Kidlat Tahimik

Kigeki: Collagen eines kosmopolitischen Pelikula Makata –Yeah!

By Olaf Möller

Kidlat Tahimik went to the two best schools a filmmaker could ever visit: First he studied economy in the old occupier’s nation, at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (which is indeed the very some place attended by a linguistically challenged while Twitter-addicted, business-wise incompetent investor with a ridiculous hairdo now hell-bent for the bottom-spot in the historical ranking of US presidents); then he lived in a commune among film students in an exotic place called Bavaria in the south of a strange country called Federal Republic of Germany, observed what they did, and picked up the few things that to him looked useful (instead of listening to teachers telling him what’s important – information then over the years casually forgotten); in between, he worked for the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris, which was too depressing to stay, probably because it proved to Tahimik that the stuff he talked about in his M.A. thesis was correct; nobody wants to know that his nightmares are direct cinema. Tahimik, by the way, was back then still called Eric de Guia.

Turumba (1981), Tahimik’s second feature which is in reality his third, comes of as a grumpy comedy based on a weirder story from Tahimik’s life: the one that gets him to Bavaria. In Turumba, a capitalist bitch from West-Deutschland comes to Laguna, a province bordering Metro Manila famous for its Papier-mâché figures sold at the annual Turumba procession, and asks a family of local artisans to make Waldi-mobiles to be sold at the 1972 Munich Olympics; in reality, Tahimik himself made those trinkets and sold them well – till Black September made Waldi look… improper? (If anybody who reads this suddenly remembers that her/his grandmother/-father has a weird Waldi wind-chime wasting away in the cellar: I’ll buy it!) Which is interesting, as the Munich Olympics were in terms of merchandise and mascot value a watershed in the Game’s economic history, if only in terms of marketing, not success, for Waldi was a failure (the short version of the film, which is its de facto “original incarnation” as it was the one FRG TV commissioned Tahimik to do for the six-part series Vater Unser, is not by chance called Olympisches Gold). Turumba is possibly the most eccentric way to enter Tahimik’s utterly unique universe (and that it certainly is – not a cosmos at all!), for it is directed in a comparatively classical style and doesn’t feature the master himself on-screen; which is to say: it’s just an intelligent, somewhat quirky piece of fiction with a remarkable ethnographic surplus value.

It’s maybe because of this that Tahimik’s third film which is in reality his second, Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy? (1982), has been seen comparatively little, despite being a kind-of sequel to his debut which is really his debut, Mababangong bangungot (1977), which is not only one of cinema history’s single-most mind-blowing first films but became also an instant sensation when it screened at the Berlinale 1977, from whence it made its way into all corners of the world.

Mababangong bangungot talks about the plight of a Jeepney driver in love with the US-image he gets from incessantly listening to Voice of America; and as the land of the free and the home of the brave is also known for being the world’s only country where everybody can be everything, our Jeepney driver wants to go there tin order o become an astronaut; considering that myth had it that the moon buggy’s design was developed by a Philippino named Eduardo San Juan, this sounds less like a dream than just something to do – and anyway, didn’t he already establish a Werner von Braun-fan club in his barangay Balian? (Fact check: Eduardo San Juan worked as a technician on the moon buggy but had no hand in constructing/designing it; reality sucks.) The Jeepney driver will find his way into the overdeveloped world, if the wrong one: Paris, which proves to be THE HORROR; had he been a Japanese woman, the embassy would have flown him out diagnosed with culture shellshock (which is indeed something that was done years ago when the obatallion flooded France’s capital driven by weird romantic visions, only to find out that the locals are… different from what they had expected); being merely a Pinoy, he has to find his way home on his own. Come Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy?, and our Jeepney driver, or at least his movie presence: Kidlat Tahimik, is back in The West, but in one of its less industrialized nooks: rural Bavaria, where he’s busy building a spaceship – the shape of the local churches’ belfries makes it very clear that this is mighty fertile ground for an endeavor just like this. In general, our Innocent Abroad feels understood by the locals who enjoy saying yo-yo benevolently. The Yoyo, by the way, was indeed invented on the Philippines: like the boomerang, it’s an indigenous hunting weapon – turned since into a toy by us decadent ne’er-do-wells.

