Brillante Mendoza personifies the rebirth of Philippine cinema, says French envoy.
This latest honor caught Brillante Ma. Mendoza by surprise. The filmmaker said French Ambassador Gilles Garachon didn’t mention it the last time they were together, so the letter from the embassy hit him like a bolt from the blue.
Signed by Garachon, the official correspondence said Aurelie Filippetti, French Minister of Culture, had just announced Mendoza’s selection as a recipient of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters).
The message explained that Mendoza had been awarded the “prestigious” honor for his “truly invaluable contribution in the field of arts.”
Mendoza attended a Chevalier awarding ceremony in Paris, France, two years ago and was told by a government official that he also deserved the citation.
“I didn’t think it was possible since I’m not a French citizen,” he recalled. “I didn’t know foreigners qualified.”
According to the Order’s Facebook page, foreign luminaries have been knighted in the past—including Hollywood actors George Clooney and Jude Law, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai, American composer Philip Glass and Colombian singer Shakira.
According to the same site, the Order has three grades: Commandeur (Commander), Officier (Officer) and Chevalier (Knight). Every year, there are usually 200 recipients of the Chevalier honor; 60, Officier, and 20, Commandeur.
Among the past Commandeurs are Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn, American actor-director Clint Eastwood, British singer David Bowie; Officiers include Irish director Neil Jordan, Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo and Hong Kong filmmaker Johnny To.
Martin Macalintal, audio-visual attaché of the French embassy in Manila, told the Inquirer that the awarding ceremony will be held “soon” in the country.
Mendoza will receive a medal and a certificate from the French Ministry of Culture at the ceremony.
1st Pinoy filmmaker
According to Macalintal, Mendoza is the “first Filipino filmmaker to receive the title of knight.”
Mendoza said he had given up on the prospect, since there was a change of government in France. “I didn’t think I was still in the running,” he said. “But I am overjoyed and humbled to be in this roster of artists. It’s not just my work that’s being recognized, but also my contribution to culture. This makes me proud to be Filipino.”
Mendoza won Best Director in France’s premier cinema event, the Cannes International Film Festival, for “Kinatay” in 2009.
Said Garachon: “Mendoza personifies the rebirth of Philippine cinema. His knighthood … is a recognition of his talent and body of work that has found a dedicated audience in France where his films are released commercially, giving the French moviegoers a glimpse of contemporary Philippine society.”
Mendoza was an honoree in the Inquirer Indie Bravo! Tribute twice – in 2010 and 2012.