Monday, September 30, 2013


"There’s a literal inscription of the semiotics of global capitalism on the bodies of people who cannot appear otherwise. There’s a very interesting film that I’ve written a lot about by the Filipino director Khavn de la Cruz, called Squatter Punk. He goes into really impoverished slums of Manila, and makes his film using children, whose very appearance for some audience members, produces abjection. Watching the kids swim in horribly polluted water makes you feel weird as a first world subject, because you know if you went into that water you’d be dead.

"What’s interesting is that Khavn takes liberties with the image of these children’s bodies that would not be admissible in the standard documentary tradition. He actually uses them as a substrate of inscription: he uses a chroma key to make the screen red when the kids are sniffing glue, he solarizes the image to create unbelievable (and indeed beautiful) contrasts. The children become the substrate for his artwork, for his expressive practice. On the one hand this seems extremely violent, until you realize he’s saying something about digitality in general. It’s these bodies — and people surviving and living in this condition – that underlie every digital image; in Khavn’s film you can actually see them there. It’s a very dialectical way of seeing, in which you see the blood in the image. The other side of globalization –the same globalization which brought about the “digital revolution” — seeps through the pixilated screen.

. . .

"The third cinema movement taught me a lot, not only about struggles of decolonization but also the operations of Hollywood in mainstream cinema. Built into third cinema, in a way similar but more comprehensive than even Godard, was a radical critique of Hollywood practices. Solanas and Getino said Hollywood film is more effective than napalm. I wanted to understand this medium, which was seen both as a force of domination and, also, possibly, a force of resistance and transformation. I started studying revolutionary film from the Soviet period and various cinemas of decolonization. Third cinema, the cinema of liberation, brought worlds to spectators in new ways – ways that felt and in some ways were catalytic.

"When I got to the Philippines, I became very interested in Philippine cinema, because there was a strong tradition of protest cinema. Lino Brocka, who is one of the greatest filmmakers ever, made about 50 films, probably twenty of which were social realist protest films, in which you saw the subjective desires of the protagonist destroyed by the structure of reality (the real relations) that had the characters trapped. By the time you left the film, if you were rooting for the hero, who was first and underdog and then destroyed, the only way to make good on his or her desire for justice was to see that it required and general justice that required nothing short of a revolution. That was the logic of these films."

- Jonathan Beller

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