Filipino human-right activist and video artist Kiri Dalena signs direction and script of a dreamy and politically-charged short movie that has been touring with pleasing results in the festival circuit.
”From The Dark Depths” (Gikan Sa Ngitngit Nga Kinailadman) is an elegant and sombre piece of work, which sits on the fine line between film and art-installation.
Based on the true story of the drowning of a young activist, the film opens with a beautiful and surreal sequence underwater. A woman dances slowly brandishing a red flag; around her many red flags are planted in the seabed, looking almost still, like muted voices. It is a hypnotic and captivating dream, soon to be shuttered by the following sequences; real footage of demonstrations (my guess is they are protesters against the Marcos regime in the 70s) and an ominous long-track of a police car at night prompting the citizens to respect the curfew, a gloomy reminder of a lost freedom.
The body of a drowned young man is on the shore in a cloudy grey day and a beautiful woman is left to mourn. Back underwater the same stillness that fascinated us a the beginning has turned against the dancing woman who now wants to reach the floating body of the man but, like in a hunting nightmare, is slowed down by the wall of water.
If on one hand it is quite challenging to recollect the events for a non-informed audience, and give a place and time to the protester footage and other “found-footage-style” of activists, on the other ”From The Dark Depths” manages to have a strong impact on a pure subliminal level. It is a textured, almost sensorial experience, aimed at poking our emotional framework.
Being a collage of styles and films, the cinematography is necessarily inconsistent but the stunning scenes underwater are skillfully filmed and choreographed and the work of the actress / performer Genevieve Reyes is truly remarkable.
Director Kiri Dalena is a “veteran” of video activism, her previous works, are all revolving around socio-political concerns, specifically of her native country. She co-funded in 2001 the independent multimedia collective Southern Tagalog Exposure, with the scope of promoting social justice and welfare for the marginalised Tagalog region of the Philippines, trough all kinds of video projects.