01 Oct Q&A WITH BRILLANTE MENDOZA, DIRECTOR OF SLINGSHOT
Proliﬁc ﬁlmmaker Brillante Mendoza premieres his work at the San Diego Asian Film Festival this year with a double-header of FOSTER CHILD and SLINGSHOT, both shot on the streets of Manila In what’s been described as “real time” ﬁlmmaking. Though ﬁctional, Mendoza’s impressive skill is to impose a calculated narrative onto Manila’s constant unpredictability, shaping its ground-level chaos into art.
SLINGSHOT opens with a bravura sequence: a nighttime raid on one of Manila’s squatter neighborhoods. The camera chases plainclothes police wielding massive automatic weapons through the narrow laneways as they ransack homes, break in on couples making love, and heard dozens of people out into the open. Only some of them are guilty. But in this neighborhood, stealing puts food in your belly. Some snatch wallets and jewelry, some shoplift, others prefer more intimate forms of thievery.
A showcase of Mendoza’s rapidly maturing abilities with digital cinema, SLINGSHOT also presents the full range of human behavior—especially the ironies of greed and vanity.
The stories climax at a rally where politicians give high-minded speeches to thousands holding candles aloft in the night. But even there, the harsh economics of life on the streets rules the evening.
-Adapted by Cameron Bailey
LEE ANN KIM: YOU HAVE A WONDERFULLY, DISTINCTIVE STYLE AS A FILMMAKER. WHILE WATCHING SLINGSHOT AND FOSTER CHILD, SOMETIMES I HAD TO ASK MYSELF “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO SHOOT THESE FILMS IN SUCH TIGHT QUARTERS IN MANILA?
BRILLANTE MENDOZA: Most of my ﬁlms are set in real time and in actual locations. That’s why I am able to capture even the heat! We don’t have huge studio lots in the Philippines where sets can be built for particular movies. Besides, an independent ﬁlm maker like me would not have the money to build sets. So what I do is to ﬁnd the most perfect location for the story I want to tell, then bring the actors there, make them live there or nearby if possible, then shoot theﬁlm continuously and chronologically until it is complete..Making the actors shoot in the actual location of the stories and telling them to hang out in the area as much as they could is what I call “ immersion.” How do I make them hang out in the area when we don’t even have trailers for anyone? If our budget could afford it, we rent a room or a house in the vicinity that could serve as a as resting place for the actors in between takes and in between ﬁlming days. That’s actually how actors practically become the characters they are portraying. And, that’s how dedicated and professional these actors are.
KIM: WHAT INSPIRED THE STORIES AND CHARACTERS OF SLINGSHOT?
MENDOZA:The idea came about not because of fascination with snatchers but more on the desires to discover and learn about other people’s lives and culture that I have never been deeply aware of before. Tirador is a look not only into the life but into the heart, mind and spirit of the snatchers.
KIM: I KNOW YOUR MOST RECENT FILM, “SERBIS,” WAS SELECTED TO COMPETE AT CANNES. CONGRATULATIONS!
MENDOZA: It was an humbling experience. It’s too good to be true but it happened and I’m extremely happy about it.
KIM: YOU’RE AN INCREDIBLY PROLIFIC, CUTTING EDGE FILMMAKER. HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR WORK FITS INTO THE FILM INDUSTRY IN THE PHILIPPINES?
MENDOZA: At the moment the prevailing attitude of the moviegoing public towards my ﬁlms is of curiosity. It is perhaps the tragedy of any ﬁlmmaker and producers as well to make ﬁlms that are patronized out of curiosity. We hope that this attitude will be cured.