"The reason why I keep on dwelling and telling these kinds of stories on these issues is that as filmmakers I think we are in a way responsible for what's happening around us," Brillante Mendoza said at a press conference for his latest film "Captive," which is premiering in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival.
"We shouldn't only dwell on being an artist or being ourselves and being content about it. A lot of things are happening around us and these are stories that have to be told the way they happened."
"Captive" was surely one of the most anticipated premieres in Berlin. It also proved — as most Mendoza films do — highly divisive among those in the audience, with seemingly just as many praising it for its captivating realism as those writing it off as a tedious and redundant mess.
It stars iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert as one of dozens of people that are kidnapped for ransom at a Filipino island resort by a group of Muslim Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Based on true events, the film spans over a year in the lives of the captors and captive and was shot in real locations with an array of both professional and non-professional actors.
"It's all about humanity," he said. "It's all about self-perserverance and it's all about the purpose of life. Each and every person in the film are a captive of their own costs."
The film marks yet another dark cinematic journey for the characters of Isabelle Huppert. A journalist asked Huppert at the press conference why she continues to go to these "terrible places" in her work.
"I think for an actor or actress, these are the most comfortable places precisely," she said. "It might not be comfortable for the viewers, but it's certainly the most comfortable for an actor."
Huppert said that she didn't quite choose this role so much as she chose to work with Brillante Mendoza.
"It was about being interested in exploring his universe and his way of doing movies," she explained. "I think he has a very strong universe. It's obvious when you watch his films. For me, it was just a great opportunity to share something with him and be part of that universe without having a role in it."
What Huppert meant by "not having a role in it" was that her performance was much more restrained than usual. She was very much part of a large ensemble.
"That might have been the most challenging thing about this movie," she said. "I don't stand out as a performer in this movie. I'm just part of an ensemble. And the movie often feels like a documentary about this group of people. I really tried as much as I could to just be part of that ensemble and not be more than that. I hope I succeeded."
For Mendoza, what drew him most significantly to the project was that the real-life story portrayed in the film brings with it issues that need to be addressed on a world stage.
"There has been a lot of cases that have been reported of these kind of incidents," he said. "That's precisely the reason why I chose this subject matter. It's significant. Not only for the people of the Phillippines but also the world. There's a problem that needs to be addressed. This is one issue that the whole world needs to address… That's why I'm most interested in dealing with this subject matter."