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CEOs on Norte: “A master’s vision, a magnificent work of art that hits you in the gut.”

September 09, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 4 Comments →


Seeing a Lav Diaz film on the big screen is a transporting and fairly rare experience. Starting tomorrow, September 10, Filipino moviegoers can experience a Lav Diaz film for themselves as Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan opens in five Metro Manila theatres.

Norte has gotten rave reviews from critics and film students the world over, but what about the other sectors of the moviegoing public? Last week, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala hosted a screening of Norte for friends. Here are some of their reactions.

“Those who have the fortitude to sit through Norte will be gifted with a master’s uncompromising vision of love versus hate; alienation versus closeness; inaction versus action; cause and effect; crime and retribution; the inherent injustice of the universe; and perhaps, but only perhaps, salvation.” – Roberto Cuenca

“I was literally stunned by Norte. Certain images are still haunting me now. I never imagined I would survive the 4-hour running time, but at the end I did not believe it was over.” – Girlie Rodis

“Norte is an engrossing, challenging and ultimately enriching cinematic experience. An unparalleled study of individual, nation and family in the Philippine context that remained in my consciousness long after leaving the theatre. Norte deserves all the acclaim it has received and the support of audiences in the Philippines and the world over.” – Teddy Manotoc

“Norte drew me into its pace and cadence. The lighting and cinematography were excellent, particularly at night, and the juxtapositions of Laoag settings with those of Manila were good. The themes were many and prescient—the duality of wealth but absent overseas worker parents versus the humble, values-driven closer-knit family, the lack of fair justice, the penitentiary system, the usurious lending structure for those that cannot access other means, the quiet resignation of those with no recourse in life and of course, the beauty of the dignity many have in the middle of much suffering.

“Much of the impact in our viewing probably came from the fact that it all cuts so close to home in the lives we see around us. One cannot watch this movie and be unaffected. It is one thing to view a film with themes that resonate with less than one percent of the population. It is another is to see themes that are played out daily with the vast majority of those around us. That hits you in the gut.” – Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala

“Magnificent. I saw and continue to see so many metaphors of our society at large. I imagine a second watching would reveal even more. My viewing of Filipino films directed by Lino Brocka, Mike de Leon, Ishmael Bernal and Marilou Diaz-Abaya (perhaps the last golden age of our movies in the 80s) still remains my touchstone for Philippine cinema, but Lav Diaz has clearly created an incredible work of art.”
– Bobby Macasaet

Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan stars Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, and Archie Alemania. The screenplay is by Rody Vera and Lav Diaz; cinematography by Larry Manda. All screenings with English subtitles.

Screening times: Glorietta 4 – 1pm and 6pm daily. Robinson’s Galleria – 7pm daily. Greenhills Theatre Mall – 2:30pm and 7:30pm daily. Robinson’s Metro East – 7pm daily. Trinoma – 12:10pm and 5pm daily.

Coriolanus: A lesser-known Shakespeare play becomes a hit after 400 years

September 08, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 2 Comments →

Tom Hiddleston stars in Coriolanus

Theatre has a sense of urgency and spontaneity that films have to work hard to match; cinema has the intimacy of the close-up, not to mention that it democratizes the view. Short of having gobs of blood land on your popcorn, we do not know how the film of the National Theatre Live broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus could’ve had a more visceral impact.

Interesting that a lesser-known tragedy by Shakespeare should find new and vibrant life in the 21st century. A couple of years ago there was the film adaptation by Ralph Fiennes, set in the Balkans. This production directed by Josie Rourke is in contemporary dress, but set nowhere in particular. We are constantly reminded that it is a play—a bare stage, chairs, lines drawn in paint, and ladders used to great effect. There is even a 15-minute intermission, with a clock counting down the seconds. The lines of the play appear as subtitles, which is much appreciated (“So that’s what that line means.” “So that’s how it’s pronounced…”)

They do not need an elaborate set. They do not need a location. They have a brilliant star and superb players to deliver words written four centuries ago by a man whose identity academics still argue about. (Of course we know very little about William Shakespeare, he was writing all those plays and didn’t have much time for anything else.) Tom Hiddleston may be the boyfriend of the Internet circa 2014, but Shakespeare speaks to all times. You could set his plays in any century, in any country, in any culture, and they will work. When people colonize other planets, they will stage Shakespeare and it will still tell them more about the human condition than any number of textbooks. Costumes and settings change, but not love, hate, greed, envy, ambition. (Maybe we should quit trying to write because Shakespeare’s done pretty much everything.)

