The Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

June 9, 2015 Leave a comment

The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), directed by Dziga Vertov, is a fascinating example of the Soviet silent cinema. Committed to practice the principle of “film truth” by documenting life as it is, Vertov filmed shots of the changing Russian cityscape against the contemporary urban lifestyle. His opposition to staged theatrics in film is evident on his self-declared choice to not use any actors, planned plots, or artistically created backdrops common in the German Expressionist film movement.  Instead, what Vertov creates is a film experience that manages to share its themes through a series of random shots that when juxtaposed together in certain sequences, relays many poetic ideologies prevalent during his time. A good example is the studies in social class that are seen throughout the length of this film, with their differences emphasized through various forms of transition editing. I would like to think that these tools were creatively chosen to highlight the social realism that was evident during this era.

The industrial scenes are presented such that the workers are filmed with the machines of their craft, sharing equal screen time and glorified in the same way as if they are one. The parallel-editing of the fast movements of machines and the automatous body mechanics of the workers conveys their oneness and how one compliments the others. These were evident in the scenes of operators fixing and oiling turning gears, women sited in rows sewing in unison, and trolley carts operated by drivers that seem to follow a choreographed dance that has been rehearsed to perfection. The workers are filmed smiling and enjoying the work that they do, while emphasizing the industrial growth the fuels the city through various wipe transitions between the changing cityscape and the labor force in action which are scattered throughout the film.

The carefree lifestyles of the bourgeoisie are narrated through transition shots of beach scenes with people carelessly spending the hours of their days enjoying the sand and sun. In contrast to the mechanistic human motions of the workers, the movements exemplified by the upper class is shown through series editing of men and women performing hurdle jumps, javelin throws, synchronized swimming, exercising, and dancing. The beauty of the human body performing these movements are emphasized through freeze frames; such as a row of men jumping hurdles in unison and a jockey and horse frozen in a mid-air jump.

Another interesting way on how Vertov juxtaposed individuals from these two social classes is through a series of series editing and superimposed shots. In the film we see a female coal worker focused on her work, without regard to how she looks like as she tries to continue what she was doing despite the distraction she faces with the presence of the camera. This was juxtaposed to shots of a woman sitting on an inclined couch, positioned to get her eye make-up and nail polish done by an unseen worker. Another series shows an unseen worker washing a clean and pretty lady’s hair and a laborers washing and drying dirty clothes by hand. We also see a gentleman getting a shave and women enjoying a day in the salon followed by sewers smiling as they work with their sewing machines.  There were scenes of women merrily dancing with a picture of a piano superimposed to this shot. This was soon followed by a female worker typing with her typewriter superimposed on the same shot.

Interestingly enough, despite the obvious connections discussed, it does not appear that Vertov was trying to evoke a call for revolution or a plea to change the existing social norms. True to his philosophy of “life caught unawares”, he seems to be simply presenting what is there. Any interpretation of intent to provoke emotions cannot be attributed to what the filmmaker showed, allowing the audience freedom to decide what to think or feel about what they saw. With this in mind, I see the genius of his ambition and Vertov has just gained another fan of his work.

Categories: films and reviews

the familiar dread is back

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Hey there stranger.
I think it’s not to anyone’s surprise if I say that I do not miss you at all. It’s been what, maybe 6 months or dare I say maybe 8, since we last bumped into each other. It’s been so long I can’t even remember how things were last time you were here.

Well since you’ve been back for a couple of weeks now I’ve been trying to ignore you. I was hoping that pretending you’re not here or maybe wishing you away will do the trick. Though deep down I knew that would not last. Crying myself to sleep almost every night has been helpful in coping with your being here again. And the stress of functioning has been a welcomed distraction as well. But when all that is gone and I have to look you in the eye as you try to establish your hold on me once again, all my efforts to hide and look away become laughable and pathetic efforts that I bet never fail to amuse you.

I often wonder when was the first time I met you. How young was I, why did we meet, what did I do? I don’t think I can find the answer to the first 2. But this blog is like a living fossil of the answer to the last question. Writing has been my main tool of understanding you – of dealing with you. I would not have tolerated you this long if words suddenly fail to acknowledge and confirm your hold on me.

