"One of underground digital cinema’s best-kept secrets: a prankster punk, an ass-kicking rebel priest." — Olaf Moeller, Film Comment
A tribute-cum-reformulation-in-film of Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal’s poem “Mi Ultimo Adios,” Khavn’s “Ultimo: Different Ways of Killing a National Hero” explores identity and nationhood as viewed through the lens of a truly post-colonial individual. Ultimo is a black-and-white silent film, with scenes from the director’s meanderings in La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain) interspersed with lines from Rizal’s poem, which was written a day before the hero’s execution in 1896. Waiting, ambivalence, and re-membering —– themes usually tackled in literature and criticism —– are investigated through a series of images: the mundane elevated to the affective through a sensibility that does not shy away from pushing the boundaries of art. The feature version is scored by a post-kundiman duet of guitar and banduria. (Torino International Film Festival)
One of the most memorable screenings in the fourth edition of the Cinemalaya Film Festival is that of Khavn De La Cruz’s Ultimo. To call Ultimo a film (which it technically is not, as with all of Khavn’s filmless films) is a disservice to Khavn’s ambition. The film is essentially a montage of slightly related or totally unrelated shots around La Palma in the Canary Islands. The verses of Mi Ultimo Adios (My Final Farewell), the poem Jose Rizal wrote before being executed by the Spanish colonizers for his revolutionary ideals, serve as intertitles to the black and white, silent feature. While the film is screening, Khavn plays the piano as the words of Rizal’s poem are being disarranged and repeated to serve as cadence to the performance. A dancer performs to cap the experience. While at first, Ultimo feels hefty, disjointed, and pretentious, as the minutes fly by with the incoherent black and white images flickering onscreen with the dancer twisting her body in various shapes and words are recited in rhythm as Khavn’s melodies become more enraged, one can’t help but get swept into the hypnotic madness and enjoy the experience. Rizal’s most famous poem was honored and raped at the same time and one leaves the performance in a speechless fervor, unable to describe the ultra-sensory experience that was ingeniously orchestrated by Khavn. (Oggs Cruz, Lessons From The School Of Inattenton)
Khavn De La Cruz’s poignant, black-and-white riff on Filipino national hero Jose Rizal is reflective of the director’s restless experimentation and unmistakable energy. Shot in Spain (the Philippines’ former colonizer) in about a week, the abstract string of scenes of play and contemplation has a thrown-together feel but deepens with the intricate flamenco guitar score (the movie’s is otherwise silent) and the intertitles of Rizal’s proud-martyr verse. (Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment)
Original Title: ULTIMO: Distintas Maneras De Matar Un Heroe Nacional
Valiente Award, La Palma International Digital Film Festival, Spain
25th Torino International Film Festival, Italy
Oberhausen International Film Festival, Germany
Underdox Documentary & Experimental Film Festival, Munich, Germany
In 2005, the organizers of the La Palma International Digital Film Festival posted a challenge to the filmmakers in attendance: create a short film within the span of the festival. I finished twelve. The following year, I decided to challenge myself further: I tried to make a full-length film within the week of the festival. This is the result.
At first I was just shooting randomly, but then later, like what happens in all art, the scenes started to weave themselves into meaning. My stay in La Palma, and my constant exposure to all sorts of cultures, had brought to me a certain sense of ambivalence regarding my identity as a Filipino filmmaker. Here I was, drinking, laughing, making friends with the same people who have historically been the source of a lot of my country’s woes. I was torn between two ideas: remembering as an act of asserting identity, and engaging my fellow man in the here and now. People are people, I guess. I’ve finished the film, but still it wasn’t able to ease much of this ambivalence. I just hope that I’ve fleshed out at least a little of it here.
Director and Producer: Khavn De La Cruz
Composers: Khavn De La Cruz, Junji Lerma
Editor: Lawrence S. Ang
Actors: Teresa Lorenzo, Celia Blanco
Production Company: Kamias Road
Film shot on location in La Palma, Spain, courtesy of Festivalito 2006.