Getting space to go slow at the annual International Film Festival of Kerala

Stills from Lav Diaz’s film The Halt

Stills from Lav Diaz’s film The Halt  


Slow films make a mark in an era of binge watching

A mad scramble from one theatre to the next, in a rush to clock in four to five films a day, is one of the activities that mark the annual International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

How would a nine hour-long or five hour-long film fit into this scheme of things? The followers of the slow cinema movement would advise you to pause, take a breath, and spend some moments to think about what you have watched.

The movement focuses on cinema that one can immerse oneself in, shutting out the world outside for hours, almost like a meditative experience. Some of the early works of the genre from the past century are marked by a lack of narrative and extremely long takes, although much have changed over the years, from the days of Theo Angelopoulos to Béla Tarr, Aleksandr Sokurov and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Filipino director Lav Diaz is one of the contemporary poster boys of this movement, having consistently made films stretching from five hours to even 10 hours. It is perhaps apt that his latest film titled ‘The Halt’ will feature in this edition of the IFFK. At 4.6 hours, it would be one of the longest films at this festival, although it is not even close to Diaz’s 11-hour long ‘Evolution of a Filipino Family’.

Like much of his previous work, the work is laced with commentary on the political situation in Philippines.

The entire film plays out in a Philippines two years in the future, that has gone dark as a result of a volcanic eruption. The country is ruled by a violent autocratic man, whom many have drawn parallels to the current President Rodrigo Duterte. Diaz has also made historical dramas, especially on the country’s situation in the 1970s under the brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Diaz’s works have figured among the lists of the longest films ever made, although experimental films like the 2012 film ‘Logistics’, the longest film ever made at 857 hours, leaves filmmakers like this behind in this aspect. One particularly clever British filmmaker even made a 10-hour long film titled ‘Paint drying’, showing literally that, as a protest against censorship costs. Then there have been serious works like the 1985 documentary ‘Shoah’, which over nine hours, that chronicled the unmatched cruelty of the holocaust.

In the era of binge-watching 60-hour long television series in streaming platforms, duration might not be a dampener for many, but some of these works do require one to approach it with a different mindset.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 12:31:51 AM |

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