Award-winning director Lav Diaz is known for his long (like really long), black and white films that tackle social issues. In his latest masterpiece, Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil), he is again at his storytelling best as he transforms discomforting images found in today’s newsprints into a four-hour “rock-opera.”
The movie, which is set in a far-flung town during the late ’70s, follows the journey of poet Hugo Haniway (Piolo Pascual), who is searching for his wife Lorena (Shaina Magdayao), a medical volunteer. Other notable performers like Bituin Escalante, Pinky Amador, Bart Guingona, and Lilit Reyes share the spotlight and also lend their superb voices to the film, which may also be described as a “concept musical.” But due to the controversial storyline, filming was not held in the Philippines and was in fact done in the jungles of Malaysia.
During the movie’s screening at Ayala Malls in Glorietta, the star-studded cast minus the lead pair, graciously answered questions from MB Digital Entertainment.
WHAT MADE YOU ACCEPT THE ROLE?
Pinky Amador: Who wouldn’t be inspired to be in a Lav Diaz film? Being in one is a career move.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BEHIND-THE-SCENES EXPERIENCE?
Bituin Escalante: ‘Yung bonding, knowing that everyone in the same resort doesn’t have a sink. It creates a very special bond!
Bart Guingona: ‘Yung walang lababo talaga. You don’t realize how important a given is, when it’s not there. Wow! Parang naiba ‘yung mundo ko dun. Tapos kaya naman pala. Pwede naman, may gripo dun, may toilet din.
Lilit Reyes: And my favorite part was the break, kasi tinamaan ng Chinese New Year ‘yung break. So we were in Malaysia, so we have to stop shooting and were treated to a real Chinese New Year ritual and celebration.
GIVEN THAT THE FILM TACKLES A SENSITIVE ISSUE AND MIGHT BE PERCEIVED IN A NEGATIVE WAY, HOW WILL YOU RESPOND TO THE CRITICS?
Bituin: Doing the film was just an opportunity to tell the truth. Whether or not the people take it well, or the wrong way, hindi na po ‘yun up to us. But as artists, we take every opportunity to tell a truthful story. So hindi na namin iisipin ‘yung repercussions or rewards, it’s really the work.
I’m also approaching this movie from an audience’s point of view ’cause it’s different to see it from the creative side and as an audience member. As an audience member, it takes your participation to voluntarily seat through four hours of difficult, honest situations, and allow all these feelings to stew. You’re in a dark theater receiving all these and it leaves you vulnerable. So for an audience member to sit down and take that all in, it requires as much commitment as what part of the creative process. We encourage everyone to see this and feel it. Feel, go through the experience of watching this difficult situations.
Bart: I think as a lover of freedom and democracy, that’s a reason enough to be part of this film… And ang kagandahan ng mga obra ni Lav Diaz ay he is one of the directors who requires equal commitment from the audience. He won’t sit back, hindi kayo magse-cellphone, in other words it requires you as committed, as involved as those who created it. Kasi in final analysis, ‘yun ang definition ng tunay na sining.
Lilit: Interesting thing about Lav’s artwork is that he makes you see things differently, and he makes you rethink things. For example, in this particular movie you have to be forewarned that it’s four hours of a difficult way of telling a story. So he makes you rethink, but what he was also doing here is he is also trying to make you see history again in a context of what is happening today. It’s worrisome, because we as a country, don’t seem to learn from our own history. So it takes a little bravery, a little chutzpah for you to actually go up and say we are doing this because it’s our duty as artists to provoke, it’s our duty as artists to pitch reality to our viewers.
Catch Ang Panahon ng Halimaw at select Ayala Malls starting May 30.