Tuškanac Cinema / Sunday, 21 May / 4.30 pm

When the Waves Are Gone / Kapag wala nang mga alon

The Philippines, France, Portugal, Denmark, 2022, 187'
Director: Lav Diaz · Screenplay: Lav Diaz · Photography: Larry Manda · Editing: Lav Diaz · Producer: Bianca Balbuena, Bradley Liew, Joaquim Sapinho, Jean-Christophe Simon – Sine Olivia Pilipinas, Epicmedia Productions, Films Boutique · Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Ronnie Lazaro, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Dms Boongaling

Lieutenant Hermes Papuran, one of the Philippines’ top investigators, runs into a huge moral dilemma. As a police officer, he is witness to a murderous anti-drug campaign being carried out by his institution. The crimes committed are ruining Hermes physically and mentally, which leads him to develop a skin condition. While seeking treatment, he is haunted by his dark past and ultimately forced to deal with it.

Lav Diaz describes the plot of his latest film as a simple revenge story. While some may be reminded of The Count of Monte Cristo, Diaz himself states that just like with his other films, he was inspired by Dostoevsky, and of course the moral abyss of his native Philippines. This monochromatic political epic presents another chapter in Diaz’ chronicles about the corruption and brutality of the Duterte era, which he has mercilessly criticized for years. In the meanwhile, the authoritarian Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte has supposedly retired from politics, but continues to pull the strings from behind the scenes. The recent election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (son of the infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.) as president shows that Diaz might have to keep bravely confronting the fascist-minded nationalists for quite some time to come. In When the Waves Are Gone, two enemies – two evil lieutenants – mirror each other, trying to outwit their own reflections. This is a classic plot of Western films, as well as film noir – a long-awaited and inevitable confrontation between two violent men who have unfinished business. Diaz absolves his protagonists of moral redemption and exempts the viewer from identifying with them, expressing an utter sense of hopelessness through some visually fascinating shots and elliptic narrative detours, this time shot on 16mm film and relatively modest in its mere three-hour duration. Perhaps Diaz’ most explicitly political film so far, this is a bitter diatribe against his fellow countrymen who eternally repeat cycles of oppression and subjugation to their exploiters. (DP)

Awards and festivals:

Venice Film Festival (2022) – world premiere; Busan IFF (2022); Seville European Film Festival (2022), International Film Festival of India (2022) – Jury Award for best director

Lav Diaz is a Filipino independent filmmaker and a key member of the slow cinema movement born in 1958. His films describe the socio-political situation in his homeland, while simultaneously captivating the audience with their visual poetics and meticulously elaborated frames. His film Melancholia won the Orizzonti Grand Prize at Venice International Film Festival in 2008. Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History) was shown in 2013 in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, and won the award for best camera work. Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What Is Before) won the Golden Leopard at Locarno, and his eight-hour-long film Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) won the Silver Bear and the Alfred Bauer Prize for films that open new perspectives.