YIDFF 2019 New Asian Currents
The Ashes and Ghosts of Tayug 1931
An Interview with Christopher Gozum (Director)

A Forgotten Hero Who Led an Agrarian Uprising

Q: This film depicts a popular uprising in Tayug, a town in the Philippines. Why did you make your film in black and white?

CG: I intended the film to be more abstract. Black and white photography makes the audience more focused on the story.

Q: The eye drawn on the chain on the hero Calosa’s neck left a strong impression.

CG: Their religion is a kind of Catholicism that is rooted in folklore. With the eye he can see the past and the future. It’s like a talisman.

Q: Do you also believe in God?

CG: Yes, I believe in God. He gives life to all of us. We see God in nature, among our fellow men. We see God even in the most violent and difficult conditions.

One of the books I like to read is Pasyon and Revolution. Pasyon is a religious text sung every holy week in my country. The book is about contemporary political history and popular uprisings in the Philippines, based on the life of Christ. It guided me in framing the ideas and story of the film clearly.

Q: People in the film talk about violence. What is violence?

CG: For me violence is social injustice, the rights of poor people being oppressed by the powerful, by the rich. The only way for the characters in my film to free themselves from this violence was to resort to violence.

Q: If you had lived at that time, would you have joined their uprising? And which is more important for you, how you live or how you die?

CG: I would, even if I could have died very easily. It would have been a death worth dying for. However, I still think it’s the way you live that matters. The way you live the life God gave you. Living your life to the fullest and making a change is the meaning of life.

Q: At the end of the movie, a woman interviews the youth asking if they remembered Calosa. Do you think remembering those who stood up for people is important?

CG: Actually that’s one of the themes of the film. People’s memory. People who don’t have memories are like ghosts without a soul. The collective memory of the heroes and their contributions to their town and the whole country is important, but unfortunately people of today don’t know or remember. That’s very sad.

Q: Why do we humans, with awareness about the past and imagination for the future, keep doing the same things? Even if a leader is replaced by someone else, again the new government gets corrupt.

CG: And popular uprisings in the Philippines are connected. With one uprising, one leader fades away but one or two decades later, another leader, another group comes up. Their ideas, their memories, continue to the next generation. Calosa’s group, his generation in the 1930s was connected to the Filipino-American War around1900 and also connected to the communism movement in the Philippines, which was very active in the 1960s and 70s. As long as there is social injustice in society, new political organizations, new uprisings would still be necessary. Calosa was fighting for land. He wanted to get land from rich landlords to be distributed to poor farmers. The issue in the Philippines remains unresolved. The rich families are also the political leaders. These landlord families own and control huge land. They have to protect their own economic interests and eventually become the new political leaders: mayors, governors, congressmen, senators. The root of the problem is very deep. It is embedded in culture and history. When I die, maybe there will still be the same social issues.

(Compiled by Ozawa Miu, Yamada Kazue)

Interviewers: Ozawa Miu, Inotani Yoshika / Interpreter: Suzuki Amano
Photography: Masuda Haruna / Video: Masuda Haruna / 2019-10-12