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Out of the Stairwell

I’ve only seen Chantal Akerman’s film The Man With the Suitcase once, in February of 2008. It’s about a woman who borrows an apartment to write, unaware that someone else will be using the place: a man who arrives with a suitcase and who, by all appearances, intends to be there for a while.

The situation chokes the woman, for whom space and freedom are oxygen. She stops working and holes up in her room, hiding from the man, listening to his every move, monitoring his comings and goings so she can sneak out for a breath of fresh air or a trip to the kitchen. Meanwhile, the man goes about his life—cooking, shaving, and working, barely aware of the woman who bends, who crumbles, to accommodate his presence.

Akerman is Belgian and her film is French, but it resonates to someone like me who grew up in an entirely different environment. That’s what I love about cinema. The fact that movies can capture what is universal in all of us, and tell it in a story that can completely confound and awe and touch—that’s what attracted me to pursue writing about film.

Like that lady in The Man With a Suitcase, film criticism in the Philippines is huddled in a stairwell—unnoticed, barely breathing, crumbling. You can count on your fingers the number of people who take film criticism seriously, and even less who read what those critics have to say.

I, for one, cannot call myself a film critic, as I have so much more to learn in the field. I’m attending the Berlinale Talent Campus with an open mind—willing to learn as much as I can about cinema. Funny how exactly two years after I saw the film that made me take movies seriously, I find myself attending a campus that will train me to watch films better. I deem that the way I can contribute to my country’s film industry is by becoming a better writer, a better viewer.