FILIPINO auteur Lavrente “Lav” Diaz has added yet another trophy to his already full shelf as he won the Best Director Award in the Orizzonti section of this year’s Venice International Film Festival for his film, Lahi, Hayop (Genus Pan).
The film, which revolves around the plight of Filipino illegal miners and how society neglects them, was the only Philippine entry in the prestigious festival. Mr. Diaz directed, wrote, edited, and produced the film which stars Bart Guingona and Nanding Josef.
“I once was asked to define man, the so-called human beings, supposedly the most superior inhabitant of planet Earth, and due to the moment’s urgency, for a quick reply, all I could muster was an animal simile (‘Man is an animal’), and I felt terrible, I thought I fumbled, but then looking back now, it was in fact the better answer. Yes, in fact, man remains on that level, animal,” Mr. Diaz wrote of his film on the Venice Film Festival website.
He added that while humans are better developed as a species, “most of us still retain the demeanor and comportment of the chimpanzee, the genus Pan, part of Hominidae, the great primate family,” and thus “by nature, we are violent, aggressive, obsessive, transgressive, imposing, envious, territorial, narcissistic, and egotistical.”
But there’s hope, Mr. Diaz wrote, as the human brain is still developing and once it has achieved full development, “man shall be complete, a truly self-actualized species, altruistic, saintly, and true, just like Buddha, Gandhi, Christ, and the farmer, Mang Osting, who generously provides for my vegetarian needs.”
“Thus, this film, Lahi, Hayop… it has always been my desire to make a film about animals; but, man as animals, man honestly acting like one, an animal, as he has been acting like an animal all his life anyway,” he ended.
(To view the film’s trailer,visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2lKsbG4crU)
Lahi, Hayop was not the first time Mr. Diaz won at the Venice Film Festival — in 2008, his film Melancholia won the Orizzonti Grand Prize, and in 2014, he won the Golden Lion award, the festival’s top honor, for the film Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left).
The Orizzonti section of the festival is a category running parallel to the main competition and is an international competition “dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinemas,” according to the festival website.
Mr. Diaz, known for weaving contemplative, yet complex stories on human nature, has in recent years become a favorite in the international circuit with Mula Sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What is Before) winning the Golden Leopard at the 2014 Locarno International Film Festival, and Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) winning the Golden Bear at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival, the same year Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) won the Golden Lion at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
Mr. Diaz is one of the most prominent members of the slow cinema movement — his 2004 film, Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family) spans almost 10 hours. In comparison, Lahi, Hayop runs for two hours and a half.
The Venice International Film Festival, is considered the world’s oldest film festival (it started in 1932) and is one of the “Big Three” film festivals, a list that include the Cannes Film Festival in France and the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. — Zsarlene B. Chua