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Still from 'Perfumed Nightmare' (1977) by Kidlat Tahimik. Courtesy the artist.

Still from 'Perfumed Nightmare' (1977) by Kidlat Tahimik. Courtesy the artist. 

Still from 'Perfumed Nightmare' (1977) by Kidlat Tahimik. Courtesy the artist.


'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Supermarché!' -- Kidlat Tahimik

Perfumed Nightmare (Mababangong Bangungot, 1977, 93 min.) is a semi-autobiographical tale following the life of Kidlat, a young Filipino jeepney driver enamoured with the idea of Western culture and all it has to offer. Born in 1942, during the US occupation of the Philippines, Kidlat pertinently states that he will spend "the next 33 typhoon seasons in a cocoon of American dreams". He is the president of his rural village’s Werner von Braun fan club, which he established after first hearing about the aerospace engineer while listening one day to 'Voice of America', his favourite radio station.

While still in the Philippines Kidlat meets Big Boss, an American capitalist who suggests he accompany him back to Paris, where he runs a chewing gum dispensing machine business. Excited by the prospect of experiencing a world he only knows through broadcast media, Kidlat embarks on a transformative journey that takes him through France and Germany, and eventually settles in New York. Along the way his once aspirational attitude towards the West fades, leading him to better appreciate his Filipino roots.

Considered one of the first Filipino indie films and a pioneering piece of Third Cinema, Perfumed Nightmare has been described as an “idiosyncratic journey toward a revolutionary consciousness” (Macdonald, 1994). In 1972, the Philippines saw the imposition of martial law under Marcos’ tenure, while at the same time an emergent generation of film students began to experiment with highly portable, low-cost filming equipment and an avant-garde film movement began to develop. Made on a budget of around $10,000, Perfumed Nightmare was acknowledged for its eccentric aesthetics and lampooning of both American imperialism and Philippine government complicity. Using allegory and symbolism, it also attempts to reassess the value of localism, indigeneity and native tradition in a world progressively dominated by capitalism.

Text by Piotr Florczyk

This event is part of Some Are Smarter Than Others