An interview with Kidlat Tahimik, a movie director, writer and actor born in 1942 in the Philippines.

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tahimik_kidlat_1Is referring to your work as “documentary film” justified?
Tahimik: For a long time I never really thought of genres. I did my first film Perfumed Nightmare and then my second and third. Then in 1989, suddenly, I was invited by the Yamagata documentary festival to show a certain film I’d made, and I said “You mean I’m a documentary maker? But my films are not like the BBC!" I always thought that that was the mould for documentary. Over time the documentary has relaxed what its outer shape and inner shape is supposed to be. So I guess I am a documentary maker, documenting my crazy thoughts.

What do you think is the most common misconception of your work?

Tahimik: My works are very open ended, so I don’t know. I think for a close-ended world that’s where most misconceptions will occur. I like it if there are 200 spectators and 201 interpretations.
Tahimik Junior: I think one of the things is that they sometimes perceive my father’s work as anti-western and I think it’s not so much anti-western as pro-indigenous. The other side.
Tahimik: Our side. Like for example my mother watched my first film and asked me “Why did you make such an anti-American film?". And then I said to her, “Ma, it’s not anti-American, it’s more oriented towards finding our own inner strengths. We have been subdued by American education, maybe in a certain sense we’d never been aware that we were overly Westernized because of our Western curriculum, and because Hollywood’s curriculum. American idol has been in our country long before American Idol became a TV program.

In your film Turumba, you make reference to the nativization of Western religions. What do you think of the massive influence that the church plays in the Philippines today?

Tahimik: I look at Catholicism as a circumstance rather than an enemy. I have a feeling that it has contributed a lot, although its ideals, like many great religions are quite lofty and worthy. But because it doesn’t really belong to our people, it tends to be interpreted at our convenience. So when you read about all the corruption in the Philippines, I think it is linked to the Catholic idea that you can live a completely sinful life, and at the moment of your death you have an act of attrition and you just go to heaven. So Marcos is in heaven. So it may have interfered with our cultural brake mechanism. Maybe that’s why there is a seeming anarchy in our country.

Do you think that the term “The Third World” has transformed in meaning in recent years or been reclaimed?

Tahimik: I didn’t really understand that it was a dichotomy, as opposed to the first and second world. I guess it’s mainly economic nomenclature. An indigenous chieftain in one of my films. He always mispronounced the word “indigenous” saying "We indi-genius peoples have been trampled upon, our indi-genius culture is looked down upon”. And I said “Wow! It’s a really cosmic mispronunciation.” to combine the “genius” with the indigenous culture. I think that third world juices can be harnessed for economic development. There is a lot of indigenous wisdom that can balance this world which has lost its brakes.
For a review of three of Kidlat Tahimik's films see Conor's article: Documenting his own reality: The films of Kidlat Tahimik
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