Brillante Mendoza dazzles Venice

Agence France-Presse

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The Filipino director gets recognized for showing a different side of the Muslim region

'THY WOMB' DIRECTOR BRILLANTE Mendoza. Photography by Cholo dela Vega. Grooming by Georginna Desuasido.

VENICE, Italy – Brillante Mendoza told AFP at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday, September 6, that he wanted to show a different side of Muslim communities in a conflict-torn part of the Philippines.

His new film “Sinapupunan” (“Thy Womb”), is set in the islands of Tawi-Tawi in the Mindanao region. It is premiering in Venice and one of the 18 movies vying for the prestigious Golden Lion award.

The beautifully-shot movie tells the story of a wife who cannot conceive. She sets out with her husband to find a second wife who can give him a child.

The intensity of the plot comes from the shame of infertility and the relationship between the two women in a tradition-bound fishing community.

“The misinterpretation is that it’s a very violent place, very aggressive and very dangerous — but it’s not,” Mendoza said in an interview. His last film “Captive” starring Isabelle Huppert premiered in the Philippines this week.

The Muslim insurgency in the Mindanao region began in the early 1970s. The fighting has killed some 150,000 people, miring large parts of the south in deep poverty.

Peace talks have been going on for about a decade, but have been frequently bogged down by deadly clashes; both sides accusing each other of violating a ceasefire.

“I was surprised when I arrived (there). It’s really different from what we thought. The people there are not aggressive, they’re very calm, they’re not confrontational and they have an amazing culture,” Mendoza said.

“It was a discovery for me and I thought I should share it,” he added.

Mendoza, who won an award for best director at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 with “Kinatay” (“The Execution of P”), is known for choosing controversial topics for his films, including prostitution, homosexuality and corruption.

“I realize that film is such a very powerful medium,” Mendoza said.

“For me, this is a very rare opportunity to change the mindset of people, to change society,” said the 52-year-old director, a former production designer in the advertising business who only began making films in his mid-40s.

Mendoza said at a news conference: “A story is a story. I tell the stories I want to tell whether they are dark or not. The only important thing is that people see the story in film and that the message arrives.”

“Thy Womb” lead actress Nora Aunor, a star in the Philippines who has not made a film in several years, said: “The difficulty I had was that because there was less dialogue, I had to transmit emotions to the public.” – Agence France-Presse

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