Akeroyd Collection


Enzo Camacho & Amy Lien, Langit Lupa, 2023

Langit Lupa (2023) is an experimental documentary that centres the events, history and impact of The Escalante Massacre in 1985. This was an incident that occurred in Escalante, Negros Occidental, Philippines, where government paramilitary forces gunned down civilians engaged in a rally, organised to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, President Ferdinand Marcos’s response to the supposed ‘communist threat’ posed by the newly founded Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Opposition figures of the time accused Marcos of exaggerating these threats and using them as an excuse to consolidate power and extend his tenure beyond the two presidential terms allowed by the 1935 constitution.

In 2018, while Camacho and Lien were in Negros, researching a mural by Alfonso Ossorio, located in a worker’s chapel on a sugar cane plantation, known locally as ‘The Angry Christ’, a group of gunmen shot and killed nine sugarcane farmers in Sagay, Negros Occidental. The farmers were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), a group embroiled in ongoing conflicts over land reform in the Philippines. This became known as The Sagay Massacre. Because of the political difficulty of speaking on something so contemporary, the raw, lived experience of this tragic event became a catalyst for the artists to look back and learn from history.

Personal testimony and visual poetics lend gravitas and poignancy to the experimental film-making techniques, and the narrative unfolds through a series of static landscape shots and candid interviews with survivors. These are seamlessly interwoven with images showcasing plants in various states—some scorched by fire, others slowly dissolving – effects produced by the phytogram method. In this technique, the internal chemistry of plants is used for the creation of images on photographic emulsion. By using black and white photographic paper, still film or motion picture film, images can be rendered via the process of decay and its capture by sunlight. These somewhat abstracted and enigmatic visuals serve as poetic intervals, creating a contemplative space for the memories and felt histories to resonate with the audience.In a deliberate departure from traditional documentary approaches, the artists consciously eschew the use of archival material. Instead, they opt for a contemporary and metaphorical lens. This experimental choice strikes a balance between conveying substantive content and evoking emotional impact.

The documentary unfolds as a nuanced exploration, tracing the lingering remnants of an event that ripples through time, intensified by more recent traumas. By allowing the film to address its own temporality and (im)materiality through the visual and structural choices made, the artists illuminate the inexorable passage of time. This cinematic and historic time is revealed as a force that blurs the clarity of memories and effectively comments on the partial construction of history through feeling.The overall tone of the documentary is subtle and understated; children joyfully run amidst sugarcane plantations, the sites of commemoration, located in the prosaic present, without over-dramatization. This is a vivid tapestry that captures the resilience of the human spirit whilst never diminishing the profound impact of the documented events.

Mediumdigital video, colour
Duration56 minutes, 21 seconds
Edition1 of 6 + 2 APs