Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Kadu, in my home there is nothing much, I can go camping for a month, nothing gets lost. That is my wealth"

Turumba is the 1981 film by Philippines director Kidlat Tahimik. The film is narrated from the perspective of a young boy called Kadu. It gives an account of the dehumanizing effects of the European system of mass production on the village where Kadu lives. The local craft of Papier-mâché prepared for a local festival called "Turumba" is distorted and homogenized by a German woman who starts to export the craft works to Germany en masse. What had originally been a family enterprise laden with tradition, becomes a sudo-sweat shop, and the models that had been used before are discarded for the 1971 Munich Olympic Games mascot. Kadu's father who originally had been the Kantore at the festival every year becomes the boss of this enterprise and becomes obsessed with accruing status symbols of wealth, including a TV, a Mercedes Benz, foreign travel. This material wealth is contrasted to Pati, a machete maker, who lives simply but happily without the pressures of trying to prove wealth in material possessions.

The theme of the film is consistent with Tahimik's debut film, Perfumed Nightmare which also talks of a disillusion with the Western "developed world" and a pastoral longing for a simpler life uncomplicated by a imported system of values.

This film reminded me somewhat of the short story 蕭蕭 (Xiaoxiao) by 沈從文 (Shen Congwen). The short story, in one interpretation, conveys a longing for life on the margins of civilization, as yet untouched by modernization. The old society's rules and laws although seemingly chauvinistic and oppressive are regulated by the institutions and the men and women within the society. This is represented within the story by the horrible things we hear about how women are treated in the society in which Xiaoxiao lives, but the relatively benign treatment of the protagonist herself. The film like the book seem to be praising this cultural wilderness while simultaneously acknowledging its coming destruction. Both the film and the short story question the prizing of the modern above the native, and seem to point to an already void desire to found an alternative Eastern modernism, independent of the perils of what is often called "The American Dream".

This film lacks some of the wit and creativity of the first film but it's definitely worth watching.

As far as I'm aware it's all available on youtube.

Film Rating: 5/5

Interesting Quote:

(Referring to moulds for Papier-mâché) "Suddenly they all have time. The lovers, the general, the horses, they're now unemployed for the first time in 50 years. [...] For 40 years the sound of her sewing machine created Turumba fashions, creations of love. After the Olympics, Papa's factory shall rise here, creations without soul."

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