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Kawts Kamote will be no more

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You are now here and not in that dark-themed Kawts Kamote blog.

I’ve been trying for a long time to switch to WordPress. Fucking blogger templates are not hipster-friendly and they eat a lot of bandwidth. I only had the time and the “wit” (yikes) to think of a blog name.

So this is now “Missing Codec” which, as you may now, a common error for those who were starting to use PCs to run media (films, music, whatever) files they have downloaded over the internet or for those who are editing videos using old versions of Video Editor for PCs. Recently, these thought of errors by missing supporting files have been attractive to me as much as it irritates me back then, goes to show how much further does the science of computing need to go to attain the Ultimate Stand-Alone program to be released. But, as you may have realized now, stand-alone programs are for the lazy, codec packs are still the way to go, and they are fucking open-source, so, better.

The title, I think, also is going to be the central idea that would unite all of those which I’ve written before and what I would write in the future. I’ll be transferring some posts (especially recent ones) from Kawts Kamote, (which, by the time of this post, is going to be disabled and unpublished) with supplemental editing and commentaries for some.

This will be the new domain, and I thank you for visiting my new mistake.

Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino in Dialogue

submitted as a paper for Media 220 – Media Literacy under Prof. Nathan Rondina

Back in January 2017, Sen. Vicente Sotto III submitted a resolution to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to solve the problems he perceived from the 2016 edition of Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). He perceived that the low audience turnout of last year’s December fest, which he blamed to the removal of the commercial viability criteria, was “detrimental to the workers of the industry.” (Rappler) He suggests that to have the festival take place over the long semestral break. On May 5, 2017, MMFF announced that they will be accepting both film scripts and completed films for this year’s edition, contrary to just accepting completed works from last year’s. (Chua) This announcement resulted from studio films participating again in the upcoming fest.

Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair, Liza Dino-Seguerra announced on a press conference last April 26 about a week-long festival for Filipino films which “emulate Filipino sensibilities and culture” to take place in August 16 to 22. The films to join the festival, dubbed as Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP), will be sourced from submissions and will be screened at a maximum of 60 theaters (Film Development Council of the Philippines) which later was extended to 100+ theaters. The fest was supported by the National Cinema Association of the Philippines (NCAP) and SM Lifestyle Entertainment.

Interestingly, no one has yet to point the absurd parallelism of this. Even filmmaker Arnel Mardoquio’s open letters for Dino-Seguerra have pointed out that she’s merely protecting the “EntengKabiSotto” consciousness of the MMFF by not disclosing data on the profit of the PPP, but his letters never really extend to the connection from the two statements mentioned above (Factolerin). Mardoquio’s letter, however, opened for a discussion that could be relevant to the on-going issues on labor and bureaucracy in the film scene.

Both instances seem to serve the same end. Although FDCP do not explicitly dubbed the PPP as a fest to cater only independent works, the selection of the participant films otherwise affirms Sen. Sotto’s suggestion to the MMDA. The instance has solved Sotto’s problem without MMDA acting on it. It is as if FDCP has compromised, if we are looking at it as if we are saying that the “indies” are at the losing side of this. (It is interesting to point out that the FDCP Chair’s partner-in-life has a very close affiliation with the Actor-Senator).

But like in the 2016 MMFF, this has never been the game of the “indies” to begin with.

While the productions may have been “independent,” the distributors aren’t. Of the 12 films selected for the PPP, ABS-CBN Film Productions have 5 films on distribution (Triptiko, AWOL, Patay na si Hesus, Salvage, Hamog), Solar Films, the biggest gainer of the 2016 MMFF, has distributed 3 films in PPP (Paglipay, Pauwi Na, Birdshot), rest of the films have their own individual distributors, but all are still huge film scene players: Viva Films has 100 Tula Para kay Stella, Quantum Films has Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B, Unitel has Star na si Van Damme Stallone, and PPP partner, SM Lifestyle, has its own film Bar Boys participating. One can’t really say that the others are actually independent studios. One should ask, independent of what? Viva Films has already been around as one of the larger studios during the late 80s, Solar is a major broadcast, cable and film player for decades now, Quantum films has been moving large capital swinging from Star Cinema co-productions to co-producing Film Festival grantees, Unitel has TV5-Smart capital circulating it, and of course SM Lifestyle isn’t actually what we can call as a company involved in any independent industry.

