Indian audiences have a strong connection with cinema: Brilliante Mendoza

Dubai: Renowned Philippine director Brillante Mendoza, who is behind the cult movies like `Serbis`, `Kinatay`, `Lola` and `Captive, says he was impressed to see a strong cinema loving culture in India.

"I remember when I was in Delhi in 2006 with my film `Foster Child`, it was a culture shock for me because people in India love cinema so much. I have never seen such audience.

"I envy India for that kind of energy and I wish we had that kind of audience regardless of whether it is Bollywood or independent. The kind of connection that people have with cinema is so strong," Mendoza told PTI on the sidelines of Dubai International Film Festival where his latest film `Thy Womb` was screened.

Mendoza`s films have a loyal following in India as well after making their presence felt at the festival circuits.

Winner of the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival for `Kinatay` in 2009, Mendoza says he is not very exposed to Indian cinema but likes the work of “Anurag Kashyap and other young, independent filmmakers of India."

His latest film `Sinapupunan` (Thy Womb), which was at the Venice before coming to DIFF, is set on the islands of Tawi-Tawi in the country`s southern region of Mindanao. The film, inspired by a true-story, revolves around a wife who cannot conceive and sets out with her husband to find a second wife who can give him a child.

Mendoza says he initially set out to make a story in Tawi-Tawi and the story came later.

"There is a misconception that Tawi-Tawi, the place where I set this story, is very violent and dangerous place but it is not. This island was a great discovery for me. My instant reaction was `I want to make a story here`. But it was a process. It talks about this minority community there," says Mendoza.

Famous Filipino actress Nora Aunor plays the childless midwife in the movie, which won her Bisato D`Oro Award for Best Actress at the Venice International Film Festival.

"Nora was an icon in the 70s. She was known everywhere for her golden voice but unfortunately she lost her voice because of an operation. She is still a very good actress," he says.

Mendoza started as a production designer before turning to filmmaking. The director, who has made some 16 movies in a very successful career, says he learnt the discipline by working in the advertising field.

"I have never gone to a film school. I have been in production for almost like 20 years. It was my film school because I learnt everything there. I also work in advertising, which is a completely different world from what I do in Films but I have been able to take away the discipline. It helped me a lot and my very first film went to Locarno film festival. I have tried to merge these two worlds together."

Mendoza is known for dealing with controversial issues like poverty, marginalisation and urban alienation and the director says his films are about people around him.

"Very early I realised that you are creating an environment through films. How and why you make films is important. My films are not only for myself but for people around me. I was able to develop this kind of discipline towards filmmaking very early. It is infectious and a very joyful ride."

Mendoza is widely credited for bringing independent cinema to the mainstream through his films something that Indian independent cinema is trying to do.

"I realised that things can`t change overnight and I accepted the fact. I don`t blame the audience if they don`t like my films. Looking back, I realised that they were only exposed to Hollywood films for years. A good Philippines film would only be that was close to Hollywood.

"The only access we have to real cinema is through pirated DVDs. But you have to reach out to the audience without losing you integrity and compromising with the content. It is important to share your cinema and make the audience understand because they matter the most and they are the ones who will bring this change," he added.

Mendoza`s next film is a horror set in Philippines. PTI

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