If we normally think of the border between the United States and the Philippines as one between a colonial benefactor and a ward that is always one step behind, these reviews show that the cultural exchange between the nations isn’t a one-way relationship.
The Simps—Miss Fortunate
Eyedress & Zzzahara
Idris Vicuña—a.k.a. Eyedress, a prolific twenty-nine-year-old Filipino musician-songwriter-producer and the the first musician from Manila to sign with a major indie label in the West—stands out as a singular anomaly. Instead of trying to emulate popular trends, Eyedress makes music that is fresh and innovative. He influences trendsetting musicians in the US as much as he has been influenced by them. The Simps—Miss Fortunate, a music and video collaboration between Eyedress and Zzzahara, captures Eyedress’s dreamy vibe—only this time, the smoggy cityscape of Manila is replaced by the (similarly smoggy) Los Angeles skyline. The music evokes a sense of traipsing on a hillside at sunset, high on benzodiazepine, surrounded by your closest friends, not worrying at all about how much money is (or isn’t) in your bank account. It’s the epitome of the millennial American dream. And it’s beautiful.
Revolution Selfie: The Red Battalion
Steven de Castro
This documentary about the New People’s Army (NPA) of the Philippines—which is leading a communist revolution there—deserves genuine praise, despite being nearly unwatchable: at one point, director Steven de Castro cuts from a moving interview with a cadre of queer and trans NPA soldiers (of which there are many) to footage of him bungee jumping from the top of a building. Unfortunate juxtapositions like these detract from a revelatory view of the ongoing struggle for third world liberation and the preservation of indigenous history. But credit should be given to de Castro for his sincere, enthusiastic attempt to capture the NPA’s struggle; such a film, if helmed by a more experienced filmmaker, might not have been allowed a public release.
Insurrecto comprises multiple stories nestled within one another, a surreal Russian doll of a novel. Underneath the subtle humor of the dreamlike dialogue is a psychological treatise on the social relations between colonizer and colonized. Equal parts novelist, psychologist, and historian, Apostol melds fact and fiction to take the reader on a dizzying ontological journey to a place where absurdity and realism become one and the same. In the end, this dazzling, confusing realm is the true feeling of colonization.