These events in the Philippine film scene further blurs the notion of what an independent work is in the public discourse. But the FDCP Chair’s agenda has been clear about this: “[PPP] aims to blur out the lines” between indie and mainstream. “Just well-made films,” said the FDCP chair. (Sallan) The campaign was successful. Either participant films from the studios are being dubbed/marketed as indie (Selim) or independently produced works not mentioning the term. It also helped promote with certain hegemonizing quality the notion of assessing films just with its form, as most reviews of films, both from critics and audience, point out how well-made a film is.

This flattening of the semiotic scope of “film,” indistinctive of its mode of production, was helped by the distribution machineries of the studios. In the end, both the regulation changes at the MMFF and the PPP served for the benefit of the bigger studios. By denying the dichotomy between the independents and the studios, PPP and its assessors deny the difference in labor required to produce a certain film. With these contradictions in mind, we are forced to ask, from where does the FDCP Chair speak when she says that she intends to “blur the lines”? Of whose interest really does another film fest serve?  In the end, by aestheticizing films by assessing it as merely “films”, without acknowledging its political economy, alienates the end-product to its laborers. It isn’t much different with Sen. Sotto’s argument of films as entertainment.

Works Cited

Chua, Zharlene B. “Changes in the criteria for entries to 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival stirs controversy.” Business World 16 May 2017: 9/S2.

Film Development Council of the Philippines. PRESS RELEASE: FDCP Partners with Theaters to Hold the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Manila: Film Development Council of the Philippines Media Desk, 2017.

Rappler. Sotto files Senate resolution for indie film fest. 05 January 2017. 26 August 2017 <https://www.rappler.com/entertainment/news/157459-tito-sotto-senate-resolution-indie-film-festival-semestral-break&gt;.

Sallan, Edwin B. “FDCP head Liza Diño slams critics of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.” 11 July 2017. Interaksyon. 26 August 2017 <http://www.interaksyon.com/fdcp-head-liza-dino-slams-critics-of-pista-ng-pelikulang-pilipino/&gt;.

Selim, Chandral. “‘AWOL’ joins Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino!” 30 June 2017. Star Cinema. 26 August 2017 <http://starcinema.abs-cbn.com/2017/6/30/news/awol-joins-pista-ng-pelikulang-pilipino-26615&gt;.

 

 

Two Ways of Alienation

on TBA’s I’m Drunk, I Love You

Mark Fisher, in 2009, stated: the pervading notion that the success of capitalism is set in-stone – granted by the failure of USSR to sustain its socialist-construction economy leading to its apparent fall back in 1989 (along with Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history) –  continues to prevail and is now presenting itself as the only realistic political-economic system that there will be, despite the crisis of 2008. He calls this Capitalist Realism. Seeping through our daily lives posing as “nature of things,” is this notion that to get through the daily struggles, one must exchange one’s time and skill for a certain rate not necessarily for one’s own gain, but enough to sustain our needs and desire. This, in return, validates and enforces the following notion: that work is exhausting and draining and therefore, something to escape: who you are, then, is outside of what you do. Capitalist realism also enforces a certain kind of essentialism: since a person can’t be identified with his work, it must be in leisure time that one’s identity is to be known. In the little details, in their feelings, in the time of non-work, is where you are to be found.

