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"Serbis" by Brillante Mendoza in competition at Cannes

The film

Directed by Brillante Mendoza, Serbis is the first Filipino film to compete in the Official Selection since Bayan Ko by Lino Brocka in 1984. Serbis takes place in an old movie house in Angeles City, in the Philippines, which shows 1970s skin flicks. As the members of the Pineda family, who own the theater, go about their daily activities, we slowly discover their personalities and the difficulties they are grappling with. Tormented by inner demons, they willfully ignore the prostitution trade thriving right inside their place of business.

"Serbis may be viewed from several levels. That the film , as you say, has a dual theme, it is intentional," Mendoza commented. “Specifically, Serbis refers to the rent boys, including minors, who ply their trades inside movie houses. As such, the question of morality comes into play, not to mention the legality of the whole proceedings. In these parts, rules and laws are more often observed in the breaches. But what is morality, or legality for that matter, in a society wallowing in abject poverty and the struggle for survival stares at you in the face? Indeed, the whole thing boils down to a question of economics."

Explaining the choice of the film title, Brillante Mendoza continued, "In a broad sense, "Serbis" can mean "service" of any kind: one’s service to their customers. Or the cinema’s service to moviegoers and others; a citizen’s service to society or country; society’s or country’s service to its citizens; men and women’s service to humanity; humanity’s service to men and women; and so on and so forth…"


Press conference: 

As part of the In-Competition presentation of Serbis, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, screenwriter Armando Lao, producers Ferdinand Lapuz and Didier Costet, and actors Mercedes Cabral, Jacklyn Jose, Gina Pareño, and Coco Martin held a press conference today. Excerpts follow:

Brillante Mendoza on writing the script and casting the actors:
"When I first conceptualized the story, I didn't think of the casting at all. In writing, the writer should serve the characters first. So, after the script was written, we started casting the characters. And this time, the script remained open, because this time, I would like to serve the actors, next... It is maximizing their talents, knowing the identities of the actors, then I could make use of what they had, as actors. And incorporate them, their virtues, in the narrative."

Brillante Mendoza on the movie theater in the film:
"The movie house that we used is also the location in our shooting. This is part of a dying industry of movie houses still operating outside cineplexes, outside the malls, and they are slowly dying out. This one particular movie house was quite interesting, because the family who operates the movie house lives there, themselves. It's one of the few movie houses left in that part of the Philippines."

Brillante Mendoza on rehearsals:
"There is not really much of a rehearsal. It's more of an immersion. In fact, there's probably a maximum of two rehearsals, but basically for the camera, and not so much for the performance. There's one thing I like with my actors, and that's for them not to act. It's all real-time acting. For them to do it, there has to be a lot of immersion. They have to see the location, the place; they have to know the character very well. They have to live the character. They have to be the character."

Gina Pareño on her work on the film :
"I'm excited to do a movie for the first time with the director Brillante, because I believe in him, and so I'm thanking him for getting me for the movie. It is one hell of a chance to be directed by Brillante. The other actors are my friends, and I know their talent. So I can say I would never say no, any time they would choose me for a part."

Brillante Mendoza on the pressure of bringing the film to Cannes:
"To be honest with you, it wasn't that much of a pressure. It was more, would I be able to finish the film in time. What we submitted here was a rough edit. When the selection committee saw the film, it was only partly finished. So about a week ago, we sent the film for subtitling. And it's only about three days ago, when I arrived here, that I brought the trailer and all the other requirements. It's only now that it's sinking in that we're in competition."


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