Experimental Films Find Home at the FDCP Cinematheques

Closing Arts Month celebrations, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is set to launch the first edition of “Xperimento Pelikula,” a series of events centered on experimental cinema, by screening a program by The Kalampag Tracking Agency (KTA) on February 28, 2017, 7p.m., at the FDCP Cinematheque Centre Manila.


The KTA, a program of Filipino avant-garde film and video over the past 30 years, is an ongoing curatorial initiative between artist-curators Shireen Seno of Los Otros and Merv Espina of Generation Loss (GEN_LOSS).  It features works by a diverse array of Filipino artists across generations and continents, including Miko Revereza, Melchor Bacani III, Rox Lee, Ramon Jose “RJ” Leyran, John Torres, Yason Banal, Tad Ermitano, Raya Martin, Tito & Tita, Martha Atienza, Jon Lazam, Cesar Hernando, Eli Guieb III, and Jimbo Albano.

For the first time in the presentation of the KTA, certain works are to be projected in their original 16mm and 35mm formats.

Through exhibiting rare films in experimental cinema and artist film and video, the KTA aims to bring to light and advocate for the archiving, restoration, circulation, and critical discourse of such works.

Recently, the National Film Archives of the Philippines (NFAP), under the auspices of the FDCP, collaborated with the KTA to push forward this archiving initiative by digitally transferring three 16mm films that were in the KTA’s original program, namely “Bugtong: And Sigaw ni Lalake” by RJ Leyran, “Kalawang” by Cesar Hernando, Eli Guieb III & Jimbo Albano, and “Minsan Isang Panahon” by Melchor Bacani III.

These films, which were deposited into the NFAP, were created during the Mowelfund Film Institute and Goethe Institut Manila’s experimental film workshops in the 80s and 90s. The NFAP scanned the 16mm films in 2K resolution and has included the digital copies as part of the overall preservation of the films. In the screening program, the new digital transfers will replace older versions that originated from crude video.

The FDCP-NFAP continues to work with the KTA and push forward the advocacy of film archiving by digitally transferring more titles from the Mowelfund collection and other rare experimental works for greater public access and future editions of the KTA program.

The FDCP, under the Xperimento Pelikula series, plans to exhibit the KTA program in a nationwide cinematheque tour to Baguio, Iloilo, Davao, and Zamboanga this coming March.

Shireen Seno is a lens-based artist whose work addresses memory, history, and image-making, often in relation to the idea of home. She has had two solo exhibitions in Manila and received international recognition for her feature Big Boy (2012), shot entirely on Super 8. Her photo zine Trunks has been exhibited at MoMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Tokyo Art Book Fair.

Merv Espina is an artist and organizer. He is co-founder of the institute of Lower Learning (iLL), an experimental art and education initiative based in Saigon and Manila; program director for Green Papaya Art Projects, the oldest artist-run creative interdisciplinary platform in the Philippines; and cook-janitor of WSK, a media art kitchen and festival for the recently possible.

Statement from the curators:

Overcoming institutional and personal lapses to give attention to little-seen works—some quite recent, some surviving loss and decomposition—this programme collects loose parts in motion, a series of bangs, or kalampag in Tagalog, assembled by individual strengths and how they might resonate off each other and a contemporary audience. Featuring some of the most striking films and videos from the Philippines and its diaspora, this is an initiative that continues to navigate the uncharted topographies of Filipino alternative and experimental moving image practice.

They say it always starts with a bang. Or a series of bangs.

Like the tiny explosions in your brain that rattle you to take action, it could be something simple and small, not necessarily earth-shattering. The act of capturing the fleeting moments, ideas and visions and down both entail a certain slippage of forms and time, something that tends to elude us but cannot be ignored, something which we liken to kalampag, a Tagalog word that roughly translates to a ‘bang’; the act of tracking them something of an alert, a warning that something may worsen or interrupt the journey, versus the stable engine hum of a giant system, a well-oiled machine; like the rattling of loose parts that collide while in motion.

This is a collection of loose parts in motion, a series of bangs, assembled by individual strengths, and how they might play off each other in the context of a screening program. Featuring works from the Philippines and its diaspora, it is here that we present some of the most singular, fragile, and striking moving image works by Filipinos over the past thirty years. It could have been from forty years, or more. But we are limited by time and resources, and what we have current access to.

This is by no means a representative program. This selection is personal, subjective. Like the works assembled here, the act of assembling this program is itself informed by a certain agency, by an independent urge to act on one’s will.

With no small amount of detective work to address the institutional and personal gaps of proper cataloging, archiving and storage, we tracked down individual people and individual works, from the nooks and crannies of several libraries and collections, to tiny islands in the Visayas, to the Los Angeles sprawl.

With a variety of formats, techniques and textures; from 8mm and 16mm to HD and cellphone video; from found-footage and optical print experiments to ethnographic documents and video installations; this is a collection of works assembled not by theme, history, medium or other arbitrary concerns: this is a confluence of uncanny juxtapositions and pleasant contradictions, an experience not unlike revisiting a familiar place in a new light. But before you get to where you’re going, you hit a speed bump or a pothole and you hear a loud rattling coming from your car. Sometimes you think something’s amiss; sometimes it’s the sound of it that comforts you.

This program would be impossible to put together without the kind support of the individual artists, the Mowelfund Film Institute, UP College of Mass Communications, UP Film Institute, Ateneo Art Gallery, Green Papaya Art Projects, Terminal Garden, and the National Film Archive of the Philippines.

The screening prints of the 8mm and 16mm films created in the 80s and 90s that are featured in the Kalampag Tracking Agency are mostly missing or completely decomposed. Some of the lucky ones have negatives and/or preservation copies left. The screening versions of the films in this screening program come from crude U-Matic, VHS and Betamax transfers. The Agency is still in the process of tracking down the surviving prints.

Organizational notes:

Based in Manila, Peliculas Los Otros is a film and video production house dedicated to supporting films with unique personal voices. It has produced the films of John Torres and Shireen Seno, including Todo Todo Teros (2006), Years When I Was A Child Outside (2008), Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song (2010), BIG BOY (2012), and Lukas Nino / Lukas the Strange (2013). Los Otros also works with experimental film initiatives from abroad to bring artists such as Iimura Takahiko, films such as Sensory Ethnography Lab’s Leviathan, and programs such as Hors Pistes Tokyo(オール・ピスト東京) and Images Festival, to Manila.

Merv Espina started Generation Loss (GEN_LOSS) in 2012 as a formal extension of his research-based arts practice to investigate histories, experiments, alternative strategies, current trajectories and expanded practices in the moving image and audiovisual culture. It looks particularly in the context of the Philippines, and comparatively with Southeast Asia and elsewhere.


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