In an earlier essay by Edel Garcellano (2001), he pointed out that what Fisher described as Capitalist realism necessarily governs the rules (of the game, of engagement, and even the lines of resistance) of what is being produced in literary works (and the dominant way of reading/interpreting texts) in this country after 1989: Capitalist Realism as the hermeneutics of our time. It is in the same lens of “an impossibility of thinking of any alternative” that I’m Drunk, I Love You was told. In the film, we follow a Film student, Dio (Paolo Avelino), and a social work and development student, Carson (Maja Salvador), on their getaway in La Union days before their graduation ceremonies. The film is strategically set at a time when we cannot observe who the characters say they are. We were never really given any plot points about them being the students. Never a visual cue, it requires a certain faith from the audience that they will believe that to whatever or whoever the characters say they identify with is true. The identification of the characters relied heavily on the verbal exchanges.

Not much is given about who the characters are in a material sense. We are not given an introduction of their concrete lives. The film was set up to avoid such. As mentioned earlier, the film focuses on a leisure time – a time when their labor is at rest. We see the characters merrily chatting and getting intoxicated. But this minor space in their lives is where the film situates its characters as their sole source of truth. We can only rely on what they are talking about on hints about their lives: their struggles, their concerns, their achievements or the lack of it. The film is not concerned about them being the kind of students they say they are. The film is more concerned about the feelings the characters may have on each other, and what would be the effect of these feelings on their connections. The film’s conflict revolves around Carson’s hesitance over whether or not she would tell Dio about her feelings towards him. Dio has the same dilemma over Pathy (Jasmin Curtis-Smith), an ex-partner who looks to fix their old relationship.

All of the information about the characters are relayed through and depended on their verbal exchanges. This narrative technique places a more natural sense of spectatorship: that you, as an audience-spectator, are a stranger. Although there are attempts to win your sympathy due to their concerns, the set-up remains as such that none of the larger portion of their lives are any of your business. The wall has been built between you and the film by not having seen the way they perform their supposed identities. But faith is being placed on you to react accordingly on every song, mood plays, and every hugot lines.

Alienation works in two ways in this film for the characters. First, is the alienation of their labor by privileging their leisure time over their labor-time. It has been established in the film that the relationship the characters had were founded not in the commonality of their relations in labor-production, but of their relations on commodities they could have access at and consume. They are oblivious of the fact that what they are as friends and companions are merely founded on items of which perceived exclusivity to access is the key: music gigs, local cuisine, corporate events posing as cultural festivals; relationships founded on safety nets, safe spaces and comfort food. Relationships which are founded from the exploits of their dead labor.

Second, is the characters’ alienation to their own mental faculties. It is interesting that its characters, especially Carson, tend to blurt out their kept wishes verbally as if their brains can no longer hold them. There are two scenes with Carson: first, when she woke up next to Dio, she mumbled about how beautiful a scene it was; second, was when before they leave La Union, Pathy went out for the loo, Carson took a few steps back and whispered her wish for Pathy not to come back too soon. There is probably a reason to this. There really might be too much stress in Carson’s brain that it cannot contain a moment’s wish and instantly displace it verbally. But since we are not given a chance to take a peek on her life, we can only assume things.

What I’m Drunk, I Love You succeeded the most is its conversion of the communicative feature of the cinematic medium into a merely transactional one: a complete privatization of the cinematic space of which none of the preceding events nor histories relating to the building-up of identities of the characters presented in the film really matter except those which are built on non-productive times (a feature not really exclusive with this film, but the intensity of the extension of the private space in this film is quite remarkable). In a scene where Jason Ty (Dominic Roco) plays a game with Carson to remember an act she did for Dio on each year they have known each other, what we are being presented is not much of a history which moves in progression. If anything passes as history at all, it is only that these recollections were supplied with given dates. A posture of empty empiricism, it is nothing but a quiz bee anyway.

