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4 - 5 November 2017: For Example, the Philippines


The Centre for Film & Ethics at Queen Mary University of London presents American documentary director John Gianvito’s complete seminal diptych For Example, the Philippines over one weekend including the UK premiere of Wake (Subic). To mark the occasion, John Gianvito will be present for Q&As after the films. Weekend events will be complemented by a master-class on political cinema, and Gianvito “in conversation” on Monday 6 November.

Vapor Trail (Clark)
John Gianvito
2010 | 264 min | Colour | DCP
Q&A with the director following the screening
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Wake (Subic)
John Gianvito
2015 | 277 min | Colour | DCP
Q&A with the director following the screening
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John Gianvito is an acclaimed filmmaker, teacher, curator, and critic. His films include the feature films The Flower of Pain and The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein. In 2010, Gianvito’s meditative film essay Profit Move and the Whispering Wind was named one of the 50 greatest documentaries of all time by Time Out New York. His most recent project, For Example, the Philippines, patiently unearths the violent legacies of American colonialism and militarism in the island nation.

America’s military presence in the Philippines began in 1898. In 1991, the US finally closed down and withdrew from its large military bases, Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay naval base. Covering over 500 square miles (an area twice the size of Chicago) the bases provided the backbone of support during the waging of the Vietnam War. But the host of contaminants left at the sites and their environs continues to devastate local residents. 

The United States and Philippine governments have repeatedly ignored demands to clean up the areas, whose pollutants disproportionately affect poor and indigenous communities. The contaminated sites act as a microcosm for the colonial history, militarism, and class and ethnic divisions that continue to plague the Philippines. Gianvito’s film essays combine interviews, photographs, and historical texts to examine the toxic aftermath on people and the environment of American imperialism. 

Speaking with residents, families, activists and government officials in and around the bases, whose water, air, and soil are heavily polluted, the films form part of the ongoing struggle for environmental justice in the Philippines. Together, the films are over nine hours in length. Gianvito argues passionately for the importance of this long duration, which requires patience from the viewer but gives space and time to the protagonists and seeks some filmic form for the considerably longer temporality of environmental contamination. With great attentiveness and care, the long-form documentary exposes the protracted catastrophe of imperial and military intervention and twentieth century war-making in and from the Philippines. As the diptych’s title suggests, however, the Philippines is only an “example” of the systematic destruction wrought by our global cultures of war. There are countless others. 

At once an act of agit-prop and an ethical witnessing, For Example, the Philippines presents a genuine “history from below.” Acknowledging that landscape is always also political, the biochemical violations inflicted by militarism finally emerge as an assault on life itself.

Monday 6 November, 1-3pm – Masterclass with John
Monday 6 November, 5-7pm – John Gianvito in conversation:

More info: The Centre for Film and Ethics, Queen Mary University of London