Interview with Khavn: I like the whole strategy of cut and paste, dealing with fragments, playing with incomplete puzzle pieces (T)

We speak with him about his career, his unique style in filmmaking, music, the police, Metro Manila and many other topics

Khavn De La Cruz is a multi-awarded and internationally renowned filmmaker, composer, and writer. He has forty-six features and more than a hundred short films under his belt.  Once the proprietor of the late 90s go-to place for local artists Oracafe, Khavn has been called the father of Philippine digital filmmaking. He has served as jury member at the Berlinale, Clermont-Ferrand , CPH:DOX, Jeonju, Jihlava, & Dok Leipzig film festivals and is the festival director of .MOV International Film, Music, & Literature Festival, the first digital film festival in the Philippines. Khavn has also judged in the Palanca National Literary Awards (the Philippine equivalent of the Pulitzer) and has won for himself in poetry and fiction.

He has been selected thrice in the National Writers Workshop and was invited to a writing residency in Ventspils International Writers House, Latvia. Khavn has received the Dean’s Award for Literature from his alma mater, the Ateneo De Manila University, where he also has lectured about the creative process. Five of his books have been published, which includes an anthology of Philippine poetry, two poetry collections, a non-fiction compendium on new Philippine cinema, and Ultraviolins, hailed as the first postmodern book of stories in Filipino. Khavn is also an award-winning songwriter and has performed his original compositions, either as a solo pianist or with one of his three bands Fando & Lis, The Brockas, and Vigo in places such as Thessaloniki, Austin, and Brisbane. He is the president of Kamias Road, an independent film, music, and publishing company.

We speak with him about his career, his unique style in filmmaking, music, the police, Metro Manila and many other topics

You have shot 51 features and 115 short films since 1994. Furthermore, you work as a composer, songwriter, and writer. Where do you find the inspiration, the will and the time? Do you ever feel tired?


I am always thinking my output/work defines me. That I don't exist, that I'm not being if I don't make anything. Being tired is part of the process. It's wrong to believe one does not get tired when one is passionate.That's not true. Even machines break down .If you're tired, just take a break. Go for a walk. Dance. Re-energize. Do something else. Then go back to what was left unfinished.

I'm always tired, and I always think I'm not doing enough. But at the end of the day, we just do what we can: stretch, like rubber.

What are your influences as a filmmaker, and in general, where do you draw inspiration from? What kind of films do you like to watch?

Everything that I'm surrounded by: the good & the bad & the ugly, cookbooks, receipts, order slips for construction materials.  I also learn a lot from bad movies, bad being relative. the "badder" they are, the more I enjoy them.

For inspiration, I look to the surrealists, from pre to post, and outsider music from sun ra to moondog. Tthen there are the theaters of cruelty, the absurd, the oppressed, and this book: "Barbaric, Vast, & Wild".



Filipino art is not so well known, particularly in the western world, but you have managed to transcend the borders of your country, gaining international recognition. How difficult was that and how did you achieve it?

I just did my thing, in complete obscurity at first. I wrote poetry and fiction, I composed songs, instrumental music, I made shorts, features. You do what you have to do. Then one by one, slowly, almost inch by inch, a door opens. Someone likes what you do, you get a pat here, a nod there. You come across the like-minded, people you can form an alliance of tastes with.

Your films, such as "Alipato" and "Ruined Heart" implement a kind of chaotic approach to their narration, much like a collage of ideas that come together through the editing. Why have you chosen this method, and how do you manage to present your stories through this chaos? How do the editors of the films feel about it? (This last question is kind of a joke)

"Why" is a big word. "How: is a long word. As cliche as this may sound, I didn't choose this method, the method chose me. Maybe I just have a chaotic mind. My brain interprets the world as a collage. I like the whole strategy of cut and paste, dealing with fragments, playing with incomplete puzzle pieces. Incidentally, collage happens to be the root word of my favorite word bricolage, the study of broccoli.

 In the beginning, Ι edited my films. But now, I prefer to collaborate. For more chaos. Ideally, the editor hasn't read the screenplay, if there is one to begin with. Most of the time, there isn't. I also ban the editor from the pre-production and the shoot itsel,f so he has a fresh take on things. The virgin kino-eye, in a manner of speaking. The exquisite corpse of filmmaking. When my editor sees the footage for the first time, Itell him to forget chronology and assemble the scenes the way they appeal to him. Editing (along with sound design and coloring) is the last stage of film writing. some editors like the challenge—that they're not treated like typewriters, computers; that they're collaborators in the truest sense. Some editors can't take that. They explode.