I’m Drunk, I Love You is not a symptom, but a complete manifestation of the dominating notion of this celebratory neoliberal defeatism to capital. The formula is complete: rampant consumerism and commodification as a way of validating one’s self (remember that small conversation wherein they choose to talk about being featured at Young Star as a benchmark of a young artists’ success?) which results to a person’s alienation from labor (which denies us the concrete history of each character) and from his own psyche (paraphrasing Fisher, how does it become acceptable that Carson is this mentally dysfunctional?).

Being a Capitalist Realist film, I’m Drunk, I Love You is incapable of imagining an exit plan or an alternative from the whole system which governs Dio and Carson. As a result of its complex relation to the ruling economic and class structures, the film also tends to convert the Capitalist Realist un-imaginativeness to its own form. The end may seem to be open, but this is exactly is its limit of articulation: that it can’t imagine anything but an open end. The film’s open-endedness is not an invitation for any more speculation nor does not serve to be a nuanced one. It’s an ending which is just served “as it is”: as a sign, in case we forget that their lives are not our business.

 

References:

Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. London: Zero Books.

Garcellano, Edel (2001). Philippine Hermeneutics: Kingpins of the Hill. In Knife’s Edge: Selected Essays. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

Rhizomes everywhere

I’m merely repeating Deleuze and Guattari.

I

Just a while ago, my 7 year old nephew woke up crying. I can’t comprehend what he was trying to say to me. He probably woke up from a nightmare. Then he started talking clearly, and pointed out something below the couch where he was sleeping. I asked him again to talk clearly. He said something about an 11, then a 21. I still couldn’t grasp his words. At first, I figured that he’s talking about a money which he probably left at school. Then, he cried mumbling words I can’t comprehend. Then started drawing in air a rectangle. He said: “magulo yung ginawa ko” (what I did was messy). I asked again if it’s about money, he said, “alam ko twenty-one saka labing-isa yon. Akala ko dalawa yung gagawin.” I now got it then that it was about the quiz results.

The younger generation has been blamed for their fragility. Oftentimes I make fun of their older counter parts (fuck me, but millennials really do suck with their safe spaces and all) but only those who do not really have any sense of struggle in life. But for someone like my nephew, who barely know anything outside of his home, who barely know what a good work is because no one has said it to him, he probably have a lot in mind about being a disappointment. He later on cried about being upset to himself, but never really articulated it as such, only adding up to his pain.

If anything is to be blamed for the fragility of the younger ones, it isn’t much of the parents’ mistakes, but they do partake in it. This society of control, as Deleuze and Guattari once called it, has broken down its formerly hierarchical power to redistribute surveillance and disciplinary authority towards to what we call the basic unit of society: the family. Church-goers lessen in numbers by the year, not because there are lesser believers now, but because the church (as an embodiment of religious guilt) now has a strong presence inside the home. Which also explains the high approval of the law enforcement and the military from the common households.

But these never really started at home. Rather, this redistribution of control breed upon a new culture of consent towards state violence. Deleuze and Guattari’s dream of a rhizomic society came true in the appropriation of it by the state. The state, even with its multiple crises, survived by having its disciplinary authority distributed among its population. But the society of control is still arborial only as much as each social unit is concerned. Neoliberalism enabled the distribution of bureaucracy to a larger number of populace which in effect, gave out an illusion of freedom.

The irony of the society of control being rhizomic is its fullest form.

It is understandable that this kind of environment breeds anxiety. The fast-paced lifestyle requires one to be in control of almost anything, which includes other people’s behaviors. Now that the competition for the control of one another, is not just against each other human being, but also against machines. While it is indeed troubling, the situation of higher rate of anxiety and depression among the youth is not at all surprising if we are to consider the historical progressions of technology along-side with the growth of the society of control. The young ones were left to devices as a form of entertainment while both of their parents are at work make their thinking process accelerated. They could have been thinking faster than you are that you can no longer catch up with them. But being the control freak adults that we are, we intervene. And these multiple interventions are what breeds this wide-spread anxiety.

We received the note: democracy is control.

