Director addresses controversy of ‘Ma’ Rosa’ running for Oscar Best Foreign Film instead of ‘Humayo’
When people think of award-winning independent films, the names Brillante Mendoza and Lav Diaz instantly come to mind. Arguably, it is the two decorated directors who have placed the Pearl of the Orient on the map of modern filmmaking, what with their headline hogging international film festival wins.
Diaz—born Lavrente Indico Diaz—started making films in 1998 with Serafin Geronimo: Kriminal ng Barrio Concepcion (The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion). Two years and two movies later, he started gaining notice in the international circuit with Batang West Side (West Side Kid), which won Best Picture at the Singapore International Film Festival, as well awards at the Independent Film Festival of Brussels, among others.
Since then, the director now known for his lengthy films—the longest of which runs at 11 hours—further made the award winning films Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History), which was included in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival; and Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What Is Before), winner of the Golden Leopard at the 2014 Locarno International Film Festival.
This year too is shaping up to be Diaz’s most triumphant one, having directed Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), now the winner of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, and the country’s latest pride, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left), which bagged the highly-regarded Golden Lion award at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
Meanwhile, Mendoza—a University of Santo Tomas Advertising Arts graduate—started in the business as a production designer for film and television advertisements until finally conquering the director’s chair at 45-years old for the 2005 film Masahista (The Masseur).
His debut on the big screen was an instant hit among critics, having won the Interfaith Award at the Brisbane International Fest in Australia and the Golden Leopard for Video at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, among the handful awards and nominations.
From then on, there was no stopping the brilliant Brillante Mendoza. He produced one socially-relevant film after another, all with his trademark use of handheld cameras and realistic approach in filmmaking.
But perhaps one of his biggest contributions, if not the biggest, to the local industry is his win at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Mendoza was the first Filipino director to bring home the coveted Best Director Award (Prix de la mise en scène) in 2009 for the drama film Kinatay.
He made history again just this May for Ma’Rosa, when his muse Jacylyn Jose won Best Actress for the equally coveted Palme d’Or (Gold Leaf) Award at the 69th Cannes Film Festival—another first in Philippine movie history.
Now, the same film has the chance to make another first for the country: an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in the United States.
Having won numerous international awards between them, there is no escaping a Mendoza vs. Diaz scenario. Lately especially, the two directors have been pitted against each other by rumor mongers who have taken sides on Ma Rosa and Humayo for the Academy Awards.
There are those who say that while Ma’ Rosa was a triumph at Cannes, it did not win as best film per se, unlike Humayo’s Golden Lion win at Venice.
Asked to comment on the supposed competition between them, Mendoza finally set the record straight on what he considers “a non issue.”
Speaking with The Manila Times at a press conference for a collection of shorts he megged for generic drug company RiteMed on September 23, Brillante clarified, “There’s definitely no competition between the two of us. First and foremost, Lav and I are friends. He congratulates me whenever I win and I do the same for him. I would watch his films when it’s competing abroad, and I know he would the same for me.”
This mindset, Mendoza added, comes from his firm belief that every recognition for a Filipino director is a recognition for the country.
“I am elated that Filipino talent is gaining recognition around the world. Their success as individual filmmakers is a success for all Filipino filmmakers and more importantly, for the country,” he added.
Still, Mendoza is all geared up to compete, not against Diaz, but almost a hundred other films for at the 2017 Oscars. Excited and keyed up, the 56-year old is pleading for the nation’s support in his latest major endeavor.
“It is a long and grueling process. It is not merely enough for my movie to be sent as a representative to the Oscars. This is the Olympics of films that’s why we are hoping to get the support of our countrymen, and most especially, our government.” Mendoza related.
In the midst of his preparation for the Oscars, Mendoza has helmed yet another worthy work with Pagpupugay. The mini-movie, produced in collaboration with RiteMED, aims to pay homage to the Filipino “carers.”
“This film is unique because it was the first time I did a project about caregivers and carers. It’s also special because this is about the unsung heroes in our society. We normally forget about the difficulties they go through. Taking care of the sick is emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausting,” Mendoza said.
The director poignantly captured the struggles faced by a spouse, a sibling, a parent, son, daughter, a family member or a professional caregiver when they care for a sick loved one/patient. The two-minute mini movie has been circulating online—via Facebook and YouTube—and has since garnered more than two million views.