Brillante Mendoza on his Oscar hopes and new film Dead Horse starring Lou Veloso

IMAGE Allan Sancon

Brillante Mendoza (in photo) says he is not competing with fellow Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz.



Director Brillante Mendoza, known for his cinema verite style, explains why his movies seemingly have that sad ending expectation.

"Pwede naman happy ending but I would rather have a realistic ending. Pag feature films na happy ending, mahirap-hirap na mayroon happy ending. Sa totoo lang, di naman sa pessimistic ako, I would rather na mas totoo. I don't want to give false hope."

A recent film he made as a commercial for RiteMED shone the spotlight on caregivers and carers as they care for, lose their patience at times, and ultimately love their sick patients no matter what.

"Okay naman yung happy ending pero based on experience pag may inaalagaan ka na, pag happy masyado di naman realistic. Ako ang nag-alaga, pero ako, di pa ako inaalagaan."

He recalled how he cared for his sick mother for 18 months and another time when his daughter was just 4 years old.

(Read: Brillante Mendoza taps personal experience for film about carers and caregivers)


Right now, the decorated filmmaker is busy with trying to ensure Ma'Rosa--the project that earned Jaclyn Jose her Best Actress nod at the Cannes Film Festival--gets shortlisted at the Oscars.

"Finield pa lang siya, mahaba at marami pang proceso. Sana, makakuha ako ng suporta ng mga kababayan natin, ng ating government sa pagpili ng Film Academy ng Ma' Rosa."

The film will need an extra push despite having the same distributor as last year's Best Foreign Language Film in the Academy Awards.

"I am hopeful. Si Hungary nanalo last year, yung distributor ko is the same distributor that won Best Foreign Language Film last year for Son of Saul.

"Kahit na we have the world distributor, pero kailangan pa rin ipromote yung film sa America kasi kailangan siya ipakita sa almost 5,000 members ng Academy. Kailangan ko makipagmeet sa kanila sa mga gatherings, mapanood siya ng at least half of them, kailangan mapadala mo ng DVD, or link, if they want to meet you, dapat available ka."

Aside from that, ads and features in U.S. based publications such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter will help raise awareness for the film in time for the 89th Academy Awards.

Direk Brillante also explains why it has been so hard for a Filipino film to make it to the Oscars year after year despite their good performances in other international festivals.

"Di lang enough na mapadala ka ng Pilipinas abroad, kailangan yung campaign doon, ipromote yung film, pinadala ka doon, tapos na, hindi enough yun. Kailangan yung ipush, like yung ibang bansa pag may pinadala sila, sinusuportahan nila 100% kasi eto ay Olympics ng film."


ON LAV DIAZ. When asked about his relationship with fellow director Lav Diaz, Direk Brillante is quick to answer that all is well between the two.

"Natutuwa naman at narecognize yung Filipino talent kasi kung ano man maging success ko at success ni Lav, success ng lahat ng Filipino filmmakers, recognition ng bansa natin lalo ngayon na kailangan malaman ng other side of the Philippines na may talent din na makilala din."

He doesn't consider it competition.

"Walang competition doon, unang-una magkaibigan kami ni Lav. Nung kinongratulate ko siya, sumagot siya kaagad, at iba na pinag-usapan namin, di na yung mga pelikula namin. Ever since naman, si Lav and I we are very good friends.

"Nung nananalo ako, palagi niya ako sabihan ng congratulations, pag siya nanalo, ganoon din, naalala ko, madaling araw yun, e, inemail ko kaagad siya. Pag nagkikita kami, papanoorin niya pelikula ko, papanoorin ko pelikula niya, yung kanya pinapanood ko abroad, sa festivals."

Direk Brillante wants everyone to support Filipino films.

"Sana suportahan Ang Babaeng Humayo, sana kung paano natin suportahan productions ng Star Cinema, ganoon din sa pelikula na eto, yung success ni Lav Diaz is the success of independent filmmakers."