Coriolanus is especially relevant in this era of popular revolutions and the ever-present threat of militarism and fascism. Its hero-antihero is Caius Martius (Hiddleston), a great warrior who takes the enemy city Corioles almost single-handedly and returns home to the accolades of the Senate and his bloodthirsty mother Volumnia (Deborah Findlay). Volumnia takes in his wounds with a pleasure that is almost sexual—it is she, not the dutiful Virgilia (Birgitte Sorensen) who seems to be his wife. (Given the influence of Shakespeare on psychoanalysis, Hamlet’s mother etc, we wonder what Shakespeare’s own mummy was like.)

The Senate, composed of aristocrats, gives Caius Martius the honorary nickname Coriolanus after the city he conquered. (In an interview Hiddleston compared this to calling Andy Murray “Wimbledonus”; how could we not be impressed by the tennis analogy?) His mother and his mentor Menenius Agrippa (Mark Gatiss, who also got squeals from Sherlock fans) want him to run for Consul.

But in order to become Consul, he has to get the vote of the common people. Not only is Coriolanus a terrible elitist, but he is the worst politician imaginable. He cannot hide his contempt of the masses. He cannot lie to save his life. There is something admirable in that kind of brutal honesty. And the common people are fickle, gullible, a herd easily manipulated by the tribunes Sicinia and Brutus. That is why Coriolanus has been viewed as a dangerous play, and sometimes banned as a fascist tract.

There’s the outstanding scene in which Coriolanus stands in the shower, gasping as the water hits his wounds and washes off the blood. (We thought the viewers were going to throw 500-peso bills at the screen.) You are repelled, and you are turned on. Because, admit it, it is very attractive to think of a leader who will destroy your enemies and tell you what to do. When you hand over your rights to such a leader, you buy into the idea of fascism.

TO BE CONTINUED (We have a movie to sell the hell out of. We are happy to talk about Tom Hiddleston all week, but you have to go and see Norte. Deal?)

Meanwhile, something from 2012: Our review of Ralph Fiennes’s film of Coriolanus

How to make people watch Shakespeare: Just put Tom Hiddleston in everything

September 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 8 Comments →

Before we review the recording of the live broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus, which was screened by the British Council on September 5 and 6 at Greenbelt, let’s get Tom Hiddleston’s pants out of the way.

We know that Tom Hiddleston is probably the most charming person on earth at present. He is so adorable that in the Marvel movies, his Loki lays waste to the capitals of worlds, and we not only forgive him, we make excuses for his behavior (Well, you know, he’s really a frost giant adopted by Odin and he had to grow up in Thor’s very large shadow). In The Deep Blue Sea with Rachel Weisz he is feckless and lovely; in Only Lovers Left Alive with Tilda Swinton, he is depressed and lovely. We did not like his Henry V in The Hollow Crown, but we blamed it on his director’s approach to our favorite jingoist play. He is so articulate it is almost irritating—interviewed by foreign reporters he replies in their language, he is fluent in dead languages, and he will explain the difference between Original Pronunciation and Received Pronunciation. He is unfailingly polite and willing to indulge in silliness. In short he is apparently perfect, which would make us want to punch him in the face if he didn’t carry it with humor and grace.

The pants in Coriolanus

In Coriolanus he plays a character who is proud, martial, too honest for his own good, and a terrible elitist who scorns the masses. He is so hot the audience went into puberty, and that includes the old people. During very intense scenes, you could hear “Awww” and giggles. Every time Coriolanus kissed his wife Virgilia, someone would ask, indignantly, “And the actress still gets paid??” We three affected intellectual superiority, but could not help having this conversation.

- Are those jeans store-bought or custom-tailored?
- You’d have to be tall and lean to pull off high-waisted jeans like that.
- They’re very form-fitting.
- Well, you know. Shakespeare, tights.
- We can see what religion he is.

You cannot say that the director did not know what effect Hiddleston was having on the audience. Later she put him in an oversized t-shirt and there were gasps and coronaries as the viewers realized he wasn’t wearing anything under it. Bravo. We must use everything we can to engage with the audience.


This would just be objectification if Tom Hiddleston weren’t brilliant as Coriolanus. The proper review when our pulse rate returns to normal.

We’re glad Coriolanus is not showing at the same time as Norte or we would sneak out of our movie and cheat on Dostoevsky with Shakespeare.

6 days before Norte opens in cinemas

September 04, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →

norte print ad full page pstar final
Screening times: Glorietta 4 – 1pm and 6pm daily. Robinson’s Galleria – 7pm daily. Greenhills Theatre Mall – 2:30pm and 7:30pm daily. Robinson’s Metro East – 7pm daily. Trinoma – 12:10pm and 5pm daily.

True story, stop us if you’ve heard it. Some years ago, at the Udine film festival, we were approached by a couple of Italian moviegoers who said, “Magandang hapon po. Kayo ba ay Pilipino?”

