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Brilliante Mendoza

The rockstar director on almost getting bombed in Israel, casting Isabel Huppert and, yes, winning more awards

Sep 16, 2010
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Tell us about Cannes.
On the day of the awards night, you’d know if you’re getting something. The year before, with Serbis, when my producer knocked, he knocked this way [knocks on the table, in slow intervals].[firstpara] From his knock, I knew we weren’t getting anything.

The following year, lying in the same bed, his knock was like [he knocks with urgency] I knew I was getting something!

I had a strong feeling about Kinatay. I was told, “Congratulations!” I asked what we were getting. He said not the major one. In my mind, I knew we’re getting either Jury Prize or Best Actor for Coco Martin.

Supposedly, my prepared speech was about Coco but when the Best Director award was announced, nahilo ako. Nakalimutan ko na lahat! The red carpet wasn’t red anymore, it’s white, you’re like walking on clouds!

What do international audiences see that people here don’t?
Maybe it’s the truthfulness, that I’m being honest with my stories, my films. There are no pretentions. There’s no intent to glamorize. It’s telling the real stories of real people.

Here, perhaps it’s not as well appreciated because we’re used to these stories. We see them, we experience them. It’s no  big deal. Violence happens abroad, but it’s a different kind of violence. With Kinatay, they’re shocked. Is that real? Does that really happen? It does.
 
What’s your take on poverty porn?
Poverty porn only happens when you’re exploiting the issue to your advantage. I don’t exploit the issue, I’m just telling a story.

For instance, when you’re inside this compound, you can’t imagine that outside it, is a squatters’ area. That’s the story not the one here inside. They are the real people. Whose story will you tell?

Do you think talent is acquired or inborn?
Ang yabang ko naman pag sinabi kong born with. It depends on the individual. It’s also a discovery of oneself. I studied in a public school. Wala namang nangyaring malaki sa buhay ko para maging ganito so hindi ko alam.

So you’re casting French actress Isabelle Huppert in your next flick?
Yes. She told me she’s been to the Philippines once and liked it here. So I asked if she wanted to come back and said, “Why not?” So I said we probably could work together. She’s interested.
 
You were in Israel during the bombings.
When they invited me for a film showing there, I Googled the place and learned about the bombings but then I thought, perhaps I wouldn’t be invited if war was going on. Two days before I arrived, a bomb already exploded nearby. So when I got there, there were no hotels. I stayed in a village. I thought, baka hindi na ako makabalik.

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INTERVIEW: JED GREGORIO
PHOTOGRAPHY: DAIRY DARILAG

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