Friday, September 6, 2013

Director Profile: Brillante Ma Mendoza of SAPI

The first think you'll read on director Brillante Ma Mendoza's website is that he "is a living national treasure of the Philippine alternative cinema". And don't for a second assume that it's a hyperbolic statement because we completely agree, as should you.

Mendoza started off his career as a production designer--making quite a name for himself as such. It wasn't until 2005 that he directed his first feature film, Masahista, about a young girl working as a masseur in Manila. The film screened at the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival and won the Golden Leopard award.

Kinatay still

Since that first festival win from his very first feature, Mendoza has gone on to direct a staggering 16 films. Just a reminder: only eight years have passed since 2005. Yeah, wow is right. Even more impressive was that pretty much all of these films went on to screen at film festivals and collect an impressive number of awards. 2007's Manoro won two awards at the Cinemanila International Film Festival and Foster Child won Best Picture at the Durban Film Festival; 2008's Serbis saw him nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and in 2009 he won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Kinatay. 2009's Lola cleaned house at numerous festivals, winning Best Film at the Dubai International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Miami International Film Festival, just to name a few.

Are you feeling as awed and impressed as we are yet? Thought so.

Captive still

After Lola, Mendoza took a break (we can see why!) and came back in 2012 with two films: Captive, and Thy Womb. The former, starring award-winning actress Isabelle Huppert, screened at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Bear award and the latter screened at a handful of festivals, including the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and, of course, picked up a handful of awards along the way.

We're starting to wonder where Mendoza puts all of these awards. If ever a director needed an Awards Room, it would be Brillante Ma Mendoza.

Lola still

Mendoza has always strived to make his films ultra-realistic, controveserial, and observational--something for which he has been both praised and criticized. His film Kinatay, despite it's Cannes win, proved to be polarizing with critics. Ebert notably called it the "worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival" (as of 2009, at least) while (and this is kind of cool) it inspired director Quentin Tarantino to write Mendoza a personal note praising the film, saying it "was bold, daring, and to me, the whole point of making a movie in the first place."

We are quite certain that Sapi will be no less challenging and daring, especially given the subject matter. Mendoza has made films about a broad range of topics--from kidnappings to masseurs--but Sapi is his first attack on mainstream media. Prepare your senses for an onslaught, kids. And to those of you Vanguarders who are brave enough to tackle this film, make sure to tell the rest of us (read: this author, who is a big baby) what it's like.

SAPI Screening Times:

  • Friday, Sept 6th, 10:00 PM SCOTIABANK 3
  • Saturday, Sept 7th, 9:45 PM SCOTIABANK 10
  • Sunday, Sept 15th, 3:00 PM SCOTIABANK 14

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