Kidlat Tahimik! Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment
Part 1 of Quiet Lighting: The Films of Kidlat Tahimik!
(Kidlat Tahimik in person)
A truly globalized filmmaker paradoxically rooted deeply in his homeland, Kidlat
Tahimik undermines colonial narratives by telling epic, localized truths. Offering a
humorous, ironic lens on the long history of the West’s efforts to control the East,
Tahimik has over the four decades of his filmmaking created a remarkable
cinema of wanderlust and adventure; it’s no surprise that one of the central
figures in his oeuvre is Magellan’s Filipino slave Enrique of Malacca, who rightfully
deserved the title of first circumnavigator of the globe that was instead bestowed
upon his European master.
A slang term for a Filipino expatriate working abroad, balik-bayan is literally translated as “return to the island” (or “home”), and Tahimik’s film of that name
is very much a return for the director — back to his home in the Philippines, and to the once-aborted project he had longed dreamed of making, his epic about Magellan’s Filipino slave Enrique of Malacca. Purchased by the Portuguese explorer to act as an interpreter on his voyages, Enrique is thought by many to be the first to have circumnavigated the globe by the time Magellan met his death in the
Philippines, after completing only three-quarters of history’s official first circumnavigation. Combining 30 minutes of 16mm footage from Tahimik’s first
attempt to make the film (starring the director as Enrique) with a contemporary narrative (shot on digital) featuring Tahimik’s son Kawayan de Guia as a modern reincarnation of Magellan, Balikbayan #1 is a fascinating object that weaves together 30 years of false starts and loose ends to finally tell the story of
the slave who beat his master around the world.