The Museo Reina Sofía organises a film series centred around Philippine film-maker Kidlat Tahimik (Baguio, Philippines, 1942) to coincide with the exhibition Kidlat Tahimik. Magellan, Marilyn, Mickey & Fr. Dámaso. 500 Years of Conquistador RockStars (Palacio de Cristal, 29 October 2021 – 6 March 2022). The programme includes five of Tahimik’s feature-length films and a “carte blanche” session for the director, as well as Werner Herzog’s film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), Tahimik’s first appearance in film as an actor. Further, the series features debates and in-person conversations with the film-maker and his son, collaborator and leading actor, Kidlat de Guia.
Born Eric Oteyza de Guia, Kidlat Tahimik, which means “silent lightning” in Tagalog, is a linchpin of recent Philippine avant-garde film-making. Among Filipino directors of international distinction such as Khavn de la Cruz, Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz, he is regarded as an indisputable master of Philippine film, with his filmography also denoting the end of Third Cinema, the film movement from third-world countries that was prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s and championed “imperfect” film-making, as Cuban director Julio García Espinosa defined it, with scant resources and as a weapon of combat and emancipation from the first-world film industry and ideology. The themes of Third Cinema — inequality, the tyranny of progress and cultural and political imperialism — are also at the forefront of Tahimik’s work, yet rather than being treated in the black-and-white vein of exploited versus exploiter they are an intrinsic part of the third-world experience and life. Thus, Tahimik is one of the first film-makers to understand globalisation as a phenomenon in which these different worlds or states of development co-exist inside the same country, and to relate it to the desires and aspirations of subjects, just like the film-maker himself, who can move between the technological dream of a journey to the moon and the search for indigenous authenticity.
Kidlat Tahimik’s film-making decries forced growth and development and the cultural and social homogenisation this model implies, whilst innovatively steering clear of the social realism and factual documentary that prevailed around these issues during the 1970s, the period in which Tahimik produced his pivotal features. The film-maker overhauls the comedy genre by revamping the figure of the clown in cinema, from Charles Chaplin to Jacques Tati, a clown he plays and that experiences the contradictions of globalisation and continues to interrogate and investigate, with those accompanying him, other forms of living in the world. Because, when all is said and done, perhaps gullibility and absurdity are the best tools against developmentalism.