Just after I reviewed his film Leave it for tomorrow, for night has fallen (2013), I asked Jet whether he was willing to answer a couple questions. He’s been busy preparing his new film, so this may come a bit late. Nevertheless, I’m immensely grateful for Jet to have taken the time and it’s a superb start to this new project. I hope that his new film makes its way to Europe in future.
NM: Leave it for tomorrow, for night has fallen – What’s the meaning of the title?
JL: It all started in my childhood, I used to ask my mom what happened to my grandparents. She always answered “bukas na lang sapagkat gabi na” which translates to “leave it for tomorrow for night has fallen” or something like, sleep now, let’s talk about it some other time. A harmless dismissal to evade my question, but it foreboded a deeper curiosity, a feeling that something seemed hidden.
I finally got the answer to it though, both of my grandparents died in an accident. Grandfather died in a dynamite fishing incident, my grandmother died in a hit-and-run by a truck. That’s the story I was told, but the hesitation they took to answer it lingered in me.
NM: The Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos is the backdrop to your film. With that, you’re one of a group of contemporary filmmakers in the Philippines who use the cinematic medium to explore traumatic times and events. Where does your interest in this time period come from?
JL: I was born in 1986, months after the Marcos dictatorship fell. My mother and relatives talked about it (Martial Law) all the time. I have no vivid vision of the past but their endless conversation stayed with me until I became a filmmaker, until I read the books, watched films (lots of films were made during and about Martial Law, see Kisapmata, Batch 81), and talked to people who had been a part of it, it greatly interested me. And I thought it’s time to create a story told by a man who’s not been a part, but strongly affected by history.
Also, there’s a book called DESAPARECIDOS (Lualhati Bautista) and GERILYA (Norman Wilwayco my co-writer) which influenced me a lot, and gave a full idea of the Martial Law era and the revolutionary movement.
NM: Do you feel as if you have a responsibility as a filmmaker to explore this part of history?
JL: As part of the younger generation, to explore this part of history is important and essential. The responsibility to engage them in questioning their past or to question the truth, whether history repeats itself or not, the present socio-political context of our country and the state of our people.
I guess, as a filmmaker influenced by the works about Martial Law and faced with this revision happening in our country’s history now, (the Marcos(es) and Martial Law is projected in a positive pedestal) I really should speak out through my films to maybe serve as a reminder or a simple footnote that the present cannot (or should not) escape its past.
NM: Your film feels like a very long dream, a nightmare, in fact. Perhaps a hallucination. Is this the way the Martial Law is seen as in the Philippines?
JL: For some people it’s like a nightmare, for some it’s a dream. It depends on the people you talk to. Some agree or support Martial Law, some condemn it. Lots of people try to revise the past.
NM: You have chosen a strong mixture of several aesthetics. The film is unlike anything I have seen.
JL: I’m not sure how to put this, but I guess its part of my process, my personality, the images changes from pre-production to post-production, its continuous, even after the film is done.
NM: Leave it for tomorrow is a fairly slow film in regards to the narrative progression and the long-takes you have used. What is the rationale behind this slowness?
JL: I can’t consider/label my film as slow film or slow cinema. I just shoot it the way I feel it. The way the story goes or the character journey. It’s a form of immersion or being the thrown in the film itself.
NM: In the credits, I could pick up the names of Lav Diaz and Raya Martin. What is your relationship to them? Have they influenced your filmmaking?
JL: I’ve been an intern for Lav Diaz when I was in college. I’ve been a part of Melancholia (2008) as production assistant and a bit role. I learned a lot from him. Almost, all the things I need to know about alternative cinema, I got it from him. He also introduced the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.
Raya is a friend of mine. We met in 2008, in a Lav Diaz shoot. We always hang out if there’s time, and in that particular time, we talk more about life than cinema.
NM: This is the second film of yours which has a harrowing nature to it. I haven’t seen Ex Press yet but I read about it. It seems to be a trademark of your films. What are your plans for the future? Are you working on a new film already?
JL: Yes, we are currently in pre-production of my third feature and will begin shooting next week in the same location where we shot Leave it For Tomorrow for Night has Fallen.
The title is Town In A Lake (Matangtubig).