Brillante Mendoza on SONA 2016 criticism: ‘Let’s limit it to the craft’

Vernise Tantuco
Brillante Mendoza on SONA 2016 criticism: ‘Let’s limit it to the craft’


SONA 2016 director Brillante Mendoza says he used low angle shots out of instinct, to convey President Duterte's power and authority

MANILA, Philippines – Director Brillante Mendoza’s unusual camerawork for President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address last July 25, Monday, drew mixed reviews and reactions online and among industry members.

On Wednesday, July 27, Mendoza spoke to Rappler on the phone to comment on the criticism he has received.

“I’m not really affected by all the criticism, kasi (because) even with my first film, you know, in Cannes, when I was in competition, they said that – some of the critics would say that – it’s the worst film in Cannes,” the award-winning director said, referring to his film in the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection, Serbis.

He added that what was important to him was that the people watching listened and believed in whatever he was directing.

“But even then, itong mga criticism (these criticisms), I always take that positively. I don’t have anything against them, it’s their opinion. It’s a free world, it’s a free country. So everybody has their own opinion,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza also implored: “But before you say something about the person or against the SONA, sana (hopefully) let’s limit it to the craft. Wag yung (Not) personal, wag yung (not) below the belt.

“But of course, it’s their opinion, ‘no (right)? Sa akin (For me), I don’t get affected by it. For as long as I know that my objective is met.”

Duterte and Martin Andanar, the Secretary of Presidential Communications Operations were happy with his direction of the SONA, said Mendoza, and he himself felt that he achieved his vision.

“I am happy with what I did, it was quite an experience, I must admit. But it is an exciting experience for me, it is the first time I did something like this.

“It’s very spontaeneous, napaka-spontaneous because we did not have rehearsals with the president, which is just fine with me,” the filmmaker said.

“But that’s what I really like about it, na-capture ko yung nuances ng president, and there is no pretension. That’s what I want, that’s what I like. There’s no pretension, it was simple, and I was able to communicate also the message of the president to the people.”


Nazi propaganda filmmaking?

Among other comments about Mendoza’s SONA were jokes that the low angles were part of his artistic vision – a photo of Duterte with the golden spiral imposed over it went viral on social media.

Some filmmakers also said that the low angles reminded them of 20th century filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl‘s techniques for her Nazi propaganda films.

When asked what he had to say about those comments, Mendoza said: “Honestly, I didn’t even think of that. It was spontaneous… I was just using my instinct.”

He said that he knew he wanted to get that angle from the start: “I really wanted that shot because I wanted to show power… or authority, that’s what I wanted to do.”

“I didn’t even think of the rule of thirds kind of shot, it wasn’t even that,” he added. “Siguro inassociate lang ng mga tao (I supposed people just associated it with those), but you know, I was using my instinct, I was just using my instinct at the time.”

Rappler also asked Mendoza if he would be open to directing Duterte’s next SONA – to which he replied, “Why not? I don’t see anything wrong [with that].”

Would he do anything differently then?

“I still don’t know. I still know. It depends on maybe kung ano yung i-hahighlight (on what he wants to highlight),” answered Mendoza.

Kasi ngayon ang idea ko (Because for this year) is just to present him very naturally, kung ano siya (how he is), and to be very spontaeneuous.

“But I don’t know if in the next SONA he’ll want to present something else,” he explained, saying that Duterte might want to show statistics or government achievements next time. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.