Bilang isang horror-suspense drama, hindi lang mga eksenang nakakatakot ang mapapanood sa Sapi (international title: Possessed), ang latest indie film ng Cannes award-winning director na si Brillante Ma. Mendoza.
Ito ay tungkol sa tatlong mass media practitioners—played by Dennis Trillo, Meryll Soriano at Baron Geisler—na pumasok sa unethical media practices upang manalo sa ratings war.
Sapi was given a final R-13 rating by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Bukod sa mga katatakutan, mayroon ding mga "maseselang eksena" ang Sapi, kung kaya R-18 ang unang rating na ibinigay ng MTRCB.
Subalit napalitan ang rating na ito matapos ng pagpapaliwanag na ginawa ni Direk Brillante sa pamunuan ng MTRCB.
Sa isang exclusive interview ng PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) kay Direk Brillante, ikinuwento nito ang naging diskusyon niya sa MTRCB.
"Noong pina-review ko ang pelikula, sumama ako, kasi alam ko magkaka-concern sila with some images, especially towards the last part.
"That scene was important. It's not there only for shock value but ito na yung totality of what I want to say. Yun ang peak of what I want to say: that evil is within us."
Ang tinutukoy niya ang sensitive scene ni Meryll Soriano, kunsaan may lalabas na ahas mula sa kanyang private part.
Ani Direk Brillante, "It's a body double for Meryll."
Ano ang naging reaction ng MTRCB sa hininging rating ni Direk Brillante?
"Hindi positive ang reaction ng MTRCB dun, so they wanted to give it a rating of R-18. Ako, originally, gusto ko PG-13.
"Nakahanda naman ako to explain. Then, nag-discuss muna sila.
"Then they told me, 'Direk, medyo hindi kami kumportable sa eksena, so hindi namin mabibigay yun. But if you are willing to take out those scenes, we will be able to give you the rating that you want.'
"In-explain ko, and sinabi ko, kung hindi n'yo mabibigyan ng PG-13, I would like to ask for R-13. But not R-18 kasi my audiences are basically students.
"You won't believe it, I have about 500 to 1,000 students watching my films.
"I have been doing school tours for three years already, and I have been my showing my films all over the country.
"And I don't want na matanggal ang scenes na iyon at hindi maipalabas just because we find it a bit graphic.
"I had to explain to them [MTRCB reviewers] kung bakit ganoon yung scene."
Direk Brillante says he believes young audiences will learn while watching those scenes, no matter how gruesome, since these will facilitate critical understanding and analysis.
Bahagi umano ito ng advocacy ni Brillante Mendoza na maiangat ang panlasa at appreciation ng manonood sa ating mga pelikula.
"Actually, it was quite tedious," pag-admit ni Direk Brillante.
"The reviewers had to discuss again, and I got nervous. Until, finally, they approved the film for exhibition, with an R-13 rating—without cuts."
Matapang rin na ipinakita ni Direk Brillante ang private part ng isang babae para sa previous film niya na Thy Womb.
Natatawa siya habang inaalaala niya, "Sa Thy Womb, meron ding ganung eksena, pero bata ang lumabas."
Sa Thy Womb, may body double rin si Lovi Poe sa birthing scene niya, kunsaan ipinakita ang vagina ng babae habang nagsisilang siya ng isang bata.
HIS TAKE ON NETWORK WARS. As a horror-drama, Sapi depicts mysterious occurences happening during the broadcast coverage of rival networks SBN (Sarimanok Broadcasting Network) and PBC (Philippine Broadcasting Channel).
Si Meryll Soriano ay gumanap bilang news (documentary) segment producer ng SBN; si Dennis Trillo, bilang neophyte reporter para sa SBN; at si Baron Geisler, bilang cameraman ng PBC.
Ang character actress na si Ruby Ruiz ang gumanap bilang possessed high school teacher na nakuhanan ng video ng karakter ni Baron.
