competition, too.
You can see more of Chris Fujiwara’s writings at http://www.insanemute.com/
For more on the Silvershorts and the Festival proper, go here.