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LUNA Y SALVACION : Strokes of Genius and Oblivion


ANG AKING JUAN LUNA  (LUNA Y SALVACION)

Synopsis



Juan Luna, one of the greatest Filipino painters wins first prize for his masterpiece El Spoliarium in the world-renowned Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid 1884, at a time when colonial natives were thought to have still lived in trees. Juan Luna amazes the civilized world: its aristocrats, its royalty, and its art connoisseurs. His victory is celebrated by all Filipinos who are fighting for respect and esteem, but blind to racial and colonial disdain. Juan Luna proves for that one shining moment, the colonial native can stand side by side with his master. And yet, many allege that he was deprived the highest “Prize of Honor”only because he was a non-European.



Several years after, 1892, at a brief moment of despair and a horrible jealous fit, Juan Luna shoots and kills his wife, Paz and his mother-in-law Julianna in their Paris apartment. This crime of passion, almost completely eradicates the glory of his achievement in 1884. Ironically, the very same regard to colonial natives, perceived by the European civilized world as savages and unable to control their primal passions, was the key to this great artist’s reprieve and eventual acquittal. Juan Luna, true to his name, was struck by a temporary insanity, that must have been understandable to “Indios” like him.



This film tells the story of Juan Luna through a contemporary fictional character, Salvacion, an overseas Filipino domestic who takes care of Purita, an elderly and frail Spanish-French woman who eventually passes away in her small home in Madrid. On her deathbed, Purita, moved by Salvacion’s devotion to her, gives her caregiver a gift, a rolled up canvas. Upon returning to the Philippines, Salvacion is confronted by financial problems. She realizes that all the hard work and patient suffering she endured in a country that renders her invisible and insignificant are not enough to sustain her own family. When she starts selling some of her possessions, she finds her inherited canvas and unrolls it, and finds that it is a damaged painting -- a portrait of a woman. The edges of the canvas are burned. Not knowing anything about the real value of the painting, she thinks of selling it to whoever might be interested. A neighbor of Salvacion accompanies her to an unscrupulous antique and art appraiser.



Salvacion, ignorant of the real value of paintings, readily accepts an amount a hundred times lower than the actual value of this gift, for it turns out that the painting is a portrait of Juan Luna’s wife, considered lost forever but was mysteriously spared, when Paz’s brother, Trinidad, overcome by grief and indignation over the murder, burns all of Juan Luna’s paintings left in his studio. This portrait’s discovery becomes the celebratory toast to Juan Luna’s greatness among Manila’s elite. And yet, Salvacion is unaware of all this. She lives the life of a Filipino, whose main concerns are simple. With a family that is torn apart by migrant work, she like Juan Luna, is also regarded as a second class citizen in a Europe that extols the value of art, as an index of civilization. And right in her own country, she fails to share the ecstatic celebration of Filipino art lovers, like other Filipinos whose historical and aesthetic awareness are completely dissociated from the class that hails itself as “enlightened.”



The film takes thematic comparisons between a Filipino colonial artist in Europe and a devoted Filipino caregiver/domestic -- both motivated by leaving their home to make good of themselves and their lives in another country; both struggling with a their sense of “value”, how the painter creates it in his art and gives honor and life to a national identity, and how the caregiver fails to recognize it in the face of real need; with both losing that which they truly value.

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IN PRODUCTION, Summer 2017

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