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

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!

COMMENTS

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13 Assassins,1,13: Game of Death,1,1428,1,2012,1,2015,1,2016,2,2017,11,2046,1,2LDK,1,3-Iron,1,36th Chamber Of Shaolin,1,500M800M,1,A Better Tomorrow 2018,1,A Bittersweet Life,1,A Bride for Rip Van Winkle,1,A Company Man,1,A Day,2,A Death in the Gunj,1,A Dirty Carnival,1,A Feeling Greater Than Love,1,A few words about us,1,A Girl at my Door,1,A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawm,1,A Love,1,A Man of Integrity,1,A Man Vanishes,1,A Quiet Dream,1,A Simple Life,1,A Single Rider,1,A Special Lady,1,A Stone from Another Mountain to Polish Your Own Stone. Go Shibata,1,A Taxi Driver,1,A Whale of a Tale,1,A Woman Wavering In The Rain,1,Aamir,1,Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,1,Abdullah Mohammad Saad,3,Abhishek Chaubey,1,About Elly,1,Above the Clouds,1,Adam J. 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Johnson,1,Matthias Hoene,1,Maundy Thursday,1,Mayurakshi,1,Meghe Dhaka Tara,1,Memoir of a Murderer,1,Merantau,1,Mermaid,1,Michael Haertlein,1,Michelle Hung Tsz-ching,1,Midi Z,1,Midnight Runners,1,Midori Impuls,1,Midori The Camelia Girl,1,Mikhail Red,3,Milk the Maid,1,Ming-Yeh Rawnsley,1,Mira Nair,1,Miss Zombie,1,Miwa Nishikawa,2,Mohammad Rasoulof,1,Mohammad-Reza Lotfi,1,Mon Mon Mon Monsters,1,Mong-Hong Chung,2,Monika S-r,1,Monologue,1,Moon Lovers,1,Mototsugu Watanabe,3,Mouly Surya,1,Mountains May Depart,1,Mourning Forest,1,Movie,2,Moving,1,Mr. Socrates,1,Mrs Fang,1,Mrs K,1,Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation),1,Mumon: The Land of Stealth,1,Museum,1,My Beloved Yak,1,My Dad and Mr Ito,1,Myanmar,1,Nah Hyeon,1,Nandita Roy,1,Naoko Ogigami,3,Naomi Kawase,3,Naosuke Kurosawa,1,Naoyuki Tomomatsu,3,Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit,1,Neeraj Ghaywan,1,Neko Atsume House,1,Neomanila,1,Nepal,1,Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival,1,New Neighbor,1,News,3,Newton,1,Nicholas Poly,4,Night Bus,1,Night is Short,1,Night is Short Walk on Girl,1,Nikkatsu,1,Nikola Cekic,1,Ninja Pussy Cat,1,Nirbaak,1,Niwatsukino Norihiro,1,Noboru Uguchi,1,Nobuhiro Yamashita,2,Nobuo Nakagawa,2,Nobuyuki Takeuchi,2,Noise,1,Non-fiction Diary,1,Norbu,1,Norihiro Niwatsukino,1,Norjmaa,1,Norman England,1,North Korea,2,Nurse Diary: Beast Afternoon,1,NYAFF,34,Odd Obsession,1,Old Boy,2,Old Stone,1,Old-School Kung-Fu Fest,3,Omar Rasya Joenoes,3,On the Job,1,On The Line Festival,3,On the Run,1,Onibaba,1,Operation Red Sea,1,Ophilia,1,Ordinary Person,1,Osamu Sato,1,Our Happy time,1,Our Time Will Come,1,Outrage Coda,1,Over the Fence,1,Oxide Pang,1,Padmavati,2,Palatpol Mingpornpichit,2,Pale Flower,1,Panos,1,Panos Kotzathanasis,195,Paresh Mokashi,1,Park Chan-wook,2,Park Hoon-Jung,2,Park In-je,1,Park Ki- hyung,1,Park Kwang-hyun,1,Parkpoom Wongpoom,1,Past and Future,1,Patrick Hofmeister,53,Pedro Morata,8,Peerachai Kerdsint,1,Pelden Dorji,1,Pema Tshering,1,Pen-Ek Ratanaruang,2,Peng Xiaolian,1,Pepe Diokno,1,Perfect Blue,2,Peter Chan,1,Peter Chen,1,Phanumad Disattha,1,Philippines,11,Pieter - Jan Van Haecke,3,Pieter-Jan Van Haecke,6,Pink Eiga,9,PinkEiga.TV,1,pinku eiga,1,Pinneyum,1,Poet on a Business Trip,1,Poolside Man,1,Posto,1,Press Release,2,Proshoon Rahmaan,2,Psychic,1,Rabbit and Lizard,1,Radiance,1,Rage. Lee Sang-il,1,Rahul Jain,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Rajkumar Gupta,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 3,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Re:Born,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Beard,1,Red Persimmons,1,Resistance at Tule Lake,1,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,6,Reviews,214,Reviews.,2,Riri Riza,3,Ritwik Ghatak,2,River of Exploding Durians,1,Robin Weng,1,Roman Porno,1,Rouge,1,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,1,Ryota Sakamaki,1,S. Korea,64,S.Korea,2,Saayak Santra,9,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Salaam Bombay,1,Samui Song,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,13,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,2,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,28,Satan's Slaves,2,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Satyajit Ray,1,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,6,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shanker Raman,1,Shaw Brothers,1,She's the Boss,1,Shiboprosad Mukherjee,1,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,11,Shikhar Verna,3,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,1,Shinya Tsukamoto,3,Shireen Seno,1,Shirley Abraham,1,Shock Wave,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shorts,2,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shunji Iwai,2,Shutter,1,Shyam Ramsay,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidharth