The Rigodon


The art film ‘Rigodon’ follows the spiritual journeys of three Filipino immigrants in New York City whose lives intertwine in the age of racial profiling and government crackdowns. The co-directors of this film are Filipinos Sari Lluch Dalena (a Fulbright Scholar and inde-pendent film-maker) and Keith Sicat (s double-major in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Sussex in England). While they have been a couple for a good number of years ‘Rigodon’ the film marks the first collaboration between them. 

The way they approached this beautiful but sad story was “to explain the spiritual and in-ternal side of it by focusing on three lonely souls,” remarked Sicat. “Mabigat din ang (it was also a heavy) process because when 9/11 happened, it crystallized everything, and everything became much more intense, so our focus became not just the Filipino Commu-nity but the spiritual ramifications on all immigrants.” 

‘Rigodon’ departs from the norm with a minimalist script which is short on incident and dialogue. “We wanted to downplay the usual Filipino approach which is all dialogue and melodrama,” adds Sicat. “Everything was pared down to the barest minimum, hanggang sa makita mo na talaga ang kaluluwa (until you can really see the soul).” Adding to that, Dalena says, “We also wanted it to have its own life, and say something about Filipinos living abroad.”


With its sombre screen tones and serious subject matter, spiced up with a dash of surrealism, “Rigodon” is unabashedly, unapolo-getically arty, but is offset somewhat by its brilliant casting. In these respects, it challenges the viewer to think, and to medi-tate. Because of the content, it’s not the usual entertainment that people who watch films are looking for given its bitter, ex-istential aftertaste. 

The main characters in this story, are Amado (played by actor Arthur Acuna) – an aging boxer too old to continue his profes-sion in his native land who comes to the United States to battle the harsh conditions every migrant faces as they dream of the families they leave behind; Salome (played by actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez) – the dreaming war-bride wed to her American hus-band for 10 years but whose visions still haunt her as she pur-sues her ‘American’ dream; and, Dante (played by actor Joel Torre) – the rebel-poet who has been helping his fellow immigrants for over a decade but who now himself needs help.

Their stories unfold in poetic cinematic language as the film me-ditates on the beauty and horror that is commonly known as the American Dream. Rigodon, the metaphor used in the title of this movie, has its roots in a dance in rural France (known in French as the ‘riguadon’ and its English counterpart ‘rigadoon’. It is a dance performed by a group moving in opposite directions, re-sulting in new partners as the circles rotate. 

The dance was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish colonizers, thus its Spanish form – the ‘rigodon’. But what was once a peasant-based dance was soon appropriated by wealthy Filipinos and soon became symbolic of the upper class in the Philippine archipelago. 


The Philippines has a colourful colonial past – nearly 400-years during the Spanish Period (1521-1898); 2-years during the British Interlude (1762-1764), 48-years during the American Period (1898-1946); and, the occupation of the Japanese (1942-1944) during World War II, and ‘Rigodon’ is the metaphor used in this film for the various colonial ‘partnerships’ the Philippines endured as well as the dance of political spheres of influence, social groups, and the millions of individual Filipinos who have migrated to far-away lands for a new life that seems, through the prism of this movie, appears to go around like a circle in a spiral.


This article also appears on the websites of our The Community Well.NZ affiliates Society of Southeast Asian Communities Inc. and Filipino Artists in New Zealand Inc.





In celebration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos and International Migrants Day, the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand will be conducting a Cinematic Forum on Migration. The project is spear-headed by the Commission of Filipinos Overseas to raise awareness on issues directed against illegal recruitment, documentation, fraud, and human trafficking, among other concerns.


‘Rigodon’, a film both in Pilipino and the English language, won the Best Feature in the International Panorama of Independent Filmmakers in Greece in 2006, will be featured in this event.


The following are the screening schedules:


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

7:00 p.m. at the Christian Revival Centre

53 Vivian St., Wellington


Thursday, 23 December 2010

8:00 p.m. at the Bill Pearce Room

St. Joseph’s Parish Church, Mt. Victoria Wellington


It would be appreciated if you could encourage your respective members and other members of the Filipino and other Southeast Asian communities to join this activity. Entrance is free of charge.


On behalf of the officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a  Merry Christmas and a Happy Prosperous New Year!




Charge d’ Affaires, a.i.

This entry was posted in Bulwagan Foundation Trust, Community Development, Filipinos in New Zealand and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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