Brillante Mendoza goes off track in ‘Ang Pagtatapos’

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And why he chooses to call his movies ‘alternative’ rather than ‘indie’
For admirers of Brillante Mendoza’s trademark gritty movies, the award-winning director’s latest offering titled, “Ang Pagtatapos,” will definitely come as a surprise.

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Premiering tonight as part of a 12-part movie-made-for-TV series, “Ang Pagtatapos” will air on TV5 via Brillante Mendoza Presents, and will follow the story of Shaira Torres, a graduating student of the distinguished Philippine High School for the Arts-Makiling.

While devoid of panicky chase scenes in the slums, what remains constant in the Cannes Film Festival best director’s latest work is his passionate effort to promote Filipino culture and storytelling

Portrayed by Gabby Padilla, Shaira is tasked to tell the legend of Maria Makiling using the folk dance Pangalay. As she proceeds with her requirements, she simultaneously deals with family problems back in Manila, which will eerily mirror the story of the Philippine mythological goddess.

Mendoza—whose trademark neorealistic films such as Masahista, Kinatay, and most recently, Ma’ Rosa, which clinched the coveted Golden Lion award at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival—temporarily sheds his signature wobbly shots and impoverished setting for this equally intriguing story.

In contrast, “Ang Pagtatapos” will bring viewers to a fantasyland from the very beginning, as Mendoza opens the episode with an ethereal dance routine in the middle of the woods. But while devoid of panicky chase scenes in the slums, what remains constant in his latest work is his passionate effort to promote Filipino culture and storytelling.

“Ang Pagtatapos and the other stories that I have brought and will soon bring to this series, are all referential—meaning, these are not just imagined stories. Our team goes to different regions—right now we have people in Mindanao and in Ilocos—to gather real stories. We follow the same process we have done in our previous movies until we form the story we want to tell,” the internationally renowned filmmaker said at the show’s preview at SM Megamall.

Complexities and culture
Even on television, the Cannes Film Festival best director continues to explore the complexities of human relationships set against the backdrop of culturally rich Filipino traditions.

Brillante Mendoza and TV5 President and CEO Chot Reyes

“Ang Pagtatapos” is already the third title in Brillante Mendoza Presents, which started out with “Tsinoy” back in February, in time for Chinese New Year. Both unraveling the dark side of its lead characters, “Tsinoy” told the story of a Filipino-Chinese young man who fails to finish school because of his devotion to wish (lion dance).

The Valentine month also saw the run of “Everlasting” where Mendoza presented the unique love story between two women and the struggles that come with their romantic relationship amid the colorful Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City.

After “Ang Pagtatapos,” Brillante Mendoza Presents will continue with Panata set in Marinque (May 27), Anak set in Obando, Bulacan (June 24), Kadaugan set in Cebu (July 29).

But for now, the director is both proud and excited to present a movie that will spotlight the country’s premiere art school.

“I am very excited for this film because I think this is the first time a movie about a Philippine art school has been made. We shot at Philippine High School for the Arts where students practice different fields of the arts. We’re happy that we were able to make something valuable for the school by focusing on the stories of their students,” Mendoza added.

As he previously told The Manila Times at the launch of his series in December 2016, he will not short-change his audience with movies-made-for TV.

“Even if this is a short film, we treated it as full-length film so that the process we followed is the same. We have original music, sound design and even grading, which are not normal processes in TV shows. So it’s a film itself talaga,” Mendoza reiterated.

To end, the director expressed his wishes to refrain from describing his made-for-TV films as “independent” or “indie.” Rather, he wants them to be categorized as “alternative.”

“We don’t want to call it indie, because for me, no work has to be called independent or mainstream—a film is a film. It’s an “alternative” movie because we are more focused on the stories that we want to tell rather than the stars that it features,” Mendoza explained.

Brillante Mendoza Presents:Ang Pagtatapos also stars Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino, Racquel Villavicencio, Nonoy Froilan, and Vim Nadera. It airs tonight at 9:30 on TV5.

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