Brillante Mendoza addresses criticism of Jaclyn Jose’s ‘Ma’ Rosa’ performance

Paolo Abad

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Brillante Mendoza addresses criticism of Jaclyn Jose’s ‘Ma’ Rosa’ performance
Responding to critics who say that Jaclyn Jose's role was merely a 'supporting' one, 'Ma' Rosa' director Brillante Mendoza defends his lead actress' performance

MANILA, Philippines – Jaclyn Jose has just brought home the distinct honor of being the first Filipino to win the Prix d’interpretation feminine (Best Actress) at this year’s Cannes film festival – no easy feat, the thespian herself admits.

But her triumph comes with the raised eyebrows of some detractors and have divided film critics – some of whom doubted the scale of her role itself in Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa. (READ: Andi Eigenmann, other stars react to Jaclyn Jose’s Cannes victory)

While some critics like Boyd van Hoeij for The Hollywood Reporter hailed Jose’s performance as “resilient yet understated throughout,” there were some – as Deadline‘s Anthony D’Alessandro pointed out to the jury at their press conference after the awards ceremony – who “felt it was a supporting role.” (READ: Jaclyn Jose: 5 fun facts about the veteran actress, loving mom and grandma)

Ma’ Rosa director Mendoza, at the homecoming dinner on May 25, Wednesday, following their victory in Cannes, France, addressed this matter.

“This is Jaclyn’s film – sa title pa lang, ‘di ba?” he told members of the press. “Hindi mo naman ilalagay yung title kung hindi niya pelikula. So from the start to the very end, nandoon siya.”

(This is Jaclyn’s film. Her character’s name is in the title, right? I wouldn’t give the movie its title if it really weren’t her film. From the start to the very end, she is there.)

“Maybe, hindi nila nakita yung (they don’t see the) over-the-top acting,” Mendoza added, suggesting that some reviewers could be looking for “highlights” or intense, climactic scenes. He also described Jose’s acting as “natural the whole time, from the opening up to the very end.”

In the film, Jose plays Rosa, a mother already struggling to make both ends meet as she runs a sari-sari store with her husband, Nestor (Julio Diaz). Thus, they sell illegal drugs on the side, until they get busted by unscrupulous cops who extort money from them – to supposedly trade for their freedom.


He explained, “Hindi ako naglalagay ng mga highlights-highlights sa film ko because I focus on the story.” (I didn’t put any highlights in my film because I focus on the story)

“If the character requires that she wouldn’t shout, from the start up to the very end, then hindi siya kailangan sumigaw (she doesn’t need to shout). That is still acting. That is good acting.”

Mendoza also said that in his opinion, consistency in one’s performance is paramount. He also went on to say that Jose had shown this.

“Consistent siya sa kanyang character. Hindi siya kumakawala doon sa character niya. At ‘yon, na-achieve ni Jaclyn ‘yon. So I think that’s why she won,” he said.

(She is consistent in playing her character. She doesn’t lose sense of her character. Jaclyn achieved this, so I think that’s why she won.)

The newly minted Cannes Best Actress interjected about the Ma’ Rosa director: “Matinik ang mata nito. Medyo sumimple ka lang ng nuances na – baka puwede ako makalusot dito ng, alam mo na, your style of acting. [He would say,] ‘Hindi, Jane. Hindi ganyan. Naku, hindi.'”

(His eyes are sharp. If you slip in some nuances – or you know, your style of acting – he would say, ‘No, Jane. Not like that. No.’)

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

She said that a Brillante Mendoza film often entails improvisation, saying: “Mararamdaman naman niya kung umaarte ka o nananapaw ka, or gusto mong lumutang o gumawa ng eksena. Ayaw ni Dante [Mendoza] ng ganoon.”

(He knows when you’re overacting or overshadowing others, or if you want to rise above the rest or make a scene. Dante doesn’t want that.)

Jose herself has been collaborating with Mendoza since the ’80s, and has appeared in films like Takaw Tukso, Private Show, and Olongapo… The Great American Dream.

“This is not the first time that Jaclyn and I have worked together. We started together – she as an actress, and me as an art director way back then,” Mendoza explained.

He added that she also appeared in his previous films Masahista (2005), Tirador (2007), and Serbis (2008).

Jose said, “Sa tagal na naming magkasama, alam ko na ang mga ayaw niya. So we work together naman. Alam ko naman kung ano ang gusto niya.”

(We’ve been working together for a while, so I know what he doesn’t want. We work together. I know what he wants.) 

‘Big-time leading role’

2016 Cannes Film Festival Jury members (Left to right): Australian director George Miller, French actress Vanessa Paradis, Iranian producer Katayoon Shahabi, Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, US actress Kirsten Dunst, French director Arnaud Desplechin and Italian actress Valeria Golino arrive for the Closing Awards Ceremony of the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA

At the press conference after the awarding ceremony, the jury members, led by Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller, defended their decision.

The 2016 jury is comprised of: actors Kirsten Dunst, Valeria Golino, Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Paradis, and Donald Sutherland; directors Arnaud Desplechin and László Nemes; and producer Katayoon Shahabi.


Sutherland, for one, said, “I think the critics are wrong. That was a big-time leading role.”

Jury president Miller also explained that as a rule, the films that won the top prizes – the Palme d’Or, Grand Prix, Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director) – cannot take any other award.

Notwithstanding the rule, Hannibal star Mikkelsen, who presented the award to Jose along with Iranian film producer Shahabi, felt that Jose was indeed deserving of the award.

“We found her to be a wonderful, wonderful leading actress, a master of her skills – regardless of what the rules are in this festival,” he said. “It was not a supporting character. It was an absolute beautiful, beautiful performance for lead actress. That’s why she got it.” –

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Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.