Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi
Japan/Philippines 1996, 39 min, color
The documentary was produced for a cultural festival in Aichi Prefecture in Japan, to which an invitation was extended to the artist and his family, as well as other artistic collaborators. Via the wearing of the traditional Japanese loincloth, the fundoshi, Kidlat Tahimik establishes a link between Japan and the Philippines. While he avails of the opportunity to formulate a critique of the “Mickey Mousification” of his native culture, he yet uses the occasion to open up a trans-Asian link between two nations who historically have had an extremely problematic relationship with one another (a subject, however, the documentary does not broach).
The starting point for Tahimik’s cinematically mediated reflections is the cultural dependence of the Philippines on its the former colonial master, the United States, which he mainly observes on an aesthetic-medial level: “Because of the influence [of] television we lost our roots. We are neither this nor that ... ” According to his critique, the national media have also participated in transmitting false aesthetic ideals in the Philippines.
Furnished with images of the standardized white figures on a wedding cake, he states: “Our Philippine movies perpetuated artificial beauty standards by copying Hollywood film”. Yet elsewhere Tahimik himself admits to being thoroughly attracted by a western, female sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe – a reality he explains by the ever-present colonially influenced education system and socialization in his native land. He must, however, protect his son from Monroe’s sex appeal; for this he creates a photo montage in which one sees Tahimik in a combative pose confronting the blond seductress – a pose, however, as his son slyly remarks – that could equally be interpreted as a courtship dance.
As an alternative to imposed western aesthetics Tahimik invokes sculptures by the Igorot, an indigenous people living in the mountains of northern Luzon and who constantly figure in Tahimik’s works. The filmmaker has intermittently lived amongst the Ifugao, one of the Igorot tribes and in the process got to know their traditions and customs. In his movies, they appear over and again as an illustration of a community deeply conscious of their own history and culture. In particular, the Ifugao’s circular dance accompanied by percussion instruments and their traditional costumes surface in Tahimik’s cinematic works as a counterpart to present-day society in the Philippines which has largely forgotten its native traditions.
Tahimik came across statues in a sculptor’s workshop in Baguio that accentuate the physical features of the Igorot instead of aligning them to Western ideals of beauty. In particular a model of the Statue of Liberty, which its creator had carved with a physique similar to that of the Igorot, serves as a welcome emblem for the possible re-evaluation of imposed, aesthetic values and its attendant anti-colonial re-education.
Japanese-Filipino cultural contacts also proceed in this sense. An unexploded bomb excavated in the Philippines is transformed into a bell, which is erected as a memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial site and inaugurated with a ritual dance. The parallels suggested by the male loincloth, which belongs to the native tradition in both lands, proceed more profanely: the Ifugao’s bahag [loin-cloth] and the Japanese fundoshi, which was the main form of male underwear in Japan until the Pacific War, but now is worn almost exclusively on ritual occasions. Ultimately, Tahimik even succeeds in convincing his Japanese hosts to don the garment that “reveal the buttocks that God gave you”.
A Cinematrix/Kidlat Tahimik Production,
Programming Conception: Aichi Prefectural Arts Production Service, Programming Commitee: Joe Takeba, Norio Nishijima, Yuji Hirano, Yoshitomo Morioka, Produced by Kazuyuki Yano, Executive Producer: Takashi Echigoya (AAC), Fundoshi Dancers: Rey Lopes Na-Uyac, Joran Mong-Osan, Rene Aquitania, Kidlat de Guia, Kawayan de Guia, Kabunyan de Guia, Virginia Oteyza de Guia, Arnel Banasan, Raffy Kapuno, People of Hunaduan, Ifugao and Gihaku Ono, Body Art: Eduardo Masfere, Kawayan de Guia,
Musik: Shanto Verdun (Hiroshima Bell), Joon Claudio (Sumo Fundoshi), Grace Nono (Schwarzenegger Butt), Pinikpikan Band (Plaster Castings), Kamera: Kidlat Tahimik, Additional Shooting: Kidlat de Guia, Kawayan de Guia, Kabunyan de Guia, Haruhito Ono, Yoshio Shimizu, Editor: Kidlat Tahimik & Charley Fugunt
Production Assistants: Romy Bagbagen, Marilou Guieb, Shanto Verdun
Sound Mix: Buddy Mendoza
Negative Matching: Norma
Laboratory: Philippine Information Agency, Video to Film Transfer: Magna Sound Lab (N. Y.)