A film by Lav Diaz
2014, 338 minutes
No. 042


Following the internationally acclaimed Norte, the End of History, Filipino master Lav Diaz returns to one of his enduring themes — the historical rift and ongoing trauma caused by the Marcos regime — with the extraordinary five-and-a-half-hour epic, From What is Before, which examines the conditions that laid the groundwork for Marcos's rise.

Opening with a depiction of a traditional healing ceremony, an example of the folkloric beliefs that still persist in the islands despite the influences of Catholicism and modernity, the film takes place in a remote village in 1970, where Itang and her autistic sister Joselina — who is thought to have a special link with a spirit who can cure ailments — serve as the village healers. A series of mysterious occurrences — the unexplained deaths of several cows, strange howls emanating from the forest, and the appearance of a peddler who wanders from home to home badmouthing the sisters (and, when given the opportunity, rifling through people's houses) — sow discord in the community, leaving the village wide open to the sudden, devastating arrival of the army, which has identified the sparsely populated area as a rebel-dominated region.

Coupling a plangent lament for the old ways with an unromantic awareness of the contradictions and cruelties embedded therein, Diaz outlines the political skullduggery — specifically, the scapegoating of so-called "rebels" — that allowed Marcos to introduce martial law and gave his successors carte blanche to target minority groups. Shot in luminous black and white, From What is Before offers further proof that Diaz has the extraordinary ability to capture, analyze, and dramatize the complexities of history.

* Winner, Golden Leopard - Grand Prize, Locarno Film Festival
* Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival

"Hauntingly beautiful. At once a vital work of historical reclamation and a sort of Southeast Asian companion piece to Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon — another stark, black-and-white drama about mysterious acts of evil befalling a fragile community." - Variety

"Considering that we live in the age of binge-viewing, the prospects of sitting through a five-and-a-half hour movie shouldn’t sound so radical." - Indiewire

"Diaz explores the beginning of the end of his home country's traditional values in his most overtly political film yet. Exquisite. Remarkable beauty." - Hollywood Reporter