Video-Palaro: The Video Diaries of Kidlat Tahimik

Between 1992 and 2006, Kidlat Tahimik made five video diaries commissioned and produced by the JVC-sponsored Tokyo Video Festival, which was discontinued in 2009. They are usually screened under the umbrella title "Video Palaro: The Video Diaries of Kidlat Tahimik" as an inter-related body of work, while they are not dissimilar thematically and formally to the medium-length films Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi (1996) and Banal Kahoy (2002) which were created in parallel and produced by the Japan Foundation. These shorter, essay-like works shot in the nineties and the noughties mirror each other in that there is invariably a – real or symbolic – journey that at once sets the theme and the narration in motion; each of these videos has a very different and often idiosyncratic thematic anchor, upon which Tahimik weaves his associative network.


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Orbit 50: Letters to my 3 Sons
Philippines/Japan, 1992, 17'40'', color

When Kidlat is about to turn 50 (completing his 50th Orbit around the sun), he composes a three-part video letter to his three sons, letting each chapter reflect the personality of the son it is dedicated to.


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Celebrating the Year 2021, Today
Philippines 1995, 24'30'', color

In certain respects the second Video Diary is a continuation of the first, inasmuch Tahimik also addresses his three sons whose voices animate the soundtrack, and who he also regularly lets operate the camera. This time the thematic anchor is the 500th anniversary of the Ferdinand Magellan first voyage around the world, which casts a long shadow in advance of what’s to come in 2021 and which motivated the Tahimik family to devise all sorts of symbolic reinterpretations and precautionary counter-propaganda. Longer sequences from a stage performance during a film screening in Japan are combined with travel observations, tree planting actions and a carved wooden Indian bust, which invariably cuts another but yet indomitable figure in the various settings.

In the context of his complete oeuvre, this associative collage is kindred with the previously completed long-term project Why is Yellow at the Middle of the Rainbow?, and, moreover, confirms the survival of Tahimik’s idea to adapt for screen the adventures of Magellan’s slave Enrique, which he had already first started in Memories of Overdevelopment (1984) and continued in Balikbayan # 1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III (2015) where he finally developed the idea into an epic-length feature.


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Some More Rice
Philippines, 2000, 18'30'', color

In the company of an Ifugao shaman, Kidlat Tahimik pays a visit to a Japanese rice farmer who tells them in conversation that he stands before his final harvest, as he is suffering from cancer and the labor is becoming too strenuous for him. From this encounter and the view over the Japanese landscape, Tahimik’s visual associations now run not merely back to his native rice terraces in the Luzon mountains, but also to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, in whose title he deciphers a homonym for “some more rice”. From these very disparate threads, he weaves a tribute to rice growing and to those who grow it, dramaturgically released as two letters, one to Takahashi-san, the Japanese rice farmer, and one to Akira Kurosawa.


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Bubong! Roofs of the world, UNITE!
Philippines / Japan 2006, 20', color

A trip to the “roof of the world”, the Tibetan Himalayas, triggers a stream of reflections about roofs’ diverse structural designs and functions. In his film archives Kidlat Tahimik comes across a surprising number of shots featuring roofs and roofing work, beginning with the consecration ceremony of an onion steeple on a Bavarian church in The Perfumed Nightmare through a report on the construction of his own bamboo hut in Hapao to shots of skyscrapers throughout the world. “Roofs of the world, Unite!” is the manifesto of this tribute to the roofs over our heads, complemented by the encouraging statement:  “You got nothing to lose but your leaks.”


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Our Film-Grimage to Guimaras
Philippines / Japan, 2006, 9'30'', color

Guimaras is an island in the Philippine archipelgo, which was impacted by a heavy oil spill 17 km off its coast in 2006. Kidlat Tahimik visits the island and is seen performing small rituals and healing ceremonies, dedicating a Tibetan scarve and his massive rasta plait of several years as filler for an oil defense. With clanging gongs and Kidlat’s rhythmic drumming on small congos, the video itself seems marked as a spiritual offering.