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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
7:30 p.m. Perfumed Nightmare
Kidlat Tahimik (Philippines, 1977)

Kidlat Tahimik drew on his own experience living “in a cocoon of Americanized dreams” for this tale of a village jitney driver, Kidlat, faithful student of Voice of America and its many lessons, and founder of his local Werner Von Braun fan club. Kidlat hopes to become an astronaut, or at the very least strike it rich, in the promised land; he makes it as far as Europe (the film was shot in Paris, Germany, and the Philippines), where a series of rude and comical awakenings unfolds and Kidlat learns that the modern world is far from paradise. Tahimik, who became a protégé of Werner Herzog in Munich, is a faux naif who uses the genuine naiveté of his hero to inscribe a powerful portrait of the American colonization of Filipino dreams. But, like the charming, festooned “jeepny” Tahimik constructed from an abandoned U.S. Army vehicle, the film creates something wholly new and imaginative from the discards of colonialism.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Tahimik. Photographed by Hartmut Lerch, Tahimik. With Tahimik, Delores Santamaria, Mang Fely. (93 mins, In Tagalog and German with English subtitles, Color, 16mm, From Flower Films)