Cannes welcomes back Filipino filmmaker
FILIPINO filmmaker Brillante Ma. Mendoza has a ready answer for the critics who claim that his latest Cannes entry, “Ma’ Rosa,” is yet another foray into the poverty-stricken streets of Manila.
“I will continue making films like this because things haven’t changed,” Mendoza told the Inquirer. “This is the reality that surrounds me. If my neighbors [in Mandaluyong] suddenly become rich, I will stop making docu-drama movies like this.”
Originally titled “Palit Ulo,” “Ma’ Rosa” tells the story of sari-sari store owners who, after being arrested for drug pushing, are forced to raise money to pay off crooked cops.
“This is based on real people,” he said. “Someone actually borrowed money from me, to bribe a policeman. What makes this film different, though, according to the foreigners who have seen it, is the way I presented a Filipino family.”
Regulars and newcomers
The “Ma’ Rosa” “family” includes Mendoza regulars (Jaclyn Jose, Julio Diaz, Baron Geisler, Maria Isabel Lopez, Kristofer King, Mercedes Cabral, Rene Durian, Mark Dionisio, Neil Ryan Sese and Mon Confiado) and newcomers (Mark Anthony Fernandez, Felix Roco, Jomari Angeles and Andi Eigenmann).
Mendoza related that working with Jose and her real-life daughter Eigenmann was a breeze. “They play mother and daughter in this movie. It was as if they weren’t acting,” he recounted.
That was precisely his instruction to his cast. “I wanted them to be as natural as possible.”
Shot in Mandaluyong during last year’s rainy season, “Ma’ Rosa,” has been picked up by the French firm, Film Distribution, which also distributed “Son of Saul,” the Hungarian film that won best foreign language film in this year’s Oscars.
“Ma’ Rosa” is Mendoza’s third time to be part of the Main Competition of Cannes—vying for top honors with the likes of United States’ Sean Penn (“The Last Face”), South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (“Agassi”) and Spain’s Pedro Almodovar (“Julieta”).
“Sean was the head of the jury the first time I competed in 2008 with ‘Serbis,’” he recounted. “He was outvoted by his fellow jurors, he said. But he liked my film so much that he requested for a second viewing.”
In an interview posted on Facebook, Thierry Frémaux, Cannes festival director, said that “Brillante’s cinema is one of the most important discoveries of my career.”
Frémaux said “you never know what to expect” from the “hard-working” Filipino filmmaker. “Each film is different… and the same… [because] every film is full of conviction, of quality, of artistry.”
“Every time I make a film, he would always give his comments,” Mendoza related. “His words are heartening and encourage me to keep making films and mentoring young filmmakers.”
Interestingly, Mendoza’s 23-year-old student, Raymund Gutierrez, is included in the Cannes’ Short Film Competition with “Imago” as well.
Gutierrez was a product of Mendoza’s film workshop two years ago and won best director (for “Anggulo”) in the culminating activity.
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