By Mónica Delgado

Historic amnesia and negationism, these two adored practices by dictatorships, are posed by Lav Dias as a state of suspension. He imagines a near future, in the Philippines, where in the middle of a “Dark Killer”, the sunset and the turning of the days in eternal nights, a dictator finds the proper climate to keep cementing his power. The darkness blankets him, and the inhabitants left after the catastrophe, seem to be lethargic under this influence of fear.

If maybe the film is material for science fiction and horror, the codes of Lav Diaz’ cinema remain the same, that is to say, the dispositives of a film with long shots, of fixed cameras and dialogues in almost ghostly situations. Stopped times in situations of characters who seem to wonder, a contrasted black and white to draw this permanent state of oppression, and a soundtrack of noise music and heavy metal as catharsis (something which connects this film subtly with his last political film, Season of the Devil).

The film is focused in the character of Haminilda Rios, an amnesic woman with traumas who slowly starts to recover. She becomes a prostitute and gets near the environment of Dictator Nirvano S. Navarro, who is praised and permanently shielded by two lesbian coronels (Martha Officio and Marissa Ventura). And I mention this detail on the two “villainesses” sexual option, because it seems that this apocalypse without sun makes the women become hysteric, and thus, more sexual due to the lunar power. But this element of sexuality appears also in the dictator Navarro, who keeps his homosexuality and drag fetishism hidden. One might think that homosexuality appears as an aberration or condition linked to the dictatorial, and this is something that isn’t quite clear in Diaz’s proposal.

Ang Hupa is a tale about the recovery of historical memory, concentrated like a metaphor in the character of the solitary young woman who is in constant mourning (played by Shaina Magdayao) who will contain all the symbolic weight of this silence. It is a completely political film, in its way of making a caricature of the dictatorships and dormant societies, but also because it poses a way out, in the opportunity of recovering lost time by the new generations (and the ending reminds us in part of the infantile rebellions of films like Lord of the Flies or a subtle response of the classic Emperor Tomato Ketchup).

Nearly five hours long, this film was premiered in the Quinzaine de Réalisateurs, and might be one of the few films that was really political in all Cannes.

Quinzaine de Réalisateurs
Direction, script : Lav Diaz
Cinematography: Daniel Uy
Sound: Corinne De San Jose
Decoration: Lav Diaz
Editing: Lav Diaz
Cast: Hazel Orencio, Joel Lamangan, Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao
Philippines, 2019, 276 mins