I honestly think at this point that I’ve lost my war with you. This is my white flag of surrender, the while flag staking your claim on my soul. Yes you are here and you are here to stay. Those glimpses of moments when you decide to walk away and spare me the burden of your presence are rewards. And I cling to them like a slave who dreams about freedom. But they are facades – mind tricks that desperate people come up with to endure and survive you.

I am Sisyphus and you are my rock. I know you’ve won – that has always been the plan. My hell is not the fact that you roll back all the time. My hell is the belief that I hold onto thinking I can push you away. Well I’m done pushing. I’m staying at the bottom of my hill with you. Let’s set up camp here. I’ll get the tent, you can start the fire. We’ll live here forever.

Categories: others

Snake dream 2014

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment

It was a smaller snake this year. But it was fiercer that i’ve ever seen it despite its smaller size. This is the first time i can remember that i fought the snake. I still got bit though, i remember even looking at the bite to confirm if i got bitten. Amazingly, I don’t remember being scared. Maybe because it was small. But i remember feeling strongly about fighting it, even killing it. I wasn’t scared at all. I am usually scared of it so this is quite unique. Anyway, snake dream 2014 documented. I wonder when it will come back. Last one before last night was back in 2009. Before that, it was back in 2007.

Categories: others

Robin Williams died today

August 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Most news cycle today will have a clip of Dead Poet Society, Patch Adams, or Mrs. Doubtfire. His work with the military has been mentioned a couple of times, the Genie, his Oscar awarded performances – the genius of his mastered craft will be on a continuous loop on every screen and tablet that can show it. They’ve discussed his depression, how he was an honest man, and how like us common folks he struggled. Good words will be shared, his life will be celebrated.

But here in my little corner between the wall and our bed, in this small space of annoying carpet fabric I ponder at one thought related to Robin William’s death. I wonder what made him give up.

He has been struggling with depression and addiction for most of his adult life. He has the means to seek help and he had managed to stay afloat for decades. What was that single thought that made him decide that enough is  enough –  asphyxiation is better than breathing.

I wonder about this not because I am surprised that he didn’t have the ability to look at the half full world instead of the half empty. I wonder because I too see the world as half empty now, but I do not have the conviction to end it. He had, and I wonder what he saw and why I do not see it.

Maybe he lost hope. I’ve abandoned hope a long time ago. What wakes me up in the morning are obligations. 

It is not the best reason to live. But i’m still here.

They will talk about his life. I wonder about his death. I think how we die should matter as much as how we lived. I wonder about how I will die sometimes. But then i hear the sweet snores and feel the small hand move beside me. So for now I would just sleep.

Categories: others

iowa in lee highway

April 24, 2014 Leave a comment

this day should have ended with my sleepiness as the man reason for a very bad car accident that would have not just involved me but a few other innocent people as well. I don’t know how I got out of it, but I did. I still do not understand what happened in what could not have been more than 5 seconds, that I was violently steering the wheel away from the cars ahead of me that were standing idle in afternoon traffic. thank you God for keeping me safe. it could not have just been me stirring. I don’t think I have it in me to get away of what could have been an awful mess. it may not have been heaven, but it is Iowa.

Categories: others

Well,” I asked …

April 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Well,” I asked myself, “why not?” Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren’t many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren’t many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn’t that almost worse than never having had them in the first place? – Roger Ebert

Categories: others

A Pro Choice Christian: an modern-day oxymoron explained.

September 24, 2012 4 comments

The Pro Choice or Pro Life debate has been one of the most discussed topics in recent history, especially since it has been the highlight of many conversations between the liberal and conservative political party that polarizes America. As a person who cannot vote in this coming election, my taking sides between the arguments presented by the Democrats or the Republicans will not have any practical value. But to those who are conflicted, like me, between calling themselves Christians and a feminist in one statement, then maybe the concept is worth exploring.