How did the idea with the tomb stones in "Alipato" came about?

I needed a punctuation mark and sinceI've always been fascinated by tombstones—the design, and the word written on them, I used them as punctuation. But think about it, a tombstone IS a punctuation. Your whole life in one short sentence. The tombstones used in the film are actual tombstones from the Manila North Cemetery, where my grandparents and other relatives are buried. That's also where we shot the last part of "Ruined Heart".

"Alipato" seems to make a comment regarding the conditions of the slums in Metro Manila. Is this really the condition there, particularly regarding the children?

Comments are for obituarists. Metro Manila is very big, this is just one of its many pockets of life.

"Αlipato" is shot in real locations, casting real people (non-actors) from the slums (along with a few professional actors). Although it's fictionally set in the near-future, it's at the same time very real. Αs real as it gets. Τhe ruined heart of Μondomanila.

Day-old chick, the three year old boy who smokes, is the real deal. I didn't cast him because he smokes. I discovered it later during one of the breaks. His mother was letting him smoke to get rid of hunger.

"Alipato" also features a number of images that could be characterized as very extreme, from children that roam the streets half naked, carrying guns, smoking cigarettes, beating and killing people, to a number of extreme sex scenes involving an old lady and a pregnant woman. Why did you choose to use such images in your film?

Some of these things happen in real life so the film is partly a documentary. Some are urban legends, fantasies, myths, hallucinations. Filmmaking is not a 100% conscious act. Most of the time, you don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it. It's a subconscious riot. It's dreaming with the camera on, nightmares and all.

The slums have been tackled since the 50s, post-war. By now, the audience has been desensitized by poverty. They even see it now as pornographic. By using extremist tactics, one hopes to make the blind see.

The concept of extreme, like energy, is relative. images are not chosen like whores behind windows. They have feelings too, though these are much simpler than Barthes and Berger presumed.


Is the fact that the policemen frequent a bar in a pigsty a clear comment on the police in general? What is your opinion of the way police functions in the Philippines?

Let's not insult pigs—I like them a lot. But yes, the non-pigsty-wallowing police is the exception rather than the rule. The police is the corrupt muscle of politicians and the ruling class. This is the subject of my next film, "Bamboo Dogs".

Music seems to play a very important part in your films. Can you elaborate on that? How do you choose the tracks and in general, what is the procedure you use for the music in your films?

Ss long as they still haven't perfected 4D and smell-o-rama, cinema is still sight and sound. The percentage/ratio is your call as a filmmaker. 50:50, 60:40, 100:0, etc.

Sound can also be without music, just silence or ambient sound. Or you can also phrase it like this: music can also be silence or ambient sound or noise.

But it really depends on the film. Sometimes Ι write the songs before shooting the film. Sometimes it's an afterthought. the music diet can consist of everything: recorded, live, vinyl, tape, digital, famous, obscure, local, foreign, past, present. But I welcome working on the sound design of each new film. I get to see with my ears.



Lastly, the inevitable question. What are your plans for the future?


These are all that I'm trying to do at the moment:

- finish my latest film "Bamboo Dogs”

- pre-production of my next film "Gugu"

- release the albums I recorded last year

- write new music

- add more chapters to my bildungsroman novel

- prepare for my installation “Happyland” in Oberhausen this May

Every monday, I do Chopin etudes and work on Ravel's miroirs. To keep my fingers limber. There is so much to read, watch, listen to.I'm always trying to catch up with the future—shoot it or write it as it happens. The future is dead, and so are we, pipapote, balulila, yadadada, that’s Elmo’s world!