Let’s boast about diversity while the Department of Education, on their school curriculum, highlights mostly the ruling class and their interest on their arts, literature and humanities subjects. The platform is freer for the instructor, more democratic, but still within the limits of class control.

Would a child be lesser without them knowing who the national artists are? How about the newly passed House bill about the national anthem? Why should this obsession over music formalism any of our basic concern?

Let’s wait for new forms of anxiety to emerge.

II

Corruption fundamentally does not, and cannot afford to live in tree-like hierarchy/oligarchy anymore. Historical development on the flows of capital moved machine assemblage towards creating a body without organs. Such as most “organizations” no longer involve decreasing power distributions down the line, but of connecting functionalities. These functionalities are settled via contracts. Its limits are only the limit needed of a certain machine assemblage, but it does not mean it gets stuck. Rhizomes, unlike a tree’s trunk, expands horizontally. Its nutrients are made to multiply the organism, not to make it larger. It functions by decentralization, in a sense, democratic. It is in such that corruption function. It could be said that it’s even an “advanced” or a “true” mode of democracy. Organized crime groups, by the virtue of the first two words, follows suit through codes accepted and agreed upon by its members. Like bulbs, for a group’s code not to expand would cost its life-line to deplete.

Bilibid and its 13 gangs, function as a rhizome.

The power relations between the Bureau of Corrections, its affiliate offices, and the gangs cannot be understood hierarchically but only through looking at it solely as a roots-based structure. Like grassfields, insects and wind needing each other to spread the grass lands and live.

Offices and organizations obviously have their own little hierarchy in place but it is only to support a wider relations beyond their own. It is not without irony when Sigue-Sigue Commando chairman, Jaybee Sebastian claimed that he’s more or less a king and a servant at the same time. An argument also raised by most business and NGO leaders. They function in the same way. But this isn’t because it is “the nature” of things, but this is enabled by the system which encapsulates them. Late Capitalism only require a certain authoritarianism to function and sustain itself, more or less, a managerial one. It is in such reality (or realism) that the Bilibid Gangs live. I can argue that they are actually function in a more ideal mode of capitalism.

And why not? Jaybee himself run a foundation to help the families of his constituent-co-inmates. Herbert Colangco also argues the same way that he wants to retain his recording studio to “appease the feelings of his fellow inmates.” The idea of philanthropy from excess capital sustains the system, also itself, a rhizomatic process. It deterritorializes the capital from the inside and reterritorializes it out to the families. In return, the families became part of it and supports whatever system they made out to be.

The Bureau of Corrections chief interviewed by Discovery Channel rationalizes the manner they run things inside the Bilibid as a maintenance of “peace and order”. To say, a maintenance of their status quo. So, if anyone gets replaced within the structure, it is not due to some antagonism, but for the maintenance of this peace and order. We can trust Sebastian when he mentioned that he was elected “democratically” as a chairman just 2 years after he entered prison. Every movement is decided not because of a grand evil scheme, but actually to sustain and broaden the system. In business terms, for expansion.

The same could be said on the incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima. It is not to defend that de Lima may have nothing to do with it, but, like any system of corruption, it is a rhizomatic move. She is to be replaced since the structure requires her to be. The function, then, of the President Rodrigo Duterte, is not much to give justice or expose injustices (surely, most government officials from the higher positions know the structure of corruption they are in), but to replace de Lima by another piece of machine assemblage. The president’s campaign to uphold the “rule of law” and “peace and order” echoes the rationale of the BuCor chief. The mandate itself, is not for justice, but for maintenance of the existing order.

A theory: the council of chair persons in the Bilibid were told after President Duterte was inaugurated that a change must be done if they want to retain whatever they have inside. Due to the 2014 raids, the chairpersons decided to drop de Lima from the structure and let the President appoint anyone he likes so that the links of capital flows will run smooth for the new administration. The president, then, exposed in a privilege speech about de Lima knowing about the drug trade in the prisons. Senate investigation followed suit.

