Want viewers to be part of my cinematic universe: Filipino Director Lav Diaz

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#IFFIWood, 26 November 2022


When the Waves are Gone directed by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz is a contender for Golden Peacock award in the International Competition Category at the 53rd International Film Festival of India. A dark, protracted tale of revenge and crushing cycles of violence, When the Waves are Gone had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2022. Shot in black and white on 16 mm film, it documents the ‘narco wars’ unleashed by the police in the name of ‘cleansing’ the society, which resulted in many extra judicial killings. Speaking with media and delegates at IFFI Talks organized by PIB on the sidelines of the film festival, Lav Diaz, popularly known as the ‘Filipino master of slow cinema’ said that he wants his viewers to be part of the cinematic universe.

Adding more details, Lav Diaz said that he doesn’t manipulate the audience and just wants to be an observer. “People who are into my cinema negate the divide between screen and viewer. They are part of the cinema. Immersive process is completed with the long shots and the long duration”, he added.

Lav Diaz criticised the approach of Hollywood films where everything is subordinated to the lead actor. “Those films follow the movement of the lead actor till the end. You don’t see life. In my films, you will notice trees, birds, people walking and life in all its manifestations,” he said.

Lav Diaz’s films are notable for their long duration.  Evolution of a Filipino Family lasted for around 11 hours while The Woman who Left is 3 hours and 48 minutes. When the Waves are Gone which was screened yesterday at IFFI also clocked 3 hours and 7 minutes. Justifying this long canvas he chooses for his films, Lav Diaz said that the concept of 2 or 2.5 hours films is imposed by capitalism and business. He further said that cinema is a free form of expression for him.

“For me cinema is more of a cultural activity and art form. I want to express myself, I want to represent my culture. I want to examine life through my cinema. I want to make cinema the way I want to, ” he explained.

Tracking the genesis of the movie, Lav Diaz said that When the Waves are Gone started as a gangster movie seven years ago. ‘’Failure to find actors and budget led to delay’’. He added that he pushed the film to the producers in another way three years ago as a kind of reaction to the human rights violations happening in Philippines in the name of war on drugs.

So, considering the long duration, one might wonder does Lav Diaz actually have an editor for his films? Replying to this question, he said that he edits the film himself. “My shots are long. I just connect them. It’s hard work actually. You should find the rhythm and measure them by beats. There is a rhythmic process to editing. As a musician, I can do it”.  

Role of music in the making of film? Lav Diaz is of the opinion that music is indeed another element in his film. “You can include poetry, music, movement, dance and the whole universe in films. Cinema has the power to encapsulate life,” he pointed out.

Though cinema as a medium is sometimes too late in chronicling life events and truth, Lav Diaz still exuded confidence in the power of cinema to bring about change.  The Director also expressed his love for Indian films by Mani Kaul, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak.

Most of the reviews on When the Waves are Gone described the film as a loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. But Lav Diaz made it clear that he didn’t think of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ while making the film though he drew literary influences from the works of Russian authors like Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky.



Lieutenant Hermes Papauran, one of the best investigators of the Philippines, is at a deep moral crossroad. As a member of the police force, he is a first-hand witness of the murderous anti-drug campaign that his institution is implementing with dedication. The atrocities are corroding Hermes physically and spiritually, causing him a severe skin disease resulting from anxiety and guilt. As he tries to heal, a dark past that haunts him, has eventually come back for a reckoning.


About the Director

Lav Diaz, a Filipino Director is notable for the duration of his films. Diaz’s films are not governed by time (ranging anywhere from 3-10 hours) but by space and nature. He has directed 18 films, and won numerous awards including the Locarno Golden Leopard (‘From What is Before’, 2014), the Berlinale Silver Bear (‘A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery’, 2016) and the Venice Golden Lion (‘The Woman Who Left’, 2016).


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