Bharathan,1,Signature,1,Singapore,1,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,8,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Slavemen,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Someone To Talk To,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,18,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Soul,1,SoulMate,2,South Korea,16,Sri Lanka,3,Srijit Mukherji,7,Stanley Kwan,1,Stanley Tong,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Steve James,1,Still the Water,1,Stoneman Murders,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,StudioCanal,3,Subenja Pongkorn,1,Suffering of Ninko,2,Sugihara Survivors: Jewish and Japanese,1,Suicide Club,1,Suman Mukhopadhay,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,2,Sunday Beauty Queen,1,Sung-hong Kim,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,24,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahide Hori,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takashi Miike,9,Take Care of My Cat,1,Takeo Kikuchi,2,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Tamura Senichi,1,Tanit Jitnukul,1,Tanvir Ashraf,1,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teenkahon,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,18,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Apology,1,The Bad,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Chase,1,The Cinema Travellers,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,1,The Executioner,1,The Eye's Dream,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Gangster's Daughter,1,The Girl Who Never Knew War,1,The Golden Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Buddha+,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Long Excuse,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 Net,1,The Prison,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,The Room,1,The Salesman,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,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 Truth Beneath,1,The Villainess,3,The Violin Player,1,The Weird,1,The Windmill Palm Grove,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,This Is Not What I Expected!,1,Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tiffany Hsiung,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Torico,2,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshihisa Yokoshima,3,Toshimasha Kobayashi,1,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Town in a Lake,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,62,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Trapped,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Triple Threat,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Tulsi Ramsay,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Um Tae-hwa,1,Unbowed,1,V.I.P.,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,1,Vanishing Time A Boy Who Returned,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,1,Varnyathil Aashanka,1,Vesoul International Film Festival,6,Vidya Balan,1,Vietnam,4,Vikramaditya Motwane,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vinay Shukla,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Wang Bing,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,Wei-Hao Cheng,1,Wellgo USA,1,West North West,2,What A Wonderful Family 2,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,Whispering Star,1,White Sun,1,Who Killed Cock Robin,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wine War,1,With Prisoners,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,3,Wong Jing,1,Wong Kar-wai,2,Woo Ming Jin,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xu Bing,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),3,Yan Pak Wing,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yao Tian,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yeti Obhijaan,2,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoji Yamada,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yoonsuk Jung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Hanno,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,3,Yoshimasa Jimbo,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,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yu Sang-wook,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yuji Shimomura,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,2,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,1,Yusaku Matsumoto,1,Yutaka Ikejima,2,Yutaro Nakamura,1,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,1,Zhang Lu,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight,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
Interview with Khavn: I like the whole strategy of cut and paste, dealing with fragments, playing with incomplete puzzle pieces
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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