Jesseca Taldo

Butterflies Have No Memories (Lav Diaz, 2009)


A collision between new world and old when a young expatriate returns to the decaying Philippine village where she was raised. Coming from Canada with some nice clothes and a fancy camera, the unnamed girl uses her trip as an excuse to indulge in exoticism and nostalgia, snapping pictures of old locations, old friends, and the  ruins of the local mine, which ceased production when her bossman father decamped for greener pastures. Things are a little trickier, however, for the dejected villagers she’s employing in this living history memorial, thanks both to the economic collapse caused by the mine’s departure and the river-ruining toxins it left behind. Diaz communicates the sodden, defeated pace of life here through long takes and grey-tinged images, with the primary tension revolving around the girl’s self-involved inability to perceive how uncomfortable her presence is making everyone else. When things finally erupt into violence, Diaz masks his assailants as Roman soldiers (a Filipino tradition), a nice detail that places this conflict within a long tradition of imperialist struggles while highlighting the way the oppressed vainly attempt to empower themselves through violence.