Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino’s 11-year Evolution

Watch LAV DIAZ’s 10.5-HOUR film on Cinema One’s cable channel on Sept. 20 and 23.

Lack of venue for Filipino Films is just one of the reasons why the Pinoy audience haven’t been able to explore the long list of award-winning local films. Movie entertainment is also not a top priority when it comes to budgeting, let alone to attend prestigious film festivals, regardless of the pandemic.

Cinema One will give us a chance to be mesmerized by one of Lav Diaz’s film masterpieces at the comfort and safety of our own homes. On September 20 at 11 pm, “Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino” will be premiered on their cable channel. encore on September 23 on the same time. Here’s the catch though, the film is 10.5-hour long, which means it will be finished at 9:25 AM the following day.

The 11-year evolution:

It is not uncommon for Lav Diaz to have a longer-than-usual film running time. Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family) is actually 10 hours and 25 minutes long, to be exact. The film idea started from a Filipino guy who jumps ship in Newark and who works in this Filipino restaurant where the owner exploits him. The guys resides in a Manhattan building with ghost of a Filipino war veteran who feeds on red roses in 1993.

“An intimate epic made with uncompromising and austere seriousness that patiently and methodically observes the collapse and hopeful revival of a poor farming clan.”

Its running time parallel’s the lengthy production of this masterpiece. It took 11 years to complete the film. The pre-production started in January 1994 in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA using Diaz’s own savings working as a waiter, gasoline attendant and proofreader. Initial shooting started on March of that year. A Filipino family provided assistance, food and locations.

Shooting was halted when Diaz had a fight with the cinematographer on top of having no remaining fund.

Lav Diaz on set of Ebolusyon ng Pamilyang Pilipino
Contemplating the light: Director Lav Diaz (left) with Paul Tañedo (holding light meter) and P.A. Jojo Lagade.

“I then had to write to and beg the vice president of DuArt, a film laboratory in New York City, to have the rolls processed. He was so kind to have the rolls “labbed” even as I was broke. I also asked him to give me video transfers so I could cut something out of it to pitch to people. He gave these to me despite the warnings of his billing department, who by then were issuing threats of suing me or burning the rolls if I did not pay. With the videos I was able to cut a demo. I started knocking on doors and gate crashing parties and meetings, including the endless beauty pageants of rich Filipinos in the area.”

Paul Tanedo on the set of Ebolusyon ng Pamilyang Pilipino
Setting the scene: Larry Manda and Paul Tañedo with Production Manager Noel Miralles in the background prepare the camera position for the farmers’ trek to the rice fields.

Until Diaz met Paul Tañedo, a Filipino photography artist in Alexandria, Virginia who eventually became the film’s producer.

“Paul and I shared the same vision: to create and contribute to cinema in the Philippines on an aesthetic level and not to the rotting commercialism and inanities of the majority of works in the so-called Philippine cinema industry”

The stop and go production in the Philippines began in 1996, only shooting whenever they have money. This goes on until 1999, when Diaz cannot thread some parts of the story. He went on to do other film projects.

When “Batang West Side” premiered in the Asian–American International Film Festival in New York in 2002, he realized that it is time to finish the film. He found the missing piece in his then 8-year puzzle.

“It was the idea of gold. Gold as a metaphor for so many things in the Filipino socio-cultural milieu: gold for greed, gold for “blindness”, gold for redemption, gold for the soul. So I created a character obsessed with finding gold. The effect was so epiphanic. We shot for more than a year. On the last day of the shoot in April 2003, in the majestic mountains of the village of Itogon, Benguet province in northern Luzon, it rained beautifully. This final leg of the shoot proved very uplifting and inspiring in terms of the collective effort and volunteerism, for I had a community of young artists pushing me to finish the work.”

The film finally premiered in the Toronto International Film Festival 2004. It has also been shown to different international film festivals since then.

The 11-year production became part of the artistic process, and the length of the film’s running time erased an artist’s time boundary. He just told what he has to, the story that evolved from a Filipino jumping from a ship and a ghost eating red roses.

Quotes sourced from Lav Diaz’s interview with Brandon Wee for Sense of Cinema, 2005.

Photos by Paul Tañedo via Our Own Voice website.

Erratum: The film will be shown at Cinema One’s cable channel, not Youtube channel. This post has been updated on Sept. 19, 2020 at 1:39 PM.

Watch Lav Diaz’s Lahi, Hayop (Genus, Pan) on MOOV, Cinema Centenario’s online video on-demand channel.

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