Filipino filmmaker Raya Martin confuses broad scope with great depth in his alternate-history fable Independencia, which screened earlier this year at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard sidebar. Imitating a crude, early style of in-house studio filmmaking from the ‘30s, when filmmakers like Josef Von Sternberg were pushing the limits of the craft of early talkies, Martin re-imagines his country’s history as an elemental humanist epic. Husband and wife travel into the jungle to avoid persecution at the hands of the malicious American invaders, characterized by their oversized moustaches, their guns, and their zeal for infanticide. Martin deliberately moves the story ahead at that level of nuance, mostly forgoing the humor or the visual playfulness that would have earned the film’s unavoidable comparisons to Guy Maddin’s infinitely more personal silent experiments. Martin takes his film so seriously that it makes his sparer-than-spare allegory look like a product of creative constipation instead of thoughtful consideration. Independencia moves ahead at an incremental clip to allow the viewer to luxuriate in the languorous splendor of its characters’ Edenic environ—a clean, artificial place where basic, sturdy, conservative values are fittingly reestablished. Ignoring the circumstances that have led Martin to retreat to this safe new world is one thing, but doing it at such a turgid clip is especially foolhardy as there’s no such thing as a naturalistic fairy tale.
- 77 min
- Raya Martin
- Raya Martin, Ramon Sarmiento
- Sid Lucero, Allesandra de Rossi, Tetchie Agbayani, Mika Aguilos
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: