Cannes Film Festival 2009 : Best Director award.

It is no surprise to those in the Philippines who know him, that the Filipino director Brillante Mendoza would one day win the coveted Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

This year at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival the jury, presided over by French actress Isabelle Huppert, awarded him Best Director for his gritty dark film Kinatay against stiff competition from auteurs such as Quentin Tarantino, Lars Von Trier and Britain’s Ken Loach.

Brillante has been a prominent member of the Philippine film industry since he graduated from Manila’s University of Santo Tomas where he studied fine arts and advertising.

His work on TV commercials, film, television and theatre has earned him many awards over the years as a production designer and his work is much in demand on TV commercials and he has designed for many major companies such as McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and San Miguel Brewery.

Brillante’s years working in commercials has given him a keen eye and a documentary style flair for storytelling.

Kinatay is his seventh feature film. His first feature as director came in 2005; called Masahista (The Masseur) it won the Golden Leopard video award at the Locarno Film Festival as well as awards at other festivals.

Since his debut film he has been winning awards for all his films and his film Manoro (The Teacher) won him Best Picture and Director at the Cinemanila in 2006.

In 2007 his film Tirador (Slingshot) won the Special Jury award in Marrakech and the Caligari Award at Berlin in 2008. Other awards followed that year for Tirador including Best Director at Singapore.

In 2008 Brillante’s film Serbis (Service) made Filipino cinema history by becoming the country’s first film to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival since 1984.

Kinatay (Slaughter) stars Coco Martin, his fifth film with Brillante after the acclaimed Serbis. Martin is well known in the Philippines for his work on major TV dramas and independent films. He got his big break back in 2005 when he appeared in Brillante’s film Masahista, which won him the Young Critics Circle Best Actor Award.

Coco plays Peping, a poor police academy student married with a newly born baby, who is tempted to make extra money by joining a smalltime gang that collects protection money from businesses in the Philippines largest city. Later on he is lured with the promise of more money to be part of a “special  project”…

The nightmarish journey he goes on with this gang to perpetrate a ghastly crime the magnitude of which he has no idea, forces him to question his own innocent involvement and whether he, like the others, is a real killer.

The film goes from day to night and is partly shot in real time, which brings the audience closer to the characters and the crime itself. The audience does not know the crime and the lead-up is revealed bit-by-bit to maintain the suspense and to live with what Peping is going through in the course of the journey with the gang in the back of their van.

The protracted and gruelling depiction of moral bankruptcy and human depravity acted out on a prostitute is a harrowing and disturbing depiction of society in today’s modern Manila and will for most people be a difficult film to watch.