Both Mababangong bangungot and Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy? are aesthetically unlike anything so far (or since, for that matter): gaudy, dialectic, surreal, in your face – made more like building a thatched hut with branches of willows, crime-scene tape, various pieces of junk from last year’s garden sale, and pearls brought to the beach by an ama. That said: It’s maybe not quite an accident that it was in the FRG that Tahimik started making films (t)his way, for there was a climate here an artist with his instincts might find conductive; is it too much to suggest parallels with Alexander Kluge in his most whack-out period when he did dialectical trash Science Fiction-anti-epics?; to sense certain affinities with the greatest of all Bavarian AV-anarchists, Herbert Achternbusch? Or the other way around: The Philippines and the FRG showed for various not always compatible reasons great interest in each other during the Marcos years leading to a lot of cultural exchange things; and Tahimik was simply the right man at the right place at the right time.

Which became painfully obvious after Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy?, when interest in Tahimik vanished here – Memories of Overdevelopment, started right after finishing Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy? and resulting around 1984 in something like an original ruin (33min. of sketchily combined scenes), should have been finalized in the earlier way, but didn’t; FRG TV continued to co-finance artistic films by Philippine filmmakers, but nothing like the works of Tahimik – visionary Anti-Colonialism was out by the Mid-80s, serious counter-historiography in.

From here on, Tahimik’s filmmaking becomes even more collage-, mosaic-like, essayistic, in that more documentary-keyed then the films so far; in fact, in the thirty-five years since the collapse of the original Memories of Overdevelopment, Tahimik finished but two essay-fleuves: Bakit Dilaw Ang Gitna Ang Kulay Ng Bahaghari (1994), a reworking of a double project called I am furious (yellow) and I am curious (pink) that concerned itself with the EDSA revolution of ’86 and its aftermath, which is woven here into a vaster tapestry where the daily life of Tahimik’s family is as important as any grand political upheaval; an aesthetic principle through which the story of Magellan’s Pinoy manservant/translator who’d become the original Gastarbeiter only to return home as the first man to have sailed once around the globe, would be brought to a (ha! ha!) finished version cheekily called Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III (2015) – a film about how Tahimik from his stint at FRG-balikbayan-dom (for this, in some ways, was what he was) returned home and had a wonderful life doing nice things like taking care of his kids, living with and learning from the Ifugao, starting to work in wood and performance art, etc., while the world didn’t get necessarily better. The usually Japanese-co-produced shorter works created in-between and alongside these two behemoths: Takedera Mon Amour: Diary of a Bamboo Connection (1991) – for which is his totemic bamboo camera was made -, the Video-Palaro Series of diary-like shorts (since 1992), Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi (1996), and Banal Kahoy (2002), are more like accidental creations, sketches, summaries, pregnant pauses.

Tahimik has stopped making films in 1984 – since then he’s living as if reality were a film, with all of us as actors/participants, even if most of us never make it unto the big screen. But we’re there!


Kidlat Tahimik, 174'', 1981, Philippines
Written and directed by: Kidlat Tahimik
Cinematography: Kidlat Tahimik, Boy Yniguez
Editing: Kidlat Tahimik
Music: Tumandok, Gerry Baguio, Jessie Soluta, Boy Garrovillo, Tito Martinez, Ballatong Gaspalinao, Shant Verdun, Diokno Pasilan

While telling the story of his family, Tahimik also introduces us to Filipino history and geography, moving seamlessly from the personal to the political. This epic diary film spanning the 1980’s, not only document overseas vacations, and children’s first steps, –and even a ride with Dennis Hopper in his old Cadillac– but also earthquakes and hurricanes, the rise of the People Power movement, the deposing of Ferdinand Marcos, and the accession to power of Corazon Aquino. As Christopher Pavsek puts it, “I Am Furious Yellow masterpiece shows us how to be furious at all the injustice in the world but also how to face that injustice with the utmost joy.”


