by Denise Mallabo
One of the most celebrated directors in Philippine cinema BRILLANTE MENDOZA gave the country recognition yet again at the recently concluded 2016 Cannes Film Festival. His movie Ma’ Rosa was selected to compete in the Palme d’Or at the said film festival wherein lead star Jaclyn Jose was awarded the Best Actress recognition, the first for our country. The film focuses on the issue of small-scale drug trafficking in the Philippines, a subject that’s very timely. The cast includes Julio Diaz, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Andi Eigenmann, Baron Geisler, Jomari Angeles, Felix Roco, Mercedes Cabral, Neil Ryan Sese, Mon Confiado, and Maria Isabel Lopez. Spotlight caught up with the very busy director to talk more about the movie and his production process.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE MOVIE MA’ROSA?
Brillante: Ma’ Rosa was inspired from a real-life event that I was directly involved in sometime 2012. I find this event special because I was astonished with the fact that these things are happening under our noses, and yet our society seems to be desensitized with this system of abuse; as if we’ve already accepted things the way they are. When you are below the food chain, everything becomes a survival, and the line that distinguishes our standards of morality becomes blurry.
DID YOU PRODUCE THE MOVIE WITH CERTAIN ACTORS ALREADY IN MIND?
B: Whenever I get actors, I see to it that somehow, they are connected with the role that they are portraying especially that most of the time, I require minimal acting in the film. For example, Jaclyn will never portray Rosa excellently if she’s not aware of the environment where Rosa lives, and she doesn’t have a mother’s instinct who understands the importance of making ends meet for her children. Therefore, I require my actors to immerse to the environment of their role so that they won’t look like cardboard on screen.
WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU’VE DONE DIFFERENTLY IN MAKING MA’ ROSA AS COMPARED TO YOUR OTHER MOVIES?
B: In terms of style, expect that there’s still that touch of social realism like the previous films that I have worked with my cinematographer Odie Flores. But perhaps I am working with the youngest staff that I’ve got. My screenwriter, Troy Espiritu, is only 30 years-old while my editor, Diego Dobles, as well as my protégés, Raymund Ribay Gutierez and Joshua Reyles, who are also involve with the process, are in their 20’s. What’s good in working with young people is that they are still malleable and can be guided in the right direction, developing their skills and talent to be the artist that they can be in the future. Plus, they cooperate very well.
HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE TRAVELING TO CANNES TO SHOWCASE MA’ ROSA?
B: It’s my 3rd time to compete in the main competition of Cannes Film Festival. The first time was in Serbis, where Jaclyn was also my actress. Again, this is something different since I am working with the youngest team I have and I brought them with me to experience what it’s like in an international film festival like Cannes, exposing them to the best films and filmmakers in the world.
WHEN JACLYN JOSE WAS ANNOUNCED THE WINNER FOR BEST ACTRESS AT THE FESTIVAL, AS HER DIRECTOR, WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION?
B: I was really surprised and we were all caught off-guard. The morning of the closing ceremony, I was wondering why there’s no feedback from the film distributors regarding the results, which normally comes out at noon, until we were advised at 2pm to get dressed and meet at the hotel lobby at 5pm for the limo service. Apparently, there’s a forecast that my protégé, Raymund Ribay Gutierrez might bag the Short Film Palme d’Or, a second for the country if ever, while Ma’ Rosa has the chance to win the screenplay. Surprisingly, it was Jaclyn who won the Best Actress and she didn’t prepare anything.
WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY WITH THIS MOVIE?
B: None. I think my vision for the film was crafted and delivered, and I am very happy with the outcome.
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR AUDIENCE TO GET FROM WATCHING MA’ ROSA?
B: The reality. The cancer that the drug problem of our country has created and how it infested our everyday lives. We just have to open our eyes and look at every Ma’ Rosa in every facet of our community. Furthermore, I hope the audience can also realize the Filipino value of love for our family. The love that goes beyond borders and sometimes dangerous, it becomes amoral.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST THIS YEAR? ANY PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE WORKING ON THAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO?
B: Right now I have two scripts on the table and they are just up for funding.
Please try to catch Ma’ Rosa in these limited cinemas.