Martial Law documentaries take the spotlight at AAIFF45 in New York

Why is Yellow in the Middle of the Rainbow? By Kidlat Tahimik will be screened at the Asia Society on August 6 at 12:00 noon. This screening is part of the series, “Selective Memory Has No Bounds: Yes, Martial Law Did Actually Happen.” For tickets, visit www.aaiff.org

THE 45th Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF45) is back as a hybrid festival, both in-person at Asia Society and streaming online globally, and runs from August 3-13, 2022.

This year’s full lineup includes 18 World Premieres, 32 East Coast Premieres, and 31 New York Premieres. The films represent a total of 24 countries and 20 languages, featuring 73 directors.

The festival will kick off on August 3 with an exclusive in-person screening of its Opening Night film Free Col Soo Lee, directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi, at the Asia Society and Museum, with a reception to follow.

Portraits of Mosquito Press by JL Burgos will be shown on August 7 at 2:15 p.m. at the Asia Society’s Rose Room. This screening is part of the series, “Selective Memory Has No Bounds: Yes, Martial Law Did Actually Happen.” For tickets, visit www.aaiff.org

Rounding out the festival’s special presentations is the “Selective Memory Has No Bounds: Yes, Martial Law Did Actually Happen” program, guest-curated by visual and media artist, educator, and curator Angel Velasco Shaw.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law and the program includes two documentary films to educate and remind global citizens of this dark era in Philippine history.

“AAIFF played a big role in raising my consciousness about racial and ethnic-based identity issues. Self-identification as an Asian American artist, filmmaker, and cultural activist became the greatest source of power from which I create from,” Shaw said, reflecting on her association with Asian CineVision (ACV), which organizes the AAIFF. “Over the 37 years of working with ACV, AAIFF has continued to nurture and showcase talent from diverse Asian American independent filmmakers, actors, and producers generation after generation.”

The program showcases two documentaries: Portraits of Mosquito Press (directed by JL Burgos) and Why is Yellow in the Middle of the Rainbow? (directed by Kidlat Tahimik)

Portraits of Mosquito Press by JL Burgos will be shown on August 7 at 2:15 p.m. at the Asia Society’s Rose Room. This screening is part of the series, “Selective Memory Has No Bounds: Yes, Martial Law Did Actually Happen.” For tickets, visit www.aaiff.org

Portraits of Mosquito Press is director JL Burgos’ compelling documentary film that looked at the plight of his late father, journalist Jose Burgos, Jr., the publisher of the alternative newspaper We Forum and later, the founder of Malaya newspaper.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, many journalists were either jailed or silenced. Decades after the fall of the strongman, members of the alternative press recount the dark times and how they braved dangers to publish real news.

The film adeptly recounts the struggles that Burgos, his wife, and colleagues endured because they dared to write the truth about the Marcos dictatorship and the atrocities committed during the Martial Law Era.

JL Burgos will provide an introduction to his film, followed by a post-screening talk about the film’s reception and its relevance to the continuance of Philippine press freedom being under siege with the passing of presidencies from Rodrigo Duterte’s draconian rule to Bongbong Marcos, the son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Why is Yellow in the Middle of the Rainbow? on the other hand is National Artist Kidlat Tahimik’s “cups-of-gas” documentary film, a visual essay that tells interconnecting stories about Spanish and American colonialism/imperialism and their impact on the Philippines, the Martial Law era, and the People’s Power Yellow Movement through humorous, personal, and political lenses.

Inspired by a trip to Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation while en route to the Telluride Film Festival, Tahimik and his eldest son Kidlat Gottlieb Kalayaan use the “spaghetti machine” (Tahimik’s nickname for his Bolex camera) to make their own “spaghetti western.”

The decade-long path of the film encompasses the assassination of Benigno Aquino and the subsequent Yellow Revolution that brought Corazon Aquino to power in 1986, the decommissioning of the US air base Camp John Hay, and the younger Kidlat’s trajectory through school, all shown through a Third World Projector salvaged from a junk pile on Navajo land.

This decolonizing narrative focuses on these histories told to Tahimik’s oldest son, Kidlat de Guia in the form of “history lessons.” The film chronicles Kidlat’s (and his two younger brothers’) labyrinthine journey over the span of 10 years.

This program is dedicated to the memory of Kidlat de Guia, a visual artist, photographer, and cinematographer who died last March 9 in Madrid where he was visiting his father Kidlat Tahimik’s exhibition at the Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park.

Following the screening, there is a 15-minute taped conversation between Kidlat Tahimik and independent filmmaker Raymond Red, moderated by Angel Velasco Shaw.

(Why is Yellow in the Middle of the Rainbow? will be screened at the Asia Society on August 6 at 12:00 while Portraits of Mosquito Press will be shown on August 7 at 2:15 p.m. at the Asia Society’s Rose Room.)

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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