MANILA, Philippines - Only days after his film Tawi-Tawi is accepted to the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Best Director (for the film Kinatay in 2009) Brillante Mendoza is back with another — a film that will remind us of a dark time in our country's peace and order situation.
Many might still remember the May 2001 kidnapping of local and foreign tourists in Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan by the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group. It ended a year later on June 2002, with American missionary Gracia Burnham being one of the well-known survivors. Her husband, Martin, died as they were being rescued.
"Captive" was inspired by these events.
"I treated the whole film as a single real event," says Mendoza about his movie. "The script was based on my intensive research on certain kidnappings and where they actually happened."
He adds, "The testimonies of survivors, captors, the military and others who witnessed or were part of the crisis were also taken into account."
Only 25% of the film is fictional, mostly characters and scenes that Mendoza felt were "necessary for enhancement and dramatization purposes."
The journey we will see in "Captive" is close to the journey that the Dos Palmas kidnap victims had to go on for that whole year that they were held by the Abu Sayyaf. Mendoza clarifies, though, that they did not shoot in Palawan, Lamitan, Basilan or any other part of Mindanao for security reasons.
The film was shot documentary-style: straightforward, simple. This is to uphold the concept of "reality" contained in the material for the film.
Photo courtesy of THIS Channel
Mendoza admits that he worked with "combat specialists" from both the military and the Abu Sayyaf in order to shoot the shootout scenes as realistically as possible.
French actress Isabelle Huppert plays Therese Burgoine, a French national and a volunteer social worker for a non-government organization based in Palawan. While Huppert's character in the movie is fictional, her experience during filming couldn't be more real.
"My depiction of the AbuSayyaf captors is definitely not one-dimensional," says Mendoza, as if to answer possible questions that may be raised about the movie. "Like us, they can be funny at times, and angry and violent at other times."
He adds, "They can even be caring and compassionate under certain circumstances."
For Mendoza, to be a filmmaker is akin to being a journalist: "I show both sides, all sides of a situation as much as possible, no matter my personal beliefs or causes."
He believes that a filmmaker should not interfere with the truth. "At any rate, I am not trying to defend the Abu Sayyaf and their cause, nor am I trying to justify anything in the film," he says.
"It's all about humanity," he continues. "The movie shows something about the unseen, about the Big Picture: that everyone is captive to their own cause."
Captive, Brillante Mendoza's newest film, is about self-preservation and survival in the face of hardships and situations beyond one's control.
Watch the trailer of Captive here: