Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III
Philippines 2015, 150 min, color
Balikbayan - the term Kidlat Tahimik chose as a title for his feature – is Tagalog for “guest worker”. Many Filipinos from the country’s sizable underclass work overseas in low-wage posts in more affluent Asian countries, as nannies, nurses, maids, sailors or construction workers. They often have to deal with precarious job conditions based on exploitative term-contracts, which sometimes run over a long period. Director Kidlat Tahimik himself was a Filipino Gastarbeiter" for several years abroad, as he occasionally mentions with a playful wink of the eye on using the German word for immigrant worker, or literally, "guest worker". Unlike most of his compatriots, however, he was able to do so under tolerable circumstances.
In the unfinished Memories of Overdevelopment, which was the starting point for this feature, Tahimik developed a fascinating thought experiment: What if an archetypal victim of early colonization were to have accomplished a historic pioneering feat in which his master had failed – namely, to be the first to circumnavigate the globe? An earlier incarnation of a balikbayan, who was bought by a Spanish conquistador at the slave market of Malacca, who had to interpret for master and serve him at table – and, who reputedly played a legendary role that even might be comparable to those of Marco Polo or Columbus? Enrique, Ferdinand Magellan’s personal slave, played by the director himself, comes across less as a subject of European exploitation, but rather as a kind of shrewd cosmopolitan from the global South.
Tahimik began work on his feature about Enrique Malacca in 1979, but did not complete it at the time. He was only able to finish it more than three decades later in 2015 – also thanks to developments in media technology (some of the new footage was filmed with an iPhone). As he re-started on the unfinished version after nearly thirty years, it was obvious that it could no longer be a case of him completing the adventures of Magellan’s slave. Instead, he expands the narrative into the present day: The search for Enrique de Malacca, who in the meantime has become a mythical figure, becomes a way of stocktaking of the current situation in the Philippines.
Tahimik revives many of the themes he had introduced into his earlier shorts: Philippine tradition, the Ifugao hill tribe, with whom he has intermittently lived and whose culture he has presented in his work from recent years as unchallenged by Western modernity, the development of his hometown Baguio and over and again his family, the third generation of whom the audience will also become acquainted with here.
At its première at the 2015 Berlinale, Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III was awarded the Caligari Prize, donated by the German Federal Association of Communal Cinemas and the magazine film-dienst. Upon presenting the award, the jury made the following statement: “The jury awards the prize to Kidlat Tahimik’s Balikbayan # 1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III, a pleasurable, media-archaeological movie whose editing work processes a transformative, self-reflective dialogue with heterogeneous material; a movie that demonstrates that history and its colonial imaginings should be constantly rewritten, overwritten, and rededicated; a complex, colorful, penetrating movie, a trip; a hybrid comprising document, fiction, essay; a movie that counteracts its meager production conditions with rich playful intelligence; an energetic comet of “Third Cinema”, which after nearly forty years in the making erupts in the present. ”
Directed by: Kidlat Tahimik
Bildgestaltung: Santos Bayucca, Kawayan de Guia, Kidlat de Guia, Abi Lara, Lee Meily, Kidlat Tahimik, Boy Yniguez
Montage: Malaya Camporedondo, Charlie Fugunt, Chuck Gutierrez, Abi Lara, Clarence Sison
Costumes: Katrin de Guia
Musik: Los Indios de Espana, Shanto
Darsteller: Mitos Benitez, Jeff Cohen, Kabunyan de Guia, Katrin de Guia, Kawayan de Guia, Marita Manzanillo, Danny Orquico, Craig Scharlin, George Steinberg, Kidlat Tahimik, Wigs Tysman, Marlies von Brevern