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Johnson,1,Matthias Hoene,1,Maundy Thursday,1,Meghe Dhaka Tara,1,Memoir of a Murderer,1,Merantau,1,Mermaid,1,Miaoyan Zhang,1,Michael Haertlein,1,Michelle Hung Tsz-ching,2,Midi Z,1,Midnight Runners,1,Midori Impuls,4,Mikhail Red,4,Milk the Maid,1,Minamata: The Victims and Their World,1,Ming-Yeh Rawnsley,1,Minoru Kunizawa,1,Miss Zombie,1,Miwa Nishikawa,1,Mohammad Rasoulof,1,Mohammad-Reza Lotfi,1,Mon Mon Mon Monsters,1,Mong-Hong Chung,2,Mongolia,2,Monika S-r,1,Moon Lovers,1,Moon So-ri,1,Mototsugu Watanabe,4,Mouly Surya,3,Mountains May Depart,2,Mourning Forest,1,Movie,1,Moving,1,Mr Long,1,Mr. Socrates,1,Mrs Fang,1,Mrs K,2,Mumon: The Land of Stealth,1,My Beloved Yak,1,My Dad and Mr Ito,1,My Heart is that Eternal Rose,1,My Hero Chihiro,1,Myanmar,1,Mystics in Bali,1,Nah Hyeon,1,Namiya,1,Nanachan,1,Naoko Ogigami,3,Naomi Kawase,3,Naosuke Kurosawa,1,Naoyuki Tomomatsu,3,Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit,2,Neko Atsume House,1,Neomanila,2,Nepal,1,Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival,1,Never Ending Blue,1,New Neighbor,2,New World,1,New York Indian Film Festival,1,News,13,Nicholas Poly,4,Night Bus,1,Night is Short,1,Night is Short Walk on Girl,1,Night of the Felines,1,Nikola Cekic,1,Ninja Pussy Cat,1,Niwatsukino Norihiro,1,No. 1 Chung Ying Street,2,Noboru Iguchi,1,Noboru Tanaka,1,Nobuhiko Obayashi,2,Nobuhiro Yamashita,2,Nobuo Nakagawa,1,Nobuyuki Takeuchi,2,Noise,2,Non-fiction Diary,1,Norbu,1,Noriaki Tsuchimoto,1,Norman England,2,North Korea,1,Nurse Diary: Beast Afternoon,1,NYAFF,11,Nyamdavaa Baasansuren,1,NYIFF,1,Odd Obsession,1,Oh In-Chun,1,Old Boy,2,Old Stone,1,Old-School Kung-Fu Fest,3,Omar Rasya Joenoes,3,On The Line Festival,3,On the Run,1,One Cut of the Dead,1,One Man's China,1,Operation Red Sea,1,Ophilia,1,Ordinary Person,1,Orson McClellan Mochizuki,1,Osaka Asian Film Festival,9,Osamu Sato,1,Our Happy time,1,Our Time Will Come,1,Outrage Coda,1,Over the Fence,1,Oxide Pang,1,Pai Kau,2,Palatpol Mingpornpichit,2,Pale Flower,1,Panos,1,Panos Kotzathanasis,193,Park Chan-wook,2,Park Hee-joon,1,Park Hoon-Jung,3,Park In-je,1,Park Ki- hyung,1,Park Kwang-hyun,1,Parkpoom Wongpoom,1,Party Round the Globe,1,Passage of Life,1,Patrick Hofmeister,72,Patrick Tam,1,Pedro Morata,9,Peerachai Kerdsint,1,Pelden Dorji,1,Pema "Tintin" Tshering,1,Pema Tshering,1,Pen-Ek Ratanaruang,1,Peng Xiaolian,1,Pepe Diokno,1,Peque Gallaga,1,Perfect Blue,2,Peter Chan,1,Peter Chen,1,Phanumad Disattha,1,Philippines,11,Pieter - Jan Van Haecke,4,Pieter-Jan Van Haecke,7,Pink Eiga,15,PinkEiga.TV,6,pinku eiga,1,Poet on a Business Trip,1,Poolside Man,1,Press Release,2,Prophecy,1,Proshoon Rahmaan,2,Psychic,1,Pumpkin and Mayonnaise,1,Queen of Triads,1,Rabbit and Lizard,1,Radiance,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Persimmons,1,Rei Sakamoto,1,Reipu zonbi: Lust of the dead 3,1,Respeto,2,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,3,Reviews,187,Reviews.,2,Reviews. Panos Kotzathanasis,1,Riri Riza,2,Ritwik Ghatak,1,River of Exploding Durians,2,Robin Weng,1,Roger Lee,2,Ronja,1,Rouge,1,Rouven Linnarz,1,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,2,Ryu Kaneda,1,Ryuki,1,Ryutaro Ninomiya,2,S. Korea,65,S.Korea,1,Saayak Santra,4,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Sade Sato,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,4,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,7,Satan's Slaves,3,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,5,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Sea Fog,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Serga Mathang,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shake Rattle and Roll,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shaw Brothers,2,She Remembers He Forgets,2,She's the Boss,1,Shift,2,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,3,Shikhar Verna,3,Shim Sung-Bo,1,Shinichi Fukazawa,1,Shinichiro Ueda,1,Shinji Iwai,1,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,2,Shinya Tsukamoto,3,Shireen Seno,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shoot for the Contents,1,Shorts,9,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shuna Iijima,1,Shunji Iwai,1,Shutter,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidi Saleh,1,Signature,1,Silent Mist,1,Silver Spleen,2,Singapore,2,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,6,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Soichi Umezawa,1,Solanin,1,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,19,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Sopon Sakdapisit,1,Soul,1,Soul Mate,1,SoulMate,1,South Korea,20,Sri Lanka,3,Stanley Kwan,1,Steel Rain,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Still the Water,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,Studio