Lav Diaz's Norte, the End of History

Philippines-born director Lav Diaz's latest feature, Norte, The End of History, will open for a one-week exclusive run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on June 20. In conjunction with the the drama about an embittered law-school dropout who commits a double murder, the Film Society will launch “Time Regained: The Films of Lav Diaz,” the most complete American retrospective of Diaz's filmography to date. The series will include a rare screening of his epic Melancholia on June 22. Diaz will be at the Film Society opening weekend.

A U.S. debut at the 51st New York Film Festival Norte, the End of History is set in the northern Filipino province Luzon. Fabian, a tortured antihero, played by Sid Lucero, commits a horrific double homicide, but in its wake a family man takes the fall and is forced into a harsh prison sentence, leaving behind a wife and two children who are left to wander the countryside looking for some kind of redemption. The four-plus-hour drama is Diaz's twelfth feature and one of his shortest.

Particularly more lengthy (coming in at 450 minutes) is his 2008 Venice Film Festival Horizons Award-winning Melancholia. The drama centers on three people who engage in a strange therapy to get away from their agonies. Melancholia will kick off the retrospective that continues in August with one screening per month through February 2015.

August's Diaz spotlight will be Death in the Land of Encantos. In the film, Filipino poet Bejamin Agusan returns to his hometown in the Philippines after living in a small-town in Russia to witness the aftermath of a super typhoon. While in Russia, he taught workshops at a university, published two books of sadness and longing, fell in love, buried a son, and almost went mad. Back in his hometown of Padang, he had to bury his father, mother, sister, and a lover and face Mount Mayon, the raging beauty and muse of his youth. Subsequent films include Century of Birthing (September 21); Batang West Side (October 19); Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (November 30); Heremias: Unang aklat – Ang alamat ng prinsesang bayawak (December 21); and Evolution of a Filipino Family (January 24 and 25).

Lav Diaz's Melancholia

The Film Society lauded Diaz's place in Filipino cinema and his place in film worldwide in Thursday's announcement. Diaz finds creative inspiration from the Pacific nation's sometimes troubled past. “Diaz is the elder statesman of the new Philippine cinema and his films are haunted by his country’s past. The wounds and defeats of Filipino history loom large in his work, and their broad canvases accommodate both the irreducibility of individual experience and the sweep of time and space. Few, if any, filmmakers have so powerfully shown that cinema is, to quote Andrei Tarkovsky, 'sculpting in time.'” Diaz noted of himself: “I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the mystery of humankind’s existence. I want to understand death. I want to understand solitude. I want to understand struggle. I want to understand the philosophy of a growing flower in the middle of a swamp.”

“Lav Diaz’s astonishing films are unlike those of any other director working today,” said the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Director of Programming Dennis Lim. “Their scale is unsurpassed, and in Diaz’s hands, duration is both a marker of commitment and an instrument of empathy. We are delighted to be able to present all his major films at a rate that does justice to their richness and complexity—one at a time, over a period of several months, in the interest of making them as accessible as possible to the public they unquestionably deserve.”

This summer's Lav Diaz films screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center descriptions follow:

Norte, the End of History
Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2013, 250m

Tagalog and English with English subtitles
In the northern Philippine province of Luzon, a law-school dropout commits a horrific double murder; a gentle family man takes the fall and receives a life sentence, leaving behind a wife and two kids. At their best, Lav Diaz’s marathon movies reveal just how much other films leave out. In his devastating twelfth feature (and at four-plus hours, one of his shortest), the broad canvas accommodates both the irreducible facts of individual experience and the cosmic sweep of time and space. Fabian, Norte’s tortured antihero (superbly played by Sid Lucero), may well be his most indelible creation: a haunting embodiment of the dead ends of ideology. A Cinema Guild release.

Lav Diaz's Death in the Land of Encantos

Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2008, Digital Projection, 450m
Tagalog and English with English subtitles

Winner of the Best Feature prize in the Horizons sidebar at the Venice Film Festival, this contemplative and nerve-wracking drama of personal reinvention and guerrilla warfare in the Philippines examines the fault lines between action and impact, how one intends to affect the world and the change (or lack of) that actually occurs. What starts as the story of a nun, a pimp, and a prostitute and their role-playing games expands and deepens to become an elegy for the power and imaginative vision of radical politics in an age of claustrophobia and reactionary cynicism, enlivened by strains of black comedy and noir-heavy fatalism. Diaz packs all this into his most complicated narrative structure yet, a soulful meditation on the difficulties of daily life and the petty delusions necessary to withstand the pain of it. The ailment of the film’s title seems to coat the stark black-and-white images themselves as Diaz’s characters attempt to combat their persistent feelings of meaninglessness and the enveloping boredom that only hours of make-believe, and sometimes a little human contact, can even begin to fend off. Courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum.
*Sunday, June 22 – 1PM

Death in the Land of Encantos
Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2007, Digital Projection, 540m
Filipino, Bicolano, English, and Tagalog with English subtitles

Shot in stark black-and-white in the immediate wake of Super Typhoon Durian, which caused widespread destruction in the Philippines in 2006, Diaz’s eighth feature is an engrossing account of several people responding to the aftermath as they navigate the ravaged Bicol region. Benjamin Agustan (Roeder Camanag), a leftist poet, returns to his home village after years of exile in Russia to mourn the loss of loved ones and to connect with old friends. Diaz situates his fully imagined characters in a devastated landscape that he has likened to Pompeii, and throughout poses questions from off-camera to actual residents of the area. Combining documentary and fiction, as well as the concrete and the cosmic, this is one of Diaz’s most powerful films, a profound meditation on loss and survival. Winner of a jury prize at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. Courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum.
Sunday, August 24 – 11AM