The Hard to Find Films of Kidlat Tahimik

By Hanta Samsa

Photo Credit: https://www.moma.org/calendar/events/3125

As third world diaspora, as pilipinx diaspora, I often find myself looking for (and rarely finding) my writing and artmaking elders. It took me an embarrassingly long time to find an elder whose work my own writing would aspire towards—more than 2.5 decades before I finally came upon the films of Kidlat Tahimik. Writer, actor, director, producer, and often inhabiting all or several of those roles in a given project, Tahimik’s films resist genre (autobiographical, documentary, fictional narrative), productization (like many other films associated with Third Cinema, his work implicitly and explicitly critiques the neat little narratives Hollywood loves to sell) and linear narrativization and completion. They are processes, not products, with themes and characters continuing into other films, with films being referenced in other films. They are celluloid collages, self-proclaimed third world space spectacles. They are also very hard to find outside of the occasional university or art museum screening.

This post is a celebration of Tahimik’s films (the ones I’ve been able to watch, anyway) and also a lament. Just when I’d found my elder, I’d find most of his works are near impossible to find. Not only did Tahimik lose much of his original film footage in a home fire, many of his films don’t seem to have a distributor in the so-called U.S. 

Tahimik’s works will be especially relevant for writers who don’t write in-genre, for poets who don’t write in-verse, for writers who take years or decades to “complete” anything, for colonized and neocolonized avant gardists, for anyone looking for ways to critique Empire, for anyone looking for ways to critique American cultural hegemony, and for any artist or writer trying to build worlds with limited resources.

Below is a filmography with links to where you can watch the few films I’ve been able to find. Most of them I can’t find anywhere, so please, if you are reading this and have access to any of Tahimik’s hard-to-find works (features or shorts), or a contact, please email me at katherinnamar@vt.edu or message me on Twitter @hantatalasamsa. I’ve already watched Perfumed Nightmare, Turumba, and Yellow, and would be eternally grateful to anyone who could share a copy of Yoyo/Moon Buggy and Balikbayan #1.

Feature Films

Mababangong Bangungot or Perfumed Nightmare (1977)

Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo? Sinong Lumikha ng Moon Buggy? or Who Invented The Yoyo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy? (1982)

Turumba (1983)

Takedera Mon Amour: Diary of a Bamboo Connection (1991)

Why Is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? AKA I Am Furious… Yellow (1989 and 1994)

BalikBayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment (Redux III, 2015; Redux VI, 2017)

Shorts

Yan Ki Made in Hong Kong (1980)

Orbit 50: Letters to My 3 Sons (1992)

Celebrating the Year 2021, Today (1995)

Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi (1996)

Banal Kahoy (Holy Wood) (2000)

Aqua Planet (2003)

Some More Rice (2005)

Our Film – Grimage to Guimaras (2006)

BUBONG! Roofs of the World! Unite! (2006)

Ang Balikbayan: Memories of Overdevelopment 1980–2010 (2010)

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