France honors filmmaker Brillante Mendoza with Knighthood

Carol RH Malasig
Award-winning Filipino director Brillante Mendoza is given one of the highest recognitions for his art – a French Knighthood

ENVOYS. French Ambassador to Manila Gilles Garachon says Brillante Mendoza is the Philippines' best ambassador for promoting Filipino art and culture abroad. All photos by Jude Bautista

MANILA, Philippines – France has honored acclaimed filmmaker Brillante Mendoza by giving him the title Chevalier (Knight) in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters).

French Ambassador Gilles Garachon recently conferred the award to Mendoza in an intimate reception hosted by the Ambassador in his home.

In his acceptance speech, Mendoza highlighted the value of humility and how it is the ultimate act of acknowledging the “giver” as well as the “gift,” just as the one that is honored takes a bow during the applause.

With several awards already under his belt, the filmmaker adds that he places value not on the physical trophies and plaques as well as the recognition they represent but rather, to the meaning of recognition.

“As a filmmaker from a developing country, my works were merely aimed to mirror social realities and make the audience reflect on them. Hopefully, to create change,” Brillante told the crowd gathered in the Ambassador’s living room. “It is quite a task when one is recognized for an achievement. It becomes a responsibility to carry on and pursue the expectations attached to the recognition.”

Ambassador Garachon called Mendoza “the best Ambassador of the Philippines abroad” for his efforts in promoting the Filipino culture through his art.

“For the French people, the cinema from the Philippines is the cinema from Brillante. Brillante, in fact, honors Filipino cinema because he introduces to French people the other directors, other actors and actresses from the Philippines,” Garachon added.

The Ambassador continued to praise Mendoza’s work, especially his focus on Filipino characters and human nature. “Human nature is universal, but the Filipino psyche is special, and for French people, it is a discovery. And through you, they discover a very rich and diverse culture.”

AWARD. "Brillante, au nom du Ministre de la culture, en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, je t’établis  Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres." (Brillante, in the name of the Minister of Culture, in virtue of the powers conferred, I make  you Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters.)

The French’s love for cinema goes way back with the invention of the cinématographe between the late 19th and early 20th century by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière. With around 30 film festivals per year, the birthplace of cinema continues to create films and recognize the best ones all over the world, showcasing to audiences the art of storytelling through moving pictures.

In 2010 alone, movie companies in France were able to produce 261 movies, despite piracy issues that have been a challenge for most film industries in other countries.

Mendoza first came into the attention of the French audience after the commercial release Foster Child 7 years ago. From there, Mendoza was able to co-produce 4 films with France’s Swift Productions: Serbis (2008), Kinatay (2009), Lola (2009), and Captive (2012)

Captive even starred Isabelle Huppert, one of France’s award-winning actresses.

BROTHERS IN THE ARTS. Fellow French Knight F. Sionil Jose (L) poses for a photo with filmmaker Brillante Mendoza (C) and SM Vice-President for Marketing Communications Millie Dizon

The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is one of France’s highest awards established to recognize men and women, both French citizens and foreigners, for their significant achievements in the field of arts or literature or for their contribution to the promotion of French arts and literature in the world. It was created in 1957 and has three grades: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), and Commandeur (Commander) as the highest honor.

HONOR. Brilliante Mendoza receives this medal for his conferment as Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Recipients of the award have grown in number all over the world. Mendoza joins the likes of Clint Eastwood (Chevalier, 1985), Bob Dylan (Commandeur, 1990), Sharon Stone (Chevalier, 1995), Meryl Streep (Officier, 2000),  Uma Thurman (Commandeur, 2006), George Clooney (Chevalier, 2007), Leonardo DiCaprio (Chevalier, 2007), and Kylie Minogue (Chevalier, 2008).

In the Philippines, notable recipients include: Business man Jaime Zobel de Ayala (Chevalier, 1979) sculptor Napoleon Abueva (Chevalier, 1984), visual artist Arturo Luz (Officier, 1987), journalist Rosalinda Orosa (Officier, 1993), curator Corazon Alvina (Chevalier, 2002), visual artist Allan Cosio (Chevalier, 2002), fashion designer Lulu Tan-Gan (Chevalier, 2003), film director Tikoy Aguiluz (Chevalier, 2003), FEU Chairperson Lourdes Montinola (Officier, 2008), historian Ambeth Ocampo (Officier, 2008), former Alliance Française de Manille board member and president Deanna Ongpin-Recto (Officier, 2008), artist Juvenal Sanso (Officier, 2008), architect Augusto Villalon (Chevalier, 2012), and writer F. Sionil Jose, (Chevalier, 2001) who was also present during the event. –

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