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Why Kidlat Tahimik refuses to use a script

National Artist for Film, Kidlat Tahimik, has been dubbed as the “Father of Philippine Independent Cinema.” Rightfully so, because his films had always been pure art, uninfluenced by profitability or the box office. It does not matter whether his films would be watched by millions or by a few, what matters is he’s able to tell his story and that story will find its audience.

I had the chance to talk to Tatay Kidlat (as he would prefer to be called) during the launch of Anakbanwa Art Exhibition, an initiative of Congressman Toff de Venecia, chairperson of the House Special Committee on Creative Industry and Performing Arts.

He said he has been at artist at heart from the beginning. His bachelor’s degree is Theater Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman. But on his last year in UP, he was elected president of the student government, which made him think he was presidentiable, leading him to take the Master of Business Administration program of the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.

He also worked as a researcher for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris from 1969-74. It was during this time when he felt the urge to go back to theater and write a play.

Despite struggles, including quitting his job so he could focus on writing, Tatay Kidlat was able to finish his first film, Perfumed Nightmare. It was released in 1977 and received the FIPRESCI Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was also screened in the US in 1981, in Japan in 1982, at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, and

Tatay Kidlat said he doesn’t use a script when he films. Although he has a beginning, middle, and an end, he just defines a situation and lets the actors react naturally to the circumstances. He has a strong connection to his “duwende,” or his creative spirit, and this allows him to do outstanding films.

While he is not averse to mainstream movies, he has been advocating for filmmakers and artists to focus on our culture, rather than merely following the Hollywood formula. He stressed that we have a very rich culture, including our indigenous heritage, that can be the inspiration for many films and stories.

Tatay Kidlat fears that new technologies might persuade the young generation to give up or stop listening to our local stories. That’s why, he gives this advice to young artists, “Look for your unique duwende, be aware that your duwende is part of your culture, don’t let the missionaries or the Hollywood tell you that your culture is inferior or must be forgotten. When you’ve embraced your duwende, that’s when you’ll become a great story teller, and that’s what art is about — art is storytelling.”

Note: The exhibit is an output of the Anakbanwa Arts Residency, showcasing the works of the artists in residence — Razel Mari, Corinne de San Jose, and Marco Ortiga — as well as those of known local artists in the district, namely, Pope Dalisay, Prince Logan, Jai Hernandez, Rose Felix, Troy Casupanan, Lyantra Pasion, Lorren Dizon, Eduard, and Pochacho Patatas. Also in display are the works made by K-12 Learners from the district who attended workshops that were conducted by the artists in residence. The exhibit was curated by Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan.

Anakbanwa Art Exhibition will run from December 10, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2022 at the MacArthur House, West Central Elementary School 1 Compound, Dagupan City.  

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