The seemingly scripted scenario of the happenings is not without its structure. Something is surely being protected. And this is not to cause any ruptures or discontinuity on the capital flows in the prison market.

Lovers in Dystopia

Notes on Nestor Abrogena’s Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa

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“The unique thing about Empire is that it has expanded its colonization over the whole of existence and over all that exists. It is not only that Capital has enlarged its human base, but it has also deepened the moorings of its jurisdiction. Better still, on the basis of a final disintegration of society and its subjects, Empire now intends to recreate an ethical fabric, of which the hipsters, with their modular neighborhoods, their modular media, codes, food, and ideas, are both the guinea pigs and the avant-garde.”
Tiqqun, This Is Not a Program

During the past days, commenting on filmmakers (and even critics) who comment negatively on the theoretical practice of film analysis, I mentioned through one of my social media accounts manners of which they perceive how film must be appreciated. They only but affirm Edel Garcellano’s comment on film industry’s cohorts who deem cinema as “an enterprise which needs all the compassion it must have – a baby that must be protected even from the harsh light of the sun” and thus wary of any criticism that uses other lenses than the formal knowledge of the medium. Nestor Abrogena’s Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa is a product of this cinema culture. In this film, we are faced with a seemingly new kind of cinema: a cinema with no theory and history. No theory in the sense that the frames the film conjure tries to resist any more symbolization than it already has: a posture of realism as Real. No history in the way it treats history as its object of nostalgia and nothing more. It begs to be taken as it is. While this isn’t exclusively the genesis of such practice in filmmaking, it is otherwise a candidate as its posterboy. Continue reading “Lovers in Dystopia”

History Lessons

on Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna

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It was one of the perks, I guess, of using an outdated text book back when I was in fifth grade primary school to still read bits and traces of the nationalist-democratic movement’s thought in the popular mindset back then. It was in the discussion of post-colonial to fifties Philippine history back then that I get to learn terms such as “globalization” and “neocolonialism”, the conditions by which the IMF and the World Bank was founded, and how the Philippines became indebted to it. Which is why it comes as a surprise to me that most college students I get to talk to recently does not have an idea what these terms are or these establishments are for, or, if I get to find by luck, a certain student know only bits of it too: just the definition or only being left to the informational level (in Barthes’ terms) of the word’s meaning. Continue reading “History Lessons”

Notes on Godzilla Resurgence and Love & Peace

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Godzilla Resurgence (left); Love & Peace (right)

Two sides of the same sentiment, but of different political position. Both has something to do with United States’ Nuclear Terror attack back in 1945. Both uses the Kaiju as a metaphor to the Nuclear bomb.

First, Hideaki Anno’s and Shinji Higuchi’s Godzilla Resurgence (2016) as outright rightist, friendly to imperialist US but with critical distance. (Wrote a 600+ word review on this, will probably appear somewhere soon, if not, I’ll just post it here.)

Second, Sion Sono’s Love and Peace, mostly anti-government critique of the use of languages of development, love and peace to censor the nuclear threat and history. Such a way that its critique also goes to neo-liberal politics and literature.

What they both may have missed is that, they both aligned with the government’s and Japanese mainstream historian’s effort to censor Japan’s war crimes from the Sino-Japanese war (Nanjing Massacre) to the World War II (Comfort Women issue), in exchange of their victim stance due to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

My guess, since I only have the privilege of guessing and not actually witnessing, is that their text books must have soften the narration of the nuclear attack perpetrated to them by the end of World War II, hence the production of literature such as these two not to forget that the attacks were an atrocity; terrorism.

I don’t know if Sono’s trying to address all the Japanese war issues one by one (both the nuclear attacks and the Japanese war crimes), whenever I think about the Comfort Women issue, images from the last part of Tag (2015) appears in my mind. This might be a possible reading, but might be negated otherwise, I can re-watch the film to validate, if I find the time.