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Investigating Kracauerian Cinematic Realism through Film Practice:
Life-world Series (2017)

[Screening & Discussion]
21 Sept 2017, 5:00–8:30PM, at the Film Center (Videotheque), UP Diliman

The research-based filmmaking project, Life-world Series (2017, 118 mins), is a two-pronged phenomenological investigation on: (1) the notion of the Lebenswelt (life-world); and (2) the aesthetics of Kracauerian cinematic realism as anchored in five KCR tropes, namely, (a) the quotidian, (b) the fortuitous, (c) the indeterminate, (d) the flow of life, and (e) the spiritual life itself. The engagement of the ten component short films with the five KCR tropes shaped the aesthetics of these works and yielded the following set of invariant features (essences) of the Lebenswelt as: (a) expansive; (b) multi-layered; (c) flowing; (d) in the process of becoming; (e) resonantly intersubjective; (f) a thing of beauty; (g) relating to essences; (h) cyclical; (i) transcendent; and (j) meaning-laden. Since the KCR tropes are ‘aspects of reality’ (Aitken, 2001, p. 175) and the notion of the Lebenswelt, per Aitken (2006), is a ‘key to understanding Kracauer’s assertion that “physical reality” can be redeemed through cinema’ (Wils, 2016, p. 76), it follows that Kracauerian film practice, as embodied by Life-world Series (2017), requires an active concern with physical reality and a profound contemplation of both reality and the Lebenswelt. The use of film practice in investigating KCR entailed not only applying the KCR tropes as aesthetics for the film, but also acquiring a working knowledge of Husserlian phenomenology, especially its notion of the Lebenswelt in both its thick and thin senses.


Aitken, I. (2001). European film theory and cinema: A critical introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh
University Press.

Aitken, I. (2006). Realist film theory and cinema: The nineteenth-century Lukácsian and intuitionist realist
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Wils, T. (2016). Phenomenology, theology and ‘physical reality’: The film theory realism of Siegfried
Kracauer. In I. Aitken, The major realist film theorists: A critical anthology (pp. 67-80).
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Examining Kracauerian Cinematic Realism through Selected Lino Brocka Films

26 September 2017, 2:30–4:00PM, at the Film Center (Videotheque), UP Diliman

The Brocka film promoted the empowerment of the Filipino audience through an intuitive awareness of the graspable possibility of change in their shared physical existence which is characterized by oppression; thus, potentially transforming them from being ‘the agitated witness into a conscious observer’ (Kracauer, 1960, p. 58). This conscious observer can think clearly – notwithstanding the prevailing violence, fear, paranoia, and ideological conditioning – and, after letting a full range of possibilities for action come into view, actively pursue freedom in his or her own terms. Since ‘the refuse’ and ‘the transient’ KCR tropes are specifically cinematic ‘objects’ (p. 53) and generally ‘aspects of reality’ (Aitken, 2001, p. 175), they are salient frameworks in navigating through Brocka’s oft-cited concern with the ‘human condition’ (Del Carmen, 1983, p. 29) which is, in the Brocka film, deeply and ineluctably rooted in physical reality. The distinctive tropes of the Brocka film – namely, (a) ‘milieu formation’ (David, 1990, p. 188); (b) ‘sweating physicality’ (Sotto, 1993, p. 102); and (c) ‘characters in the background’ (Hernando, 1993, p. 46) – can be employed to understand how the Brocka film interacts with its public through the medium’s engagement with the life-world. The power of the principally realist Brocka film lies beyond its being chiefly based on realistic material or its ability to allude to social issues on an ideological level. What the Brocka film has mastered is its resonance with experience – what we discover in natural cognition as the ‘world’, that is, the totality of individual objects that could possibly be experienced, is precisely what Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology, called ‘reality’ (Russell, 2006, p. 22).


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University Press.

David, J. (1990, January 10). After the revolution. National midweek.

Del Carmen, C. (1983, August 24). Lino Brocka, rebel artist. Who, pp. 28-29.

Hernando, M. A. (1993). Lino Brocka: Director in control – Blending popular entertainment, realism and
social comment. In H. M. A., Lino Brocka: The artist and his times (pp. 38-48). Manila: Cultural
Center of the Philippines.

Kracauer, S. (1960). Theory of film: The redemption of physical reality. London, New York and Oxford:
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Russell, M. (2006). Husserl: A guide for the perplexed. London and New York: Continuum.

Sotto, A. (1993). Lino Brocka – The international director. In H. M. A., Lino Brocka: The artist and his times (pp. 101-117). Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines.