In his video interview for Cahiers, Raya Martin explains that Now Showing (2008), this 4h40 long film is the first episode of a new "trilogy" called Box Office (Now showing, Next Attraction, Coming Soon). If this doesn't blow your mind coming from a decidedly ambitious 23 years old filmmaker, wait for his two other trilogies already planned for future developments.
A Short Film About Indio National (2006) is the first of a trilogy following the foreign occupations of the Philippines (Spanish, American, Japanese), which recreates "pseudo-found-footage" of cinema made during these different periods. This one reminds the similar narrative structure used by Hou Hsiao-Hsien in Three Times (2005), to tell the story of historical occupation of Taiwan in three periods (1966: American occupation, 1911: Japanese occupation, 2005: Independence).
His second, more autobiographical trilogy started with Autohystoria (2007), now followed by Possible Lovers (2008) which premiered in the Buenos Aires Film Festival.
If I was short of ideas about this film (and if I had seen all his films), I would go on about this sprawling preconceived "trilogy" mindset, especially that early in a career, like if filmmaking was such a steady job you could actually project yourself in three simultaneous series of films without worrying if the success of the current film will make you able to even make another film... The trilogy used to be the theoretical device of critics who identify it within a finished oeuvre, now it seems the filmmakers writes their biography ahead of time... [Is he some kind of George Lucas?] I'm only joking. I'm impressed how Raya Martin answers intelligently and most confidently to Cahiers critics' (Renzi & Thirion) uninspiring questions. (here is their review in French)
Indeed this film (Now Showing) is amazing. It is actually a trilogy in itself, recounting the pseudo-documentary life of a young girl, Rita, living in Manila, in three epochs. Cahiers loves this work because it's a quintessential evidence of their dubious theory on "Cinema Subtil" that nobody can explain. In fact it uses the digital technology to re-enact a staged documentary where the uneven quality of images tells the recent History of our audiovisual culture recorded on magnetic storage. We can appreciate how video ages in a different way than celluloid. And the film shows the aesthetic leap from VHS to HD digital in family-movies. In this regard it does represent perfectly the identity crisis of images. Especially since it is an artificial reconstitution of archival material, it questions the reality of TV imagery, like other contemporaries filmmakers do (Redacted, Cloverfield, REC...) This is an issue that fascinates the Cahiers team for a couple years now.
Personally I admire it for its "contemplative" tendency. To each its own...
part 2, part 3...