WHO: Marilou Diaz-Abaya, the subject of this documentary, directed Reef Hunters, Jose Rizal and more than a dozen other films before her death of breast cancer at age 57 last October.
WHAT: Constructed mostly of talking-head interviews with figures in the Phillipine film industry, including generous clips of Diaz-Abaya speaking about her career, this television-friendly profile doesn't break cinematic ground in its own right, but does a good job of chronicling how a Filipina director broke ground in a male-dominated industry for more than thirty years. We learn how Diaz-Abaya began making films as an acolyte of the famed Lino Brocka, how she maintained her career through the 1980s and 1990s, how she innovated in broadcast media, producing television satire such as Sic O' Clock News, how she became an advocate for social and environmental issues through her filmmaking as well as outside of it, how she devoted herself to teaching a new generation of filmmakers through her film school outside of Manila, and how she persevered as a director in the 2000s despite her battle with cancer.
This is not an impartial piece of journalism but a loving tribute made by Diaz-Abaya's brother-in-law's ex-wife Mona Lisa Yuchengco, a Filipina making her film directing debut at age 62. But it still serves as an excellent introduction to the inspiring life and work of a neglected artist; numerous clips from her filmography tantalize the viewer who hasn't seen many (or any) of her completed works. I've only seen two myself years ago; I loved Reef Hunters, a gripping morality tale investigating the authority adults wield over children, especially in an isolated environment like that of an ocean vessel, and was less enthralled by New Moon, a well-intentioned plea for empathy for the plight of innocent Muslims trapped by violent cycles in Mindanao. But after watching Filmmaker On A Voyage I want to dive into the rest of her films as soon as I can.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens via CAAM Fest at the Kabuki twice: a free screening this afternoon at 2:30 PM and a reprise showing at normal festival prices at 12:40 PM on Sunday, March 17th.
WHY: CAAM Fest is the longest-running film festival devoted to screening the work of Asian-American and Asian filmmakers, and though it began last night with a screening of the sports doc Linsanity, the deluge of viewing options begins tonight. Cheryl Eddy, Kimberly Chun, and Michael Hawley have each provided previews of selected films in this year's line-up, but none of them mention Marilou Diaz-Abaya: Filmmaker On A Voyage. Yet a film about an independent-minded filmmaker seems the ideal way to start a weekend of screenings, especially since its first showing is a freebie!
HOW: Digital projection of a digital production.