Fearless, peerless Brillante | Inquirer Entertainment

Fearless, peerless Brillante

/ 10:58 PM November 10, 2013

BRILLANTE Ma. Mendoza and Dennis Trillo welcome guests at the premiere of “Sapi” in SM Megamall.

It was such a delight to see filmmaker Brillante Ma. Mendoza whom I fondly call mon ami (my friend) at the premiere night of his latest obra maestra, “Sapi” at SM  Megamall last week.

Since I’m a Frenchwoman trapped in a Pinay’s body, I am truly in awe of  my friend, who won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.


The affair was well-attended. Aside from the lead stars—of the movie, Dennis Trillo, Meryll Soriano, Ruby Ruiz and Baron Geisler—I spotted Nora Aunor, Tom Rodriguez, Peque Gallaga and other movers and shakers in the local film industry.


Dennis is all praise for his director. “He has an unorthodox directing style which made ‘Sapi’ challenging for me as an actor,” Dennis said. “He has his own distinct manner of filmmaking, which certainly sets him apart.”

The horror masterpiece feels like a documentary within a documentary, blurring the lines between fiction and news.

It is about demonic possession and the callousness of some media practitioners. Which is more terrifying between the two? It’s a matter of picking the lesser of two evils.

Four years after Brillante’s Cannes victory, he still has so many aces up his sleeve.

And just as the title of his new film suggests, he is totally possessed by his passion and consumed by his desire to take Filipino filmmaking to greater heights.

What inspired you to make “Sapi”?


The fact that we tend to believe and fear things we don’t see… on the other hand, sometimes we refuse to believe in things that we actually see and are not afraid of them.

It’s a sign of the times. Soren Kierkegaard,  Danish writer and philosopher, once said, “There are two ways to be fooled: One is to believe what is not true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” This, in essence, is what “Sapi” is about.

What’s your greatest fear?

Losing people I love who are important to me.


What are you afraid of?

The day that I stop making films that are socially relevant.

What are the strong points of Baron, Dennis and Meryll as actors?

They are all professionals and open-minded. They are intelligent but also intuitive actors.

What was the most difficult part of making “Sapi?”

When I was conceptualizing it. Doing a horror film that will also tackle social issues plaguing Philippine society.

You said your goal was to show that there were other things people should be afraid of…what does that mean?

People commit crimes that create more horrifying effects and consequences. Still, we refuse to acknowledge these things that reveal man’s amoral, insensitive and ruthless character.

For example, the pork barrel scandal.

Pork barrel has become  institutionalized and is now well-entrenched in our political system.

Do you believe in the Filipino saying “Mas matakot ka sa buhay kaysa sa patay (Be more scared of the living than of the dead)”? Why or why not?

The dead will just scare you. It’s up to you to get frightened or not. At least, you have a choice. But those who are living can harm you. And if they are really determined, they can kill you.

If you had the power, what would you “exorcise” out of the Filipino film industry?

The attitude of apathy and selfishness. Apathy, they say, is the worst sin…when you lose emotion and empathy for others. When you would do anything to earn a quick buck, even at the expense of other people and at whatever cost.

Where is the Filipino film industry headed?

The emergence of indie films is one the best things to happen in the local film industry as a whole. The proliferation of indie films also created awareness of the quality and content of films, but only to some extent.

Hollywood films still dominate the consciousness of most movie patrons.

That the movie-going public is now aware that alternative films exist, is a good sign. That, for me, is enough motivation for all those who work in the indie film scene.

It’s a long process that will take a long time, but there is a way to get there.

Lots of viewers have been influenced by Hollywood films. We always want to be entertained. Only a few would want to analyze and process films.

The audiences who take time to analyze the films they watch are students and cineastes. They should be tapped and encouraged to watch indie films.

What is your vision for the local film industry?

That both mainstream and indie films would thrive. That indie filmmakers would have their fair share of government and audience support.

There should be no competition because both mainstream and indie movies are essential for our cultural growth.

I also wish that Filipinos would consider alternative films as tools to create social awareness. That Filipinos would accept indie films and continue to patronize them alongside mainstream movies.

If you were to make a docu/movie on Janet Lim-Napoles and the pork barrel scam, what would it be like?

I have not thought of that, but that would be very interesting.

What’s your advice to aspiring filmmakers?

To be truthful and real. Filmmaking is more than just a profession. It is also a vocation.

We have a responsibility to our audience. To tell them stories that will enrich them. Even if the stories are painful realities, the audience is still enriched and uplifted by the truth.

If your life were made into a movie, what would be the title?

“Abutin ang Kinang ng mga Tala.”

Tell us about your most unforgettable encounter with a Hollywood celebrity.

When I met Sigourney Weaver in Marrakesh. We were both jury members in the Marrakesh film festival. She was so warm and accommodating. And she is more than six feet tall!

What are your dos and don’ts on the set?

Do your job well and don’t mess around when it’s time to work.

Are good actors born not made?


Acting has to be in the person’s system. Just like any talent, it has to be inborn. External factors may contribute to enhance the gift, but first and foremost, talent has to be there already.

How do you handle days when you’re not in the mood to direct?

I tend to the plants in the garden at home. I love plants. They have a therapeutic effect on me. I also do yoga.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Interesting stories of real and ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating and shopping.


What’s on your bucket list?

To be able go around the country and share my films with those who have not seen them yet.

Maybe if I get the chance and the time, to take up film courses. But, I have to finish my commitments first. I do appreciate the fact that I am a work in progress. Acquiring  formal education (on film) will definitely contribute to my development as a person.

Lastly, to maximize myself not only as a director of independent films but other media as well like TV commercials and advocacy films.

How has your Cannes victory changed you?

Not much. That was good only for a year; other Best Directors came after me.

It made me realize that winning should not be one’s end-all and be-all. The challenge is to prove that you are worthy of the recognition. That puts a lot of pressure on you.

How would you like to be remembered?

The filmmaker who made a difference and made it happen.


Don’t miss  crooners par excellence, Bo Cerrudo and Robert Seña, in their first concert together, “Serenades” on Nov. 13, 8 p.m., at Teatrino Greenhills.

They will be performing with select members of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra.

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It’s going to be one enchanted evening with two of the most powerful voices serenading you with all their hearts and souls. For tickets, call 0922-8208292 or 7216726.

TAGS: brillante ma. mendoza, Cinemas, Entertainment, Indie Films, Sapi

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