This article explores the contradictions that surrounded evocations of the clean, hygienic, healthy body in 1920s and 1930s Manila film culture, where moviegoing ephemera such as advertisements, exhibition artifacts, and popular media interfaced with other systems of knowledge implicated within the colonial project, such as bodily piety and public health. This juncture between consumer culture, cinema, and discourses of cleanliness places the cinema within an uncanny archive of aspirational embodiment that evokes older orders of power: accounts of cinemagoing measured theaters' worth in terms of sanitation and cleanliness; and in both English and Tagalog popular film magazines, advertisements for doctors, medicines, cleaning agents, and beauty products sat beside images of local and foreign stars. Circulating within a context of impending independence and cultural transition, this archive not only bolstered US colonial regimes of hygiene, sanitation, cleanliness, gender, and race, but also evoked residual formations of religious piety and Catholicism.
This essay analyzes three experimental short films made by Southeast Asian women filmmakers: Jai ( Love , 2008), directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong of Thailand; Shotgun Tuding (2014), directed by Shireen Seno of the Philippines; and Eleven Men (2016), directed by Nguyễn Trinh Thi of Vietnam. Each deploys a critique of national historiography through specific formal strategies: constructing a recursive temporality ( Jai ), using anachronistic media ( Shotgun Tuding ), or privileging image over event ( Eleven Men ). These formal strategies create a gendered, reflexive view of the historiographic process through their frictions with official, national histories. At the same time the films nod to, and at times engage with, the transnational networks that brought them into being. The essay considers how the films and the filmmakers who made them negotiate local arts activism, transnational funding structures, and commitments to national histories. It argues that their textual and institutional parallels sketch the possibility of a regional, Southeast Asian imaginary for women's filmmaking.