We complimented them on their Tagalog and asked how they had come by it. (Our initial thought was that they had spent time in the Philippines, or been raised by Pinays.)

“Natuto kaming mag-Pilipino para manood ng pelikula ni Lav Diaz.” (We learned Filipino in order to watch the films of Lav Diaz.)

True, you’d probably pick up some Tagalog after watching the 11-hour Ebolusyon ng Pamilyang Pilipino, but these guys had sought out a Filipino language teacher so they could feel closer to the films they cared so deeply about. They had seen all his movies at a retrospective in Slovenia.

One of the ironies of Lav Diaz’s career is that while he makes movies about distinctly Filipino subjects for the Filipino audience, the typical Filipino moviegoer has never seen a Lav Diaz movie. He is embraced by foreign cinephiles, but is largely unknown in his own country.

We hope that the theatrical run of his most accessible film, Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan, begins to address this irony. Please tell everyone you know. See you at the cinema.

Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

September 02, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →


Yesterday we found out that it was the 50th anniversary of our favorite Godard movie, Band of Outsiders (Bande a part). We read a review of Band of Outsiders by our favorite film critic Pauline Kael. And we remembered that when we saw Band of Outsiders, it reminded us of our favorite book in high school, The Catcher in the Rye.

There was the age, obviously—their protagonists are young people. There was the dancing. In the Godard, the three leads suddenly dance the Madison in a cafe in Paris; in the Salinger, Holden meets three girls in a club in New York and dances with them. There was the rebellion against the grown-ups, the wanting to run away. There was the sense of being young and free in a big city full of possibilities.


And there was the nostalgia. What do young people have to be nostalgic about when nothing has happened to them yet? They’re nostalgic for something that didn’t really happen to them—for lives they experienced in the movies. In Band of Outsiders, Franz and Arthur are always pretending to be in a gunfight and acting like they’ve been shot. In Catcher, Holden gets punched in the stomach and staggers into his hotel room as if he’s been shot. Everyone constantly refers to old gangster movies and acts and talks like a tough guy. Holden recounts the plots of movies—he loved Hitchcock, and so did Godard and his cohorts in the French New Wave.

But as Kael points out, “The penalty of (this) fixation on the movie past…is that old movies may not provide an adequate frame of reference for a view of this world.”

Must remember that.

The running through the Louvre scene, which was imitated by Eva Green and the two guys in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. The dance scene in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was an hommage to the Madison.

Lav Diaz’s Norte opens in cinemas Sept 10-16. Help us spread the word.

August 30, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Movies 2 Comments →

Hailed as a masterpiece by the world’s critics in the New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, The Telegraph, Total Film, The Independent, Film Comment, Grantland, The A.V. Club, Sight and Sound and many others, winner of the Gawad Urian for Best Picture, Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan finally gets a theatrical run in its own country.

September 10-16, 2014
Whole-day screenings at Glorietta in Ayala Center, Makati, and Trinoma in Quezon City.
Nightly screenings from 7pm to 11:10pm at Robinson’s Galleria and Robinson’s East.

We will post the complete schedules and other confirmed venues as soon as we can.

Norte is the perfect gateway to the work of the Filipino filmmaker long known among cinephiles as a master. An epic reimagining of Crime and Punishment, it is Lav Diaz’s most accessible work, and while the running time of 4 hours, 10 minutes may seem daunting, it earns every long take. Look at this.

The stunning cinematography is by Larry Manda. Norte features towering performances from Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania and an excellent supporting cast. The screenplay is by one of our foremost playwrights Rody Vera, and Lav Diaz. Norte is produced by Moira Lang, with line producers Kristine Kintana and Maya Quirino, and executive producers Kaiyan and Jessica Zafra.

Yes, that’s us. As the instigator of world domination theory, we have a stake in making sure that Norte is seen by everyone who cares not only about Filipino cinema or international prestige, but about The Big Questions: Life, Death, Truth, Justice, Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Beauty and Ugliness. The first time we saw this movie, before we became officially involved with it, we remembered this line from Ernest Renan: “O God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.”

Apologies for bringing ourself into the discussion, but our culture demands the personal approach. Norte is an independent film without the massive resources with which to bombard the public with advertising and TV promotions. But we have something the movie factories don’t have, we have You, the Thinking Reader.

We are asking You to help us promote the Norte screenings from September 10-16 by reposting this announcement on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. We invite those who have seen Norte in our special screenings at Ayala Cinemas to post their thoughts on the movie or links to their blogs in Comments. And we will see you at the cinema from September 10 to 16 for the theatrical run of Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan.

Here’s the scene we keep quoting from.

And the really uncomfortable support group scene.