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Un Certain Regard: "Independencia" by Raya Martin

Filipino cinema is making a triple-barreled return to the Cannes Festival, with the presentation of Kinatay by Brillante Mendoza, in Competition, and Independencia by Un Certain Regard. The latter feature is set in the early 20th century, during the Philippine-American war, when the newly independent republic was annexed by the United States. It is one of two films director Raya Martin is presenting in Cannes this year, the second being the Out-of-Competition Manila. In Independencia, when US troops land on the island, a mother and son flee to the mountains for safety. One day, in the middle of the jungle, the boy finds the body of a battered woman, and decides to bring her back to their hut…

Raya Martin, whose Short Film about the Indio Nacional attracted notice in 2008, started working on Independencia as a Cinéfondation filmmaker-in-residence in 2005. "In the Cinefondation, I wrote a short but detailed treatment on the story of the mother and son," he remarked. "It was a pattern of simple actions (eating, breathing, walking) and notes on the mood of natural elements, such as the wind, the water, the skies… I wanted to shoot rapidly, live in the mountains with a 16mm camera and a small crew, in a rather documentary style, but this never happened. So the project became a part of the struggle series. Meanwhile, my intentions changed. The idea was not to simply imitate the style of a particular period but to follow the evolution of a film director, from the silent films to the talking pictures. The studio component was therefore introduced, and I started to work on a more conventional script. That was three years ago."

Regarding the studio esthetic pervading the film, Raya Martin explains: "Formally Independencia mimics the esthetics of studio films during the American occupation, whereas the story focuses on the resistance during the same period. The idea was to expose the Hollywood substrate and subvert it to redefine our struggle. The fake newsreel in the middle of the film is a good example: it is based on the true story of an American and the death of a local boy. This segment is similar to the intermission that we had in the theatres at the time."

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