Kidlat Tahimik, 159'', 1979, Philippines
Written and directed by: Kidlat Tahimik
Cinematography: Santos Bayucca, Kawayan de Guia, Kidlat de Guia, Abi Lara, Lee Meily, Kidlat Tahimik, Boy Yniguez
Editing: Malaya Camporedondo, Charlie Fugunt, Chuck Gutierrez, Abi Lara
Costumes: Katrin de Guia
Music: Los Indios de Espana, Shanto
With: Kidlat Tahimik, Mitos Benitez, Jeff Cohen, Kabunyan de Guia, Katrin de Guia, Ka-wayan de Guia,

BalikBayan, which means “returnee” in Tagalog, is partly about the homecoming of the historical figure Enrique of Malacca, a Malay slave of the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who circumnavigated the Earth, before returning home as a free man. Kidlat Tahimik refuses to settle on anything, whether it’s the telling of a colonial past, or any version of this film, which he has been making and revising for nearly four decades.


Kidlat Tahimik, 68'', 2018, Philippines

Lakaran ni Kabunyan centers on Tahimik’s son Kabayan as he relocates from his breezy, hillside hometown of Baguio to the sweaty southern metropolis of Davao in a cute orange camper van. It was originally part of the film Lakbayan (Journey), a collaboration between three legendary Philippine filmmakers that included as well Brillante Mendoza’s Desfocado (Defocused) and Lav Diaz’s Hugaw (Dirt).


Kidlat Tahimik, 91'', 1977, Philippines
Directed, written and edited by: Kidlat Tahimik
Cinematography: Hartmut Lerch, Kidlat Tahimik
Music: Hanns Christian Müller
Cast: Kidlat Tahimik, Mang Fely, Dolores Santamaria, Katarina Muller, Hartmut Lerch, Georgette Baudry

Perfumed Nightmare focuses on the adventures of a Filipino jeepney driver who dreams of emigrating to America and becoming an astronaut there. As president of the Wernher-von-Braun fan club in his native village Balian and a devout listener to the Voice of America, he dreams of an ideal West. When he finally makes it to Paris in his jeepney, his real-life encounter with the West destroys his illusions and he returns to the Philippines.This virtuosic and boundary-transcending feature debut, full of imaginative visual metaphors, won the Berlin Film Festival International Critics Award in 1983, six years after its completion. As Susan Sonntag wrote, “reminds one that invention, insolence, enchantment – even innocence – are still to be had in cinema”.


Kidlat Tahimik, 95'', 1978, Philippines
Written and directed by: Kidlat Tahimik
Cinematography: Kidlat Tahimik, Butch Perez u. a.
Editing: Kidlat Tahimik, Karl Fugunt
Special Effects: Kidlat Tahimik
Animation: Santy Bose u. a.
Cast: Kidlat Tahimik, Kitlat Gottlieb De Guia, Gisela Wolfbauer, Victor de Guia, Tom Richter, Katrin Müller De Guia u. a.

Kidlat Tahimik teams up with a bunch of kids on a Bavarian farm to work on a homemade spaceship, in order to see if one can play yo-yo on the moon. The yo-yo, as is still noted today in the dictionary, was invented in the Philippines, and so the farm near Ingolstadt becomes the birthplace of the first Philippine Official Moon Project, in short P.O.M.P.


Kidlat Tahimik, 95'', 1981, Philippines
Written and directed by: Kidlat Tahimik
Cinematography: Boy Yniguez
Editing: K.H. Fugunt
Sound: Ed de Guia, Neidhart Franke, Rolly Ruta
Music: Mandy Afuang
Cast: Homer Abiad, Iñigo Vito, Maria Pehipol, Patricio Abari, Bernarda Pacheco, Katrin de Guia

In a small Philippine village, little Kadu and his family fashion papier mache figures for the Turumba festivals honoring the Virgin Mary. One day, the family’s craftwork attracts the attention of a German department store buyer who purchases their entire stock, and order 500 more (this time with the word “Oktoberfest” painted on them). The traditional craft is transformed into an alienating assembly line and very soon, the entire village is frantically completing dachshund mascots for the 1972 Munich Olympics, imperiling the Turumba itself. Turumba is cautionary tale about the dangers of capitalism.