On December 28, 2018, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, 71, took to Twitter to describe “Kinatay” (Butchered) as one of the most disturbing movies he watched in 2018. It was the film that made Brillante Mendoza, 58, the first ever Filipino filmmaker to win the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious award Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director).
Written by Armando “Bing” Lao and directed by Mendoza, “Kinatay” starred Coco Martin, 37, as Peping, a newly wed criminology student who accidentally joins a syndicate to earn money for his family. Also in the cast were John Regala, 53, Maria Isabel Lopez, 60, Jhong Hilario, 42, Julio Diaz, 60, and Mercedes Cabral, 32.
In 2009, 20 films from 13 countries competed for the Palme d’Or at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival including “Kinatay,” “Inglorious Basterds” by Quentin Tarantino, 55, of the United States and “Looking for Eric” by Ken Loach, 82, of the United Kingdom. The award was given to “Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte” (The White Ribbon) by Michael Haneke, 76, of Germany.
It was the second time Tarantino was nominated for the Palme d’Or. He won the award in 1994 for his film “Pulp Fiction.”
In 1995, Tarantino won Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards for “Pulp Fiction.” He won the same award in the Oscars in 2013 for “Django Unchained.”
After receiving the Palme d’Or, Mendoza received a letter from Tarantino. It was handwritten on hotel stationery.
“Dear Mr. Mendoza, Bravo on your difficult, troubling work,” Tarantino wrote. “Your decision to never dramatize the murder, never indulge in movie suspense was bold, daring, and, to me, the whole point of making the movie in the first place. I felt it was completely an eyewitness account of a horrible murder. I believed everything I saw.”
“Your point wasn’t to dramatize it, it was to capture it,” Tarantino continued. “Bravo, Quentin Tarantino.”
Coelho’s recent tweet about “Kinatay” can be misinterpreted as it seems to say it could have been a better film if it was directed by Tarantino. But giving it a closer look, that was not what the Brazilian novelist meant apparently.
First, Coelho praised Mendoza for doing a good job in “Kinatay.” The Filipino director did not receive that accolade from Cannes Film Festival for no reason.
What Coelho specifically mentioned was the fact that “Kinatay” was not shortlisted for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. The entry sent by the Philippines in 2009 was “Ded na si Lolo” (Grandpa is Dead) by the late Soxie Topacio.
Through the Film Academy of the Philippines, the Philippines has been regularly submitting an entry to the Oscars since 1982 and has yet to have an entry shortlisted. Coelho made a very important point.
In sports, it is simply called home turf advantage. If a Filipino and an American fight in a mixed martial arts bout in the Philippines, chances are the judges will give the hometown hero a unanimous decision if both both fighters seemed to have scored equally after failing to end it in submission or knockout.
In major beauty pageants, such as Miss Universe and Miss World, there is such a thing as sash factor. Representatives from powerhouses including the Philippines and Venezuela seem to have more likelihood to convince the judges to give them the crown.
In the Oscars, the Philippines is not a powerhouse. Or at least, not yet.
In 2016, the Philippines sent “Ma’ Rosa” by Mendoza as its entry to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film but it was not shortlisted. In 2017, Mendoza and Lav Diaz, 59, were the only Filipino filmmakers among the 774 people from 57 countries invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body behind the Oscars.