Upang manalo sa ratings war, gumawa ng under-the-table deal sina Meryll at Baron. Binili ni Meryll ang footage ni Baron upang maunahan ng TV program nila ang kalabang TV station.
Ano talaga ang opinyon ni Direk Brillante sa network war na nagaganap sa totoong TV stations?
"Actually, pinapakita ko lang ang mundo.
"Gusto ko lang i-remind ang mga manonood na hindi lahat ng napapanood natin ay totoo, at i-remind rin ang mga media practitioners that they have this huge responsibility.
"May mga ginagawa sila na akala nila normal at nakakain sila ng sistema.
"When you do these things over and over again, it becomes you, and hindi mo na nahihiwalay ang sarili mo.
"It becomes the most natural thing to do.
"Sa akin, yun ang nakakakatakot—ang mawalan ka ng konsensiya, ang mawalan ka ng morality."
NO CUTS FOR SAPI. Solar Films business film unit head Butch Ibañez ang isa sa mga nag-represent sa Solar Films (co-producer and distributor ng Sapi) nang ipa-approve ang pelikula sa MTRCB.
Ani Mr. Ibañez, "We thought, he [Direk Brillante] did a good explanation. Nung una, may mga tanong na kailangan ding mai-defend ni Direk.
"Kasi, siyempre... [otherwise] automatic cut... [pero para] kay Direk, he thinks it's a crucial part of the movie."
Ibañez is referring specifically to the scene involving a huge python coming out of a woman's vagina.
"Direk was able to explain it well; hindi naman 'sexual' in nature," saad ni Ibanez.
"So, we are showing —without cuts!" banggit pa ng Solar Films excutive.
"EVIL IS WITHIN US." The film makes use of pythons several times. "We have an animal trainer on the set," Direk Brillante pointed out.
"Plus, of course, itong mga snakes na ito, trained na sila at behaved. 'Wag mo lang silang gugutumin."
When asked about the importance of having snakes in the film, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker explained:
"That's the ultimate evil...parang, the evil is within us, hindi lang natin alam.
"In the film, the character, na-imbibe na nila yung evil, hindi lang nila alam.
"Hindi ito yung pinu-probe nila, o hinahanap nila. It's not outside, but inside them. Unknowingly, hindi nila alam 'yon."
How did foreign viewers react to the depiction of broadcast media in the film?
"You wouldn't believe it, but they also experienced quite the same thing.
"They related to the film, dahil they have the same kind of media [in their countries]."
Sapi had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and to date, the film has been exhibited in Busan (South Korea), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and Sitges (Spain).
It will also be exhibited in Brisbane (Australia), Taiwan, and Switzerland.
RAVE REVIEWS. Reviews were good, according to Ibañez. "Yeah, maraming nagkagusto, and may tatak Brillante pa rin.
"They say he's going 'commercial.' It's not that. The film is still cerebral," sabi pa ni Ibañez.
Bukod kay Brillante Mendoza (director, cinematographer, and production designer), ang mga bahagi rin ng creative team ng Sapi ay sina:
Henry Burgos (screenwriter),
Jeffrey dela Cruz (co-cinematographer),
Kats Serraon (editor),
at Gian Gianan (musical scorer).
Produced by Solar Entertainment and Center Stage Productions, Sapi is distributed by Solar Films, with Wilson Tieng and Brillante Mendoza as executive producers, and Larry Castillo serving as producer.
Ang Sapi ay kasalukuyang pinapalabas sa mga sinehan.
SYNOPSIS. Set during the onslaught of the monsoon rains (habagat), Sapi depicts how far members of the media will go in pursuit of a story.
Segment producer Meryll Flores (Meryll Soriano) and TV reporter Dennis Marquez (Dennis Trillo) are pressured by management to document an actual spiritual possession in the hopes of beating the competition.
Meryll makes a shady deal by buying an isolated case of spirit possession from the rival network's cameraman, Baron Valdez (Baron Geisler).
The explosive interaction between corporate bigwigs and unsuspecting "pawns" is heightened as certain "evil" incarnations and demonic possessions start to enter their lives.