Can a person be a Christian and still be Pro Choice? My answer to that is, “Well, I am”. I acknowledge the sanctity of the God of Abraham, his only son Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the bible. I try my best, though I often fail, to live by the principles our Lord Jesus thought us through his disciples and the millions of Christians in the world today that manifest His love to us. In this same personhood, I believe in the equality of all men in the eyes of God. That as Christians we are ambassadors of our faith and not judges of fellow men because judgments are not with us, but of the Lord’s.

Feminism exists because of the reality that women are not provided with the same rights and opportunities as men. If a government legislates against the freedom of women to make decisions related to their reproductive health while men have the freedom to decide when or when not to engage in reproduction – then inequality, hence feminism, exist.

I can say with full conviction that I will never choose to have an abortion. But that is a decision and a promise that I’ve made for myself in front of God – not a legal commitment between me and my state.

I am Pro Choice for a variety of reasons, but most of all, I say I am because I believe that America, under the Constitution that it is mandated to uphold, must allow man to make their own decisions with respect to the law. Christian law is not equal to state law in this country, nor will it ever be, as long as the separation between Church and State exists. Hence, the laws dictated by the God of Abraham should never be used to argue over the legality of Pro Life arguments, as long as this separation is in place.

One may argue that abortion is parallel to violence against man; how different is it from first-degree murder? This is usually how the debate about “when does life begin?” starts, and this is an argument that I will not have a ready answer for. To me, biology clearly dictates that life begins at conception. The human life begins as a zygote that rapidly replicates and differentiates to form the spinal cord, the brain, and the heart – all of which are functioning by week 8 of gestation. Sociology however, usually coined “softer science” due to the lack of undisputable empirical data, will beg to differ. It says that life begins with value and meaning of an individual to the society at large; which, depending on your personal experience, may be before or after the birth of an infant – thus thickening the plot on the “when does life begin” argument. So who is more right, Biology or Sociology?

If only natural science was the only thing we needed to make our world go around, then human life may have been simpler and more predictable. Boring, but easily argued and very (very) predictable. But to be human is to be philosophical, and to be philosophical is to be complex with a lot of why’s and what if’s.  In my humble opinion, the reality is, as the ‘softer science’ has put it, life begins with meaning and value – an idea that could never be legislated because the IDEA of LIFE varies from person to person. This is why to me, legislating about abortion is a legal issue about women’s health, not about ending life.

Now as a Christian, am I following God’s law, which I have decided to subject myself to, if I say that I am Pro Choice? I can never know for sure, because my faith predisposes me to this position of uncertainty that I, as a man who is not God, will never fully understand God. My faith decrees that I was made to worship and honor him to the best of the abilities that He has given me. My Christian faith says that in order to please God, I should personally follow his laws which clearly states “you shall not kill”. Me – I should not kill. And I won’t. Can others do it then? To this I answer, ‘that’s a decision that they should make before God’. And like me, they should accept the consequence of their decisions.

If I was face to face with a pregnant woman now contemplating abortion, what will I say to her? First of all, I will ask her how she is, how she is feeling right now. I will provide her any assistance that I have the capacity to give. If she asks me whether she should continue with her abortion, I will tell her it is a tough decision to make and that she has to make that decision for herself. If she wants me to think with her, then I will. In short, I will offer myself to her – to the best of my abilities, refraining from judgment, and with all the compassion and kindness that I can muster just as our Lord Jesus has extended to everyone despite of who or what we are.

As I end this essay I am reminded of an anecdote I read a few years back. There was a woman waiting in train station. The platform was almost empty, except for a middle-aged dad sitting quietly on a bench with 3 kids who were playing and running around the platform as if they were on a playground with, what most will consider, as a reckless disregard to the peace and quiet often associated to an almost empty platform. After a few minutes of being bothered by the noise the kids were making, the woman decided to approach the dad and tell him to watch his kids because they were being disruptive. The dad looked at her, stood up, bowed and said “Oh, I am very sorry. I will tell them to calm down and behave properly. It’s just that … their mom died a few hours ago – it was an aneurysm. I guess I am still in shock. I was thinking of the best way to tell them.”

I am not saying I am right, or that you should follow my thought pattern. But there is one thing I am certain of. This debate between Pro Life and Pro Choice has been full of hatred, rudeness, and strife that a kind and loving God frowns upon.

Categories: others