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On this week's Saturday School, we continue to explore Asian films about Asian America, diving head first into the international film festival/art film world with the 5 hour 15 minute Lav Diaz film "Batang West Side" from 2001. It's a film that takes place in the snowy New Jersey winter. A Filipino American cop Juan (Jose Torre) is investigating the murder of a Filipino American teenager Hanzel, and through the course of the 5 hours, we get to know Hanzel's family members, friends, and girlfriend. We also get flashbacks of Hanzel, as well as glimpses of Juan's life in the U.S., isolated from his family back in the Philippines. Lav Diaz has become revered, especially in the last several years, for his marathon-length, deliberately paced art films that have gone up to 11 hours. Batang West Side, while not one of his more accessible films, is interesting because it marked a turning point for Diaz's filmmaking. It's almost like his time living in the States that inspired Batang West Side gave him the artistic freedom to forgo the commercial Filipino film market and really create his own unique style that he'd still be known for decades later.


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