Ghibli,1,StudioCanal,4,Subenja Pongkorn,2,Suffering of Ninko,1,Suicide Club,1,Sukita: The Shoot Must Go On,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,3,Sung-hong Kim,1,Sunk Into the Womb,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Sweating the Small Stuff,2,Sylvia Chang,1,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,22,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahiro Miko,1,Takahisa Zeze,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takaomi Ogata,3,Takashi Miike,9,Take Care of My Cat,1,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Talop Wangchuk,1,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teppei Nakamura,1,Tetsuo the Iron Man,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,16,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Bad,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Brink,1,The Chase,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Discloser,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,2,The Executioner,1,The Forest Whispers,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles,1,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The Kid from the Big Apple,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Looming Storm,1,The Lowlife,1,The Magic Blade,1,The Man Without a Map,1,The Mayor,1,The Merciless,2,The Mermaid,1,The Muse,1,The Naked Island,1,The Name,1,The Night of the Earthquake,1,The Outlaws,1,The Prison,1,The Promise,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,the Robber's Daughter,1,The Room,1,The Sacrament,1,The Salesman,1,The Seen and Unseen,1,The Shoot Must Go On,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Snow King,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,1,The Suicide Chain,1,The Swindlers,1,The Table,1,The Third Murder,1,The Thousand Faces of Dunjia,1,The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale,1,The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,1,The Tooth and the Nail,1,The Vanished,1,The Villainess,1,The Violin Player,1,The Way We Are,1,The Weird,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tokyo Vampire Hotel,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Toshiyuki Teruya,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,77,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Treb Monteras II,2,Trinh T. Minh-Ha,3,Triple Threat,1,True Fiction,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Twenty Two,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Udine,3,Unbowed,1,Uncovered,1,V.I.P.,1,Vaishali Sinha,1,Vampire Clay,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,2,Vesoul International Film Festival,4,Victor Vu,1,Vietnam,5,Vikram Zushi,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vincent Kok,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Vivien Qu,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Walking Past the Future,1,Wang Bing,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,We Make Antiques,1,Weeds on Fire,1,Wellgo USA,2,West North West,2,What a Man Wants,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,White Sun,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wiman Rizkidarajat,1,Wine War,1,Without Memory,1,Wol-Ha: Very Bad Moon Rising,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,1,Wong Jing,2,Wong Kar-wai,1,Woo Ming Jin,1,Wrath of Silence,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xin Yukun,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),4,Yang Chao,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yang Woo-seok,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yim Soon-rye,1,Yin Liang,1,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,1,Yoshinari Nishikori,1,Yoshishige Yoshida,1,Yoshitaka Mori,1,Yoshiyuki Kishi,1,Yosuke Takeuchi,2,Yotsuya kaidan,1,You Losers!,1,Your Name,1,Youth,1,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,1,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,2,Yusaku Matsumoto,2,Yutaka Ikejima,3,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,2,Zen,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zoo,1,Zuairijah Mou,1,Zuri Rinpoche. Bhutan. Five Flavours,1,
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Asian Film Vault: Interview with Khavn: I like the whole strategy of cut and paste, dealing with fragments, playing with incomplete puzzle pieces (T)
Interview with Khavn: I like the whole strategy of cut and paste, dealing with fragments, playing with incomplete puzzle pieces (T)
We speak with him about his career, his unique style in filmmaking, music, the police, Metro Manila and many other topics
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Asian Film Vault
http://www.asianfilmvault.com/2017/04/interview-with-khavn-i-like-whole.html
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