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Tribeca Round Table: Brilliante Mendoza of LOLA (Tribeca 2010)
"I was really into mainstream," says Brilliante Mendoza, the director of LOLA, of his career start as an advertising art director and production designer to mainstream Asian directors, "more the glamorous, glossy type of world (as) compared to what I am doing (now)."
But Mendoza's attention has turned to what he calls "real-time" storytelling, films based on real life stories. LOLA ("grandmother" in Tagalog) was inspired by a news item he saw on television about two different grandmothers. He admits that time has caused him to more deeply appreciate the work of neo-realistic masters like French director, Francois Truffaut. "It has something to do ...with our culture, where I come from, I think i am more comfortable intelling these kinds of stories, where I am familiar with the environment and the community, and I think I can tell them best. As opposed to telling stories that I am not familiar with...I hope American audiences can appreciate these films, especially Lola."
LOLA tells the story of two grandmothers -- one who loses her grandson to a sudden murder, and the other whose grandson committed the crime while stealing a cell phone. Over the course of the film, the lives of the two elderly women in Manilla are revealed, as they struggle to navigate both daily life and the justice system. Both characters, he says, are "in a very low (economic) condition. They must solve that problem first. Anything that is morality or religion comes second." (In the film, the women must either settle their dispute amongst themselves or pursue it in the courts of the Phillipines, a system that is based on the US legal system.)
A clip of a game show called Debit or Credit? is shown in the film. Mendoza says, "It was set-up. I was supposed to use a game show, a very popular show...but we had to pay for the rights, and we couldn't afford that. I really wanted to have a game about money, because the problem is all about money --its economics-- from the start of the film to the very end. So I set it up."
LOLA was shot in only 11 days, but the process for the actors and director to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of the community took much longer, Mendoza says. And, as for shooting in the rainy season, "I specifically wanted to have that kind of atmosphere. That element is very important, the water and the flood...We shot in June. I knew, for a fact, there would be floods somewhere."
On a scene depicting film students commenting on the landscape, Mendoza replies, "Actually, It's all there. My commentary about filmmakers who show poverty - who show some stories they are not familiar with, that they don't know."
And on matriarchy in the Phillipines?: "The women in the Phillipines...even my sister and my mother...decide everything."
-- Suzanne Lynch
About Suzanne Lynch
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