Season of the Devil by Lav Diaz

The latest work by Filipino master director Lav Diaz (b. 1958) reaffirms his status as one of the most courageously uncompromising and visionary artists working in cinema today. A stark, harrowing, yet utterly mesmerizing vision of life under the brutal Marcos dictatorship, Season of the Devil adds another chapter to the tableau history of the modern Philippines unfolding across major Diaz films including his recent From What Is Before (2014) and The Woman Who Left (2016). In Season of the Devil Diaz takes a bold new direction by asking his actors to sing, acapella, a score of thirty songs written by the director in a return to his first career as a rock musician. A kind of rock opera, Season of the Devil is animated by a raw theatricality that tests and extends the actors’ voices, giving a breathing and incantatory quality to songs that move from plaintive ballads to menacing chants to repeating choral cries. Set in 1979, at the height of Marcos’ reign, Season of the Devil revolves around a selfless young doctor who leaves her poet husband behind to depart for the remote Ginto Island to run a village clinic in defiance of a local female-led militia determined to undermine her efforts. Hovering darkly over the film is a terrifying and literally two-faced tyrant, the ruthless Chairman Narisco who pointedly melds qualities of Marcos with current Presidential despot Rodrigo Duterte to offer a frightening reminder of the dark cyclicality of history. Season of the Devil was, in fact, conceived while Diaz was a 2017-18 Film Study Center-Radcliffe Fellow, researching a still planned personal history of Filipino cinema but also writing songs as a way to address the painful news of the horrific violence and injustice unleashed across the Philippines as Duterte began to consolidate power. Among Diaz’ darkest films, Season of the Devil nevertheless offers a fragile emblem of hope in the figures of the noble doctor and her idealistic poet husband, as well as the mysteriously fleeting woman played by popular Filipina singer Bituin.

The Harvard Film Archive and the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies are happy to welcome Lav Diaz as a 2018-19 Baby Jane Holzer Visiting Artist in Film. Together with his newest film Diaz will also present and discuss two earlier works, his meta-cinematic magnum opus, Century of Birthing as well as his celebrated and powerful Dostoevsky-inspired allegory, Norte, the End of History. – Haden Guest

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