Sunday, March 12, 2017

Documentary On Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-od Makes It To The Cannes Film Festival In France

Whang-od Oggay's stock as one of the foremost traditional tattoo artists in Asia will likely rise with the inclusion of a short documentary about her in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival in France. The 15-minute documentary aptly titled Blood and Ink (Dugo at Tinta) will be among the hundreds of short films to be screened during the prestigious festival which will run from May 17 to May 28, 2017. Blood and Ink (Dugo at Tinta) will be part of the festival's Short Film Corner. It's worth noting here that the Short Film Corner is a film market and not part of the festival's competition section.

Directed by Jill Damatac Futter, Blood and Ink (Dugo at Tinta) merges the story of the beloved traditional tattoo artist with that of the budding filmmaker who just returned to her home country (Philippines) after spending 22 years as an illegal/undocumented immigrant in the United States. Futter made the film while studying at the University of the Arts London - London College of Communication. She submitted it to the university as part of her Master of Arts thesis.

In the words of the filmmaker, Blood and Ink (Dugo at Tinta) was conceived as a portrait documentary but it evolved into a meditation on identity as her re-connection with her roots significantly influenced the direction and overall theme of the film.
A large-than-life portrait of Whang-od at an art exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada last year. Photo courtesy of Kayleen Kwet.
Here's the synopsis for the film: "Conceived as a portrait documentary about a 97-year-old indigenous tribal tattooist in the Philippine mountains, this film evolved into an intimately subjective essay documentary as the filmmaker recognized that the personal catharsis of discovering her paternal roots inevitably influenced the film's shape. Blood + Ink (Dugo at Tinta) explores identity, both personal and national, through the story of Apo Whang-Od Oggay and through director Jill Damatac Futter's own story after 22 years away from the Philippines as an illegal immigrant in the United States."

Just a quick note: I've seen news stories and articles about Whang-od referring to her as the last Kalinga traditional tattoo artist. No, that is not the case at all. A lot of those in her tribe (Butbut) know the craft. In fact, Whang-od has taught the art to some of the girls in her village (a few of them in their teens). She has taught them the way she was taught when she was their age. So the claim that Whang-od is the last traditional Kalinga tatto artist is simply false and completely misinformed.

Related stories:
1. A Quick Guide For Those Planning To Visit Whang-od In Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga
2. Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-od Likely To Receive National Living Treasures Award
3. Bid To Declare Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-od As A National Artist Gains Momentum
4. Kalinga Tattoo Artist Apo Whang-od Featured In An Art Exhibit In Toronto, Canada