While veteran directors like Quentin Tarantino and Sean Penn have praised Kinatay director Brilliante Mendoza's neo-realist movies, veteran film critics have often panned them. One even called Kinatay the worst film ever shown at Cannes. But Mendoza is unfazed and accustomed to drawing such extreme reactions: "I'm hoping somehow that I'm doing something that's...worth showing to the people. If somebody doesn't like my film...I don't really dwell on that. When they say something good about my film, thank you. They don't like it, well, thank you."
Mendoza says all of his movies are based on real-life stories from the Philippines: "I want people to know that...these things are happening in the country, in the Philippines; that this is a part of our culture...For me, this is what cinema is all about. To show what is real, to show what is true." He adds that his movies—usually heavy on the explicit sex scenes and violence "are definitely not for entertainment...they're not really for everyone."
As the first Filipino to snare the Best Director award at Cannes—edging out heavyweights such as Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee and Pedro Almodovar—Mendoza was heralded by his countrymen and President Gloria Arroyo. But the director has mixed feelings: "I'm thankful that she gave me a commendation. She gave me an award and cash money which could really help me in paying all my debts in the post production. But I was hoping for ...a more genuine support, not only from her but from the government because it's not easy...for us especially independent filmmaker to do these kind of films and to fund our film."
Mendoza's latest movies has faced a struggle to be screened in his home country, although ultimately the government approved it without cuts or censoring: "It's very frustrating because I think nobody should tell the audience or the Filipino not to watch my kind of film...I think nobody should tell them what to watch or not." The director believes drastic action is necessary: "We have to change the law to abolish the censorship so that we'll be able to show our films freely to the Filipino audience."
The director also shares with Coren how he became a single father to his adopted 13-year-old daughter Angelica. "If there's one thing I'm proud of, I think it is being a good father...I think it's my greatest achievement...greater than Cannes."
Brillante Mendoza's interview with TALK ASIA will be available online at www.cnn.com/talkasia after the first airing.