Though he usually manages to keep details about his films under wraps before completion, director Brillante Mendoza revealed he received text messages from Abu Sayyaf members while he was working on "Captive."
"They texted me not to stop shooting but to make sure na ipakita na ganito ang ginagawa nila. Tumulong sila to make sure na tama ang paglahad ng mga kaganapan," Brillante told Bulletin Entertainment.
"Captive" is an adaptation on the kidnapping of civilians by the Abu Sayyaf at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan a few years back, told mainly from the perspective of a foreign missionary played in the film by two-time Cannes film festival Best Actress winner Isabelle Huppert.
According to a release from Mendoza, "Captive" is "not just about the hostage-taking but it also reveals the ability of a person to survive when put in an extreme situation."
Looking back, Brillante said he never felt fear nor was he intimidated over the correspondence with the insurgent group.
"Bakit ako matatakot? Saan? I'm not out to malign or glorify anyone. Hindi ganun ang intention ko. Ang gusto ko ay maipakita ang totoong pangyayari at bahala na ang audience to make their own judgment...
"If the audience sympathizes with the Abu Sayyaf or the military after watching the film, karapatan nila yun dahil may sarili silang pag-iisip. Who am I to say kung ano ang dapat nilang isipin? Filmmaker lang naman ako.
"As filmmaker, di mo dapat pangunahan ang audience. Just show them the truth then bahala na sila mag-isip. Besides, I can't please everyone," he said.
The award-winning director refuses to turn his films into "advocacies" for "anyone." Rather, he believes that filmmaking is an advocacy in itself.
"Binigyan ka ng gift na ganito, gamitin mo nang tama. Gagawa ako ng bagay na nagpapakita ng katotohanan kahit pa labag ito sa sarili kong paniniwala."
Some have slammed the director for seemingly showing only the "bad" side of life in the Philippines in his films but Brillante maintains that it's the very reason he considers himself "patriotic."
"I'm a very patriotic person. Mas gusto ko ipakita yung mga totoong nangyayari dito sa atin kasi baka by doing so, pwede pang may mangyaring changes. Kasi otherwise, kung wala akong pakialam, gagawa na lang ako ng mainstream [movie] na di na pag-iisipin masyado ang tao. Ones that would just make them feel relaxed for two hours then wala na," he said.
Brillante shared an anecdote to further underscore his point. After the screening of his film "Tirador" in one of the Japanese film festivals, a Filipino approached him, apparently upset over what was shown before an international audience.
"'Bakit ka gumagawa ng ganitong mga klaseng pelikula?' Galit siya. Sabi ko, 'Kwento po yan sa Pilipinas.' Ang sabi niya, 'Eh bakit kelangan mo pang ipakita? Nagpapakahirap kami sa ibang bansa, tapos ganyan ang nakikita dito. Nawawala lahat ng mga pinaghirapan namin.'
"So tinanong ko siya, 'Gano na po kayo katagal nagtratrabaho dito?' 20 years na daw. 'Bakit po kayo nagtratrabaho ng ganyan katagal sa Japan?' Ang sagot niya, 'Kasi mahirap ang buhay sa Pilipinas."'
Whether the lady realized anything from her answer or not, Brillante said that there are those who "get" what he's trying to do. At the same festival, a Japanese told him that in watching the film, he learned about the Filipinos' resiliency. "Ang mga Pilipino daw ay may dignidad at vina-value ang buhay nila. That despite the life that many of us have here, pilit pa din tayong bumabangon."
Mendoza flatly stated that he is against terrorism and violence. He decided to do "Captive" mainly because he had questions about the matter that he felt, needed some answers. "Nung nag-research ako, andami kong nalaman - kahit yung mga bagay na di ko na dapat malaman."
"Captive" will be shown commercially in theaters nationwide starting on Sept. 5 through the efforts of Star Cinema. Others in the cast are Sid Lucero, Angel Aquino, Maria Isabel Lopez, Raymond Bagatsing, Mercedes Cabral, Ronnie Lazaro, Rustica Carpio, Mon Confiado, Madeleine Nicolas, Neil Ryan Sese, Kristoffer King, and Allan Paule with special participation of Coco Martin and Anita Linda.
Brillante Mendoza is the first and only Filipino who had won Best Director in Cannes.