An Interview with Gym Lumbera (Director)
The Shape Revealed by Black and White
Q: This film is shot entirely in black and white, isn’t it?
GL: There’s a picture I saw when I was a child, and it’s something I can’t forget. It’s a black and white picture of my father from when he was young. Next to my father there’s a big paper horse, the kind sold at festivals in the Philippines, and it looked to me like that horse was painted red. Later I heard that the horse really had been painted red, but I’d only ever seen it in a black and white photograph. I think that black and white photographs are like dim memories of the distant past. People can bring up all sorts of things from their own memories. Even looking at the image preserved by a black and white photograph, they sometimes might recall something like that red horse.
Q: You use footage of real animals, but on the other hand you also use footage of humans recreating animal movements, or mimicking their calls. Is this a kind of allegory?
GL: It’s also because animals look beautiful in black and white footage. Aside from that, in my home of Batangas there is a legend: if you look for and find a white goat, then you will have good luck for the entire day. The people in the film, based on this legend, superstitiously mimic the call of the goat. In other words, why are people taking the time to search so intently for white goats, just for a day’s good luck? Isn’t there a contradiction there?
Q: There are people who imitate white goats, too. Are they also hoping for good luck?
GL: The ones who are imitating white goats are albino children. They were born with white skin, and they’re doing it as a prank. When people see the children, they think they’ve seen white goats. Because of the color of their skin they are always teased as “Americans,” and this is their way of teasing back. It’s not shown in the film, but there is this background to it.
Q: There is footage a funeral at both the opening and closing of this film. Why did you use this footage?
GL: The person who is being mourned in that scene is called Togo. Pugo and Togo were a famous comedy duo in the Philippines, and their most famous gag went: “Hey, Togo. Who’re you waiting on?” “Uncle Sam.” Their popularity overlapped with the Japanese occupation, and Filipinos at that time were waiting to be saved by the Americans. Then, once they really were saved, Filipinos came to see Americans as knights in shining armor, and to think of their white skin as something special. I think Togo’s funeral symbolized that era of transition.
Q: How do Filipinos view America today?
GL: For most Filipinos, America is a land of dreams. They want to leave their own country and go to America. It’s an expression of their unwillingness to face the problems in their own country directly. What’s more, since our country has been subjugated by so many others, we’ve been unable to create our own identity. To add recognition of all of the country’s problems, to weigh good and evil, white and black, is very difficult. But still now in the Philippines everyone is searching for their own identity all of the time.
(Compiled by Satsusa Takahiro)
Interviewers: Satsusa Takahiro, Harashima Aiko / Interpreter: Paul Yoshitomi / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Kat Simpson / Video: Hirai Mona / 2015-10-11