Entertainment

Excitement, self-doubt merge as Brillante Ma Mendoza steps out of his comfort zone

Vince Rillon (left) and Brillante Ma Mendoza

Even award-winning indie filmmaker Brillante Ma Mendoza has admitted to doubting himself for taking on a project that he said is totally out of his comfort zone.

“Kaya ko ba ‘to?” This was the question that Mendoza, who described his previous works as “alternative cinema,” confessed to having asked himself after saying “yes” to the offer to direct “a genre film for a mainstream production outfit” very soon.

“I’m excited, but I’m also experiencing self-doubt,” said Mendoza, who also requested that we withhold information on the film project and its producer since a formal launch will be held soon.

“When you decide to make a genre film, you have to be aware that your target market has also changed, as well as your way of storytelling and treatment,” he told Inquirer Entertainment during our recent visit to his lovely home in Mandaluyong City.

Mendoza added that he has had similar offers before but would always turn them down, “Because I knew I wasn’t ready yet.”

His experiences related to dealing with the pandemic, in a way, have forced him to be ready, he admitted.

“The hard truth right now is that we don’t know when the cinemas will be allowed to operate again. As a result, we also don’t know where to showcase the films we make. After screening them in international festivals, where to next? We also don’t know where the distributors are—a lot of them lost their jobs, too,” Mendoza pointed out. “Do we show our films on TV? Which channel would take them? How much do we expect to earn from airing our films there? We are now forced to consider all these streaming platforms, pero barya-barya rin lang ang kita.”

Upholding his principles

He further said: “This is our reality now. And in my reality, there’s a company that continues to make films to entertain people in the midst of the pandemic. We all have our own definition of the word ‘entertainment.’ It just so happened that my definition of this concept is acceptable to them, so this meant we could work together and that I don’t have to sell myself out, as well as my principles or my craft.”

Mendoza said even though his next project could be classified as “mainstream,” the process he goes through while making art films will still be upheld. “I will not come up with something that I didn’t work hard on,” he declared.

Rillon in “Resbak”

To prepare, Mendoza now tries to recall the work he does in advertising years before he became an indie director. “That’s a totally different world. The creative process there is also different, if not, more rigorous. While in making alternative films, you focus more on the story, rhetoric and philosophy; in advertising, you focus on the audience. Your aim is to give what the audience wants. That’s a long process—you consider the cast, production design, cinematography … everything! I’m excited because this feels new to me again.”

Timely

Inquirer Entertainment’s visit to Mendoza’s home was really to attend the special screening of his latest film, “Resbak,” which will be competing at the 34th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) later this month.

The film, starring Vince Rillon, was shot prepandemic. Mendoza tried to explain how the story was initially developed: “The research I did while doing ‘Amo’ and ‘Alpha: The Right to Kill’ has led me to meet different people from the ‘underground.’ My writer (Troy Espiritu) and I sought them out. We’ve gotten so relaxed around them that we eventually thought of this movie, but I said this has to be relevant to what is currently happening in our society.”

Mendoza added: “What we eventually came up with is a film that’s so timely that it actually gave me goosebumps. It was released just as the election season in our country began. Those that we are reading and hearing about on the news right now are also being tackled in the movie—to think we’ve thought of all these back in 2019.”

Filming was done for several months in cities such as Mandaluyong, Manila and Makati. It also features Jay Manalo, Bibeth Orteza, Albie Casiño, Nash Aguas and Khalil Ramos, as well as cameo performances from Rosanna Roces, Lito Pimentel, Vance Larena, Rolando Inocencio and Jomari Angeles.

This is Mendoza’s first film that got included in the main competition section of the TIFF. Meanwhile, the filmmaker’s other new film “Gensan Punch,” which is distributed by SC Films, is currently competing in Busan.

‘For the educated class’

When asked what lesson does he want his audience to take home from watching the film, Mendoza said: “I can only talk about what I want to share, but what they will eventually pickup from it will be all up to them. First of all, my subjects in this film are not my target audience. They won’t watch this to see a reflection of themselves fighting and killing each other.

“This is marketed for the educated class, the game changers, those who have enough power and influence to make a difference in society. Hopefully, what they see here would force them to reflect and work on making positive changes.” INQ

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