Filipino director Brillante Mendoza was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.
The Cannes award-winning director joins the distinguished list of foreign nationals with the rank of Knight, including Hollywood actors George Clooney, Jude Law, filmmaker Tim Burton as well as singer Kylie Minogue.
Brillante began his career as a production designer before gaining international fame for directing films such as Serbis, Kinatay, Captive, and Thy Womb.
In 2009, he became the first Filipino to win the Best Director award in France's prestigious Cannes Film Festival for his movie Kinatay.
In a letter dated June 13, French ambassador to the Philippines Gilles Garachon wrote to Direk Brillante informing him that he has been awarded the title of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of the Arts and Letters).
The letter also stated: "This prestigious award is meant for your truly invaluable contribution in the field of arts."
The award is one of France’s top accolades that aims to “recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.”
Select foreign nationals have received the medal since it was established in 1957. The recipient of the award is admitted into the Order of Arts and Letters either as a Chevalier (knight), Officier (officer) or Commandeur (commander).
Other Hollywood actors with the rank of Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France include Clint Eastwood and Roger Moore.
In an exclusive interview with Direk Brillante, he revealed that a French official already predicted that he would receive this recognition from the French government.
"I attended a [conferment ceremony] two years ago in Paris and sabi ng French official na kakilala ko, 'You should receive one of these in the future.'
"Nagulat ako nung natanggap ko yung letter. Akala ko binibigay lang nila sa mga Pranses. It's very prestigious and it's very overwhelming to receive this.
"I'm honored because ang criteria nila for choosing ay ang contribution ko to culture in general, not only in the Philippines but also the entire world."
The director says that he is glad to receive this recognition not only for himself but for his fellow Pinoys as well. “Overwhelmed ako and as a Filipino, karangalan rin sa atin ito.”
How does he feel about being inducted into the Order of the Arts and Letters, which boasts as members the likes of George Clooney, Jude Law, among others?
“Siyempre, alongside with all these famous names and personalities, nakaka-humble, especially since ang mga ginagawa nating pelikula, hindi naman masyadong tinatangkilik dito.
“Mga Hollywood superstars sila so maka-hilera mo lang sila, malaking bagay na. Nakakataba ng puso.”