At the launch of Buhos yesterday, multi-awarded film director Brillante Mendoza announced that his next film will be about the Abu Sayyaf.
Buhos, a 30-minute documentary about the effects of global warming on the Philippines, was launched at the SM Mall of Asia yesterday, September 13. It is directed by Mendoza and produced by Senator Loren Legarda, a legislator with an environmental advocacy.
Mendoza said his idea to make a movie on the Mindanao terrorist group was conceived long ago.
"Matagal ko nang project 'to. Two years ago na. Una nakita ko sa news. Tapos may nabasa akong libro, yung kay Gracia Burnham. Sabi ko, napaka-complicated," he said.
Gracia Burnham and her husband Martin were kinapped by the Abu Sayyaf in May 2001. In June 2002, the Philippine Army was able to rescue Gracia, but Martin was killed in the firefight. In 2003, she released a book about her ordeal, titled In The Presence of My Enemies.
Mendoza added, "Gusto kong maramdaman — ano ba yung maging biktima? Kasi tayo, we only see it on the news. Pag nanonood tayo ng TV, nae-excite tayo, pumapalakpak tayo, naiinis tayo, nagsisisihan tayo. Pero hindi natin alam yung sitwasyon. Kapag nandun ka na, hindi mo alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa 'yo. Kung ano ang gagawin mo. Papatay ka ba o magpapakamatay ka ba?"
CAST. Mendoza said he had already picked the actors who will give life to his latest project: Coco Martin, Ronnie Lazaro, Jhong Hilario, and Alessandra de Rossi.
"Si Coco Martin, isa siya sa mga Abu Sayyaf leader. Si Ronnie Lazaro, Jhong Hilario, Alessandra de Rossi... they will all play important roles."
The cast includes 57-year old French actress Isabelle Huppert. "She'll be flying in next year... We already have a shoot date, mga early next year — January," he said.
Mendoza said he first met Isabelle in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival last year, where he won Best Director for the film Kinatay.
"She was the head of the jury at Cannes when I won for Kinatay," he said. "She really likes the film. Tapos nagkita kami sa Sao Paulo, sa Brazil. She was holding a retrospective of her photography, ako naman mga films ko. So mineet nila kami, we had breakfast. Tapos nakuwento ko sa kanya, eto yung next project ko — tungkol sa mga hostage victims sa Pilipinas. Sabi ko, 'You can be one of them, if you want.'"
He continued, "Sabi niya, 'But I've been to the Philippines. I was in the Philippines 15 years ago or 20 years ago and I liked it.' Tinanong ko sa kanya, 'You think you can go back to the Philippines?' Sabi niya, 'Why not? It's a beautiful country.' 'Okay,' sabi ko. 'Let's keep in touch.' So nag-email ako sa kanya. Nagkita kami ulit sa Paris. Tapos, yun. Mga four, five times na kami nagkikita."
Mendoza said the French actress did not agree right away to make the film.
"She has to see the script. Nung una, she has to see the synopsis and then the script. We have to talk about the contract, kung magkano yung talent fee, yung conditions dito, et cetera. Finally, we agreed. Mga three or four months ago, pumayag na," he said.
RESEARCH. Mendoza said he's now busy doing research for the film.
"Maliban dun sa immersion namin sa Basilan, I've talked to some victims. I've talked to some members of the Abu Sayyaf na nasa kulungan na ngayon. I've talked to the military, mga generals, a lot of organizations at mga groups who work with [victims] of hostage-taking, mga psychologists at mga psychiatrists who help the survivors — yung mga na-ano na, nabayaran, na-pull-out from the hostage-taker," he explained.
He even visited Abu Sayyaf camps in Mindanao, not worried about being kidnapped himself.
"Wala akong kasama doon. You'll be surprised. Nanonood sila ng pelikula. Nanonood sila ng action films, nanonood sila ng Robin Padilla films, mga gano'n. Tapos, natutuwa sila. Minsan nagagalit sila. 'Hindi naman ganyan!'"
Mendoza said the Abu Sayyaf knows he's making a movie about them.
"Tanong ko, 'Ano ba talaga ang ginagawa niyo?' Tapos, siyempre may mga sasabihin sila, may mga cause sila. But at the same time, inaamin din nila na may mga members silang talagang abusive, may mga members sila na terrorists," he said.
The film's purpose, however, is to shed light on the issues of insurgency in Mindanao.
Mendoza elaborated, "Ang pinakagusto kong sabihin dito, hindi sila representative ng Muslim people. When we say kasi 'Abu Sayyaf,' 'Muslim,' masama e. Ina-associate natin sa mga Muslim ang Abu Sayyaf. Kapag may pinatay sa Mindanao, kagagawan 'yan ng Abu Sayyaf. But in fact, hindi. Maraming ibang mga sector.
"You'll be surprised na napakakumplikado. At ang root cause niya'n hindi lang Abu Sayyaf. It goes way back. Our history would say all the way to the Spanish period. May kultura nang gano'n ang mga Muslim. Pero hindi kidnapping ang tawag, may kukunin silang tao in exchange for something.
"Hindi 'to about the Muslims na nagte-terrorize at nagte-take ng hostage. It's rooted in our culture kasi, especially in their culture. Para rin malaman ng mga tao, mas maintindihan nila. In Mexico, ang kidnapping nand'yan sa mga mall. Mas matindi at wala yun sa kanilang kultura. Gusto lang nilang mag-kidnap. Kahit magkano lang."