With The Woman Who Left, Filipino maestro director Lav Diaz returns to the dark years of the cruel Marcos dictatorship explored so powerfully in acclaimed films such as his early masterpiece Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004) and From What Is Before (2014). Like the previous films, Diaz’ latest magnum opus is a formally stunning durational epic of resistance that uses its extended length to render vivid the hard struggle for dignity and survival fought by Filipinos during the long period of the brutal Marcos reign. The Woman Who Left departs somewhat from the choral and multi-character focus of Diaz’ other works by giving a mesmerizing center stage to veteran actress Charo Santos-Concio, who returned from retirement to deliver an iconic performance as the eponymous woman, released from jail after thirty years serving a wrongful life sentence and patiently determined to exact revenge on the man who framed her. A moving emblem of the long-suffering country, Santos-Concio’s brave heroine gives hope that the most marginalized victims might find the strength to rise and challenge, and perhaps even change, the abuse of power that continues to destroy lives and livelihoods not only in the Philippines, but also in all countries, the US included, now twisted by the new rise of fascist demagoguery. With The Woman Who Left, Lav Diaz again poignantly demonstrates the unique history lessons that cinema alone can teach, not by restaging known, recorded events, but by patiently evoking the quotidian, quiet resistance of citizens unwilling to ignore injustice and indignity.
The Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome back Lav Diaz to introduce his latest film during his year as a 2016-17 Radcliffe-Film Study Center Fellow at Harvard. – Haden Guest
Co-presented by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, with special thanks given to the Director of Fellowship Programs, Judith Vichniac.
Directed by Lav Diaz. With Charo Santos-Concio, John Lloyd Cruz, Michael De Mesa
Philippines 2016, DCP, b/w, 226 min. Tagalog and English with English subtitles
DCP courtesy filmmaker.