Does Brillante shoot actual 'sex scenes'?


In this exclusive interview, Brillante Mendoza answers the controversial issues surrounding his movies.

The year 2005 was a pivotal moment for Philippine independent cinema. Indie films, long relegated to the margins of Philippine cinema, finally gained mainstream acceptance via the opening of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The aim of the festival is to fund the works of new and promising filmmakers who can present a unique and innovative mode of storytelling without the repressive control of mainstream movie studios, albeit with less than half of the usual mainstream budget.  In the same year, seemingly out of nowhere, Brillante Mendoza burst into the indie scene with Masahista (“The Masseur”). Like other indie films, The Masseur did the usual tour of international film festivals but with relatively more success, winning the Golden Leopard for Video at the Locarno International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and the Interfaith Award at the Brisbane International Film Festival. In a country where most indie directors are in their twenties and early thirties, it was an impressive debut for the then-45-year-old novice.

As a director Mendoza might be considered a late bloomer, but he is not exactly new to film production. He started his film career in the mid-1980s as a production designer, working for controversial directors such as Chito S. Roño and Tata Esteban. By the 1990s, Mendoza left the movie industry and started what would turn out to be a very successful career in television advertising, paving the way for him to put up his own production company. Founded in 2005, Centerstage Productions signalled Mendoza’s return to filmmaking, with The Masseur as its first production. Mendoza would then demonstrate his prolificacy by directing eight more feature films within the next five years. More importantly, he would indeed live up to his name (Brillante means “brilliant” in English) by being nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival for his movie Serbis (“Service”) and eventually winning the Best Director award at Cannes the following year for his unapologetically brutal Kinatay (“The Execution of P”). With that victory, Mendoza was able to once again secure a place for Philippine cinema in the world stage.

As a whole, Mendoza’s cinema ― with its vision of poverty, sex, and urban alienation ― owes a lot to the late Lino Brocka. Indeed, ever since Brocka made Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (“The Nail of Brightness,” 1975) and his Jaguar (1979) became the first Filipino film to compete in Cannes, these themes have become a common fixture in Filipino films. At the same time, traces of 1940s Italian Neorealism (of which Mendoza is a big fan) are also evident in Mendoza’s works, particularly in Manoro (2006), The Execution of P and most especially in Tirador (“Slingshot,” 2007). Thus, his films can be seen as a 21st century appropriation of Italian neorealist aesthetics and the socio-political themes previously explored by Brocka. But unlike Vittorio de Sica and Brocka who use characters as metaphysical symbols and view poverty as a consequence of war or a corrupt government, Mendoza sees poverty as an everyday reality. His characters are what they are not because of war or because their government has neglected them; it is simply a fact of Filipino life. Indeed, Filipinos have been surrounded by poverty for so long that they have grown accustomed to it.


Almost exactly one year since Brillante Mendoza's Serbis was shown in the Philippines, the frontal scene of Pinoy Indie Cinema Prince Coco Martin for the movie has surfaced on the net just recently. It was a big publicity for Pinoy Indie Film Serbis last year, wherein Coco even cried foul over the said frontal shot. According to his camp, it was a "breach of trust" on their part.






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