FILM WITH LOU VELOSO. The Cannes award-winning director already completed the 30-minute film Shiniuma (Dead Horse).

It is part of the Asian Three-Fold 2016: Reflections film series co-produced by the Tokyo International Film Festival and Japan Foundation Asia Center.

It is scheduled to have its world premiere on October 26 at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival.

"I was asked by the Tokyo Film Festival if I am interested to make an omnibus film with two other Asian filmmakers. Sabi ko yes, and they gave the fund and we could make the story of our choice."

Direk Brillante reveals he got the idea for Shiniuma from a retrospective he attended in last year's Tokyo Film Festival.

Through his film, the Pinoy director plans to grapple with the issues of "loss of one's national identity" through an intimate portrayal of an illegal Filipino immigrant in Japan.

Lou Veloso's character returns to his homeland for the first time in three decades after being deported.

"Habang nandoon ako, nagresearch ako, may nakausap akong organizations doon na ang kanilang task ay to help undocumented Filipino workers.

"Dito ko sila nakilala, isang tao na may edad nasa 70-something, matagal na siya hindi umuuwi sa Pilipinas. Yung isa naman pinauwi, that is where I derived the story. Shiniuma, it means dead horse meaning it is an expression, useless, wala ka ng silbi," explained Direk Brillante.

The main message of Shiniuma will definitely resonate with Pinoys, especially those among the 10 million OFWs living abroad.

"Ako kasi personally, I am not into Filipinos going abroad, may pagka-anti ganoon ako in that sense because I am pro-family, being here in the Philippines, working here, mahirap nga ang buhay pero kasama mo yung pamilya. Sa atin importante ang pamilya, di ba? Pag nasa ibang lugar ka, greener pastures, malaki ang sweldo but hindi siya enough, yun balance of what you lose and what you gain, you lose more."

Lou Veloso plays the lead role and the story is told from his POV "storya niya, kunwari siya yung Pilipino na pinauwi dito."

Direk Brillante says it was uniquely challenging to shoot in Japan. "Kasi nag snowstorm habang nagshushoot kami. Maganda siyang tingnan pero mahirap mag-shoot, mas madali magshoot sa mainit."

Ultimately, he dedicates this film to OFWs. "I hope makita, especially ng mga OFW yung message, at yung mga gusto magtrabaho abroad."







SINGAPORE CONNECTION. He also has a short 5-minute film to be shown for the National Gallery in Singapore. This same film will also premiere in the Busan Film Festival and Singapore National Film Festival in December.

His short film titled Amorsolo's Dream is part of the omnibus film Art Through Our Eyes.

Veteran actress Rustica Carpio plays a market vendor in the short film inspired by the Fernando Amorsolo painting called Marketplace during the Occupation (1942).

"We were asked to make a short film about a painting in a collection of our choice from the gallery. I saw an Amorsolo painting of a marketplace during the Japanese war.

"Controversial, oo. It is, kasi doon sa painting, binuhay ko yung painting but it's done in the present time, no longer Japanese war but there is another war going on. Hanggang doon lang," he teases mysteriously.


AS LONG AS ISSUES EXISTS, HE WILL MAKE FILMS. Direk Brillante says his films are his way of dealing with societal concerns.

"Masaya ang buhay ko! Pero hindi ibig sabihin na masaya ka, di ka nakakafeel ng empathy, emotions for what is happening sa palibot mo.

"Kung sa buhay na tao, nakakaresolve tayo ng problema sa buhay natin, pero at at that point only, after that mayroon na naman. Kung tayo, naubusan na ng issue, e, di ano na yung gagawin ko, kapag wala ng issue, wala ng problema nararanasan ang bansa natin. Pero hangga't mayroon pa akong nakikita mga issues, mga nangyayari sa paligid natin, ikukwento ko pa rin, doon ako nakakaconnect."








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