CANNES (May 26) — Filipino filmmaker Brillante “Dante” Mendoza won Best Director for his dark drama film Kinatay at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, May 24 beating well-known Oscar and Cannes winners Taiwan’s Ang Lee, Spain’s Pedro Almodovar, New Zealand’s Jane Campion, Denmark’s Lars von Trier, and the United States’ Quentin Tarantino.
Highly promoted by Variety magazine as the “biggest heavyweight auteur smackdown in recent years”, Mendoza’s directorial feat was praised by Tarantino as “extraordinary” after attending a premier showing of the film. He gave Mendoza a 10-minute standing ovation.
Tarantino told a French newspaper: “I’d gladly defend Kinatay — it reminded me of Brian de Palma.”
Even the jury president and award-winning French actress Isabelle Huppert said of Mendoza: “We found ourselves being attracted to the same films…movies that deserve to get the world’s attention.” According to Mendoza, Huppert told him she couldn’t take “her eyes off my film from start to finish.”
The 48-year-old Mendoza is the first Filipino director to bring a film to competition at Cannes two years in a row. Last year, Mendoza’s film entry was Serbis – which is a film about the compromises a family makes to keep their crumbling Manila movie theater alive.
When Mendoza came to Manila, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he said he studied fine arts and advertising. He was also good at drawing and painting and photography. At that time, he also said he “liked superhero movies like Superman and the films like Saturday Night Fever.”
But watching the movie Relasyon (Affiar) by the late Ishmael Bernal struck him saying there was “some truthfulness in the film,” which is about a broken marriage.
“It struck me because there was some truthfulness in the film. The husband and wife in the film were fighting, literally in the bed, shouting. I remembered my neighbors and their behavior and knew there was some honesty in this film. Then I started watching Lino Brocka. If I was going to be a director, these were the kinds of stories I would be telling. I wouldn’t do popcorn movies, I told myself. I’m not saying I don’t like them, but they’re not films I could do,” he said.
Kinatay is based on true crime and reflects his view of his country’s perennial troubles with poverty and corruption. As the details of the actual event remain shrouded in mystery, some of his fans think that his film “isn’t likely to screen in the Philippines.” The film chronicles a day in the life of a young police officer that begins with his wedding and closes with his involvement in the rape, murder and hacking into pieces of a prostitute.“This is not just entertainment, these kinds of stories are real,” Mendoza said.
According to Mendoza, the story occurred about five years ago. It was conveyed to him by a guy who could talk freely to him now because “he could not do this two or three years ago. The story, however, is completely confidential. “It’s based on story by a witness, not on a story from the people who killed the woman,” he said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
Mendoza, the first Filipino director to achieve such honor in Cannes, joins the list of revered filmmakers who have won the coveted prize, including Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Luis Bunuel, Robert Bresson, Costa Gavaras, Bernard Tavernier, Werner Herzog, Robert Altman, Joel Coen and Gus Van Sant.
His other film entries to the Cannes Film Festival include Flimography: Serbis (2008); Slingshot (2007); Foster Child (2007); Pantasya (2007); The Teacher (2006); Summer Heat (2006); The Masseur (2005).
Meanwhile, Mendoza’s 2007 film Foster Child will be shown in New York City during the IndioBravo Filipino Film Festival from June 11-14.