"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