Film Ist 4.1 - Gustav Deutsch, 1998, 16mm
I met Alexis in person for the first and only time earlier this year. He was visiting London to introduce two programmes of Filipino cinema: Kalawang (Cesar Hernando, Eli Guieb III & Jimbo Albano) / The Great Smoke (Rox Lee) / Infancia en las Islas de Filipinas, sin fecha (Raya Martin) / Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes), and Purgatorio / a 120-min rough cut of Heremias Book II (Lav Diaz). The films were startling, beguiling, frustrating, overwhelming. I struggled to find words for them - or, at least, the right ones. Before and after, when we had the opportunity, we talked about how we lived, about the city and the country, about our families, our loves (his now so sadly departed too), but not in enough detail. Mostly, we talked about movies – about critics we admired, about Rossellini and Brocka, Benning and Serra, the American and Austrian avant-gardes. It turned out that we had both started reading Sitney’s Visionary Film at the same time. I worry now that I talked too much and listened too little – he was too generous. We stayed in touch, and failed on many occasions to exchange films and (serious) ideas – there was always time. I wish now that I had been able to get to know Alexis better – he was so quietly passionate, his manner so gracious and sincere. His letter to Nika is, for me, the greatest manifesto for cinephilia since the Movie Mutations letters, and its singular lived devotion perhaps even more vital. Both were model passeurs, steering a ferry through murky waters, trafficking in goods whose value they not only calculated but gave their lives to teaching. We are all their students, and their fight is now ours.