One of the most accurate recreations of the silent film aesthetic since the arrival of talkies, “A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos)” avoids Guy Maddin-like gimmicks, instead harnessing the form to a tripartite tale of the burgeoning sense of freedom in the Philippines in the 1890s. Though in need of trimming, helmer Raya Martin’s beautiful paean to the common man, or “indio,” of the period is a fascinating work that intermittently rewards patience and confirms Martin’s place as a talent to watch. Adventurous fests would do well to take a look.
Pic’s 23-minute opening, lensed on color video, uses three shots and a stationary camera as a man recites an allegorical tale of the nation’s suffering to his anxious wife. The three subsequent sections, in B&W, follow a boy, an adolescent and a man as they awaken to the concept of liberty. Martin’s gorgeous lensing feels influenced by early D.W. Griffith and the French realists of the 1910s, both in his sense of composition and in the restraint of the actors. Musical accompaniment is mixed, while sound quality needs improving.