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BRILLANTE Mendoza, with lead star Isabelle Huppert, was inspired by a book written by former Abu Sayaff hostage Gracia Burnham. INQUIRER PHOTO




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A film about Abu Sayaff, by Brillante Mendoza

By Marinel Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:28:00 09/21/2010

Filed Under: Entertainment (general), Cinema

IT?S FINAL. French actress Isabelle Huppert will play the role of a kidnap victim in the hands of the separatist group Abu Sayyaf, in a film by award-winning director Brillante Mendoza.

Huppert was jury head when Mendoza won the Best Director award for ?Kinatay? at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2009.

?We met again in a festival in Sau Paolo, Brazil, where I told her about this project,? the filmmaker related. ?She said she was in the Philippines some 15 years ago and would love to come back. It was after four or five meetings later that we finally agreed on the date of filming.?

2011 shoot

Mendoza added that the project, still untitled, would start shooting in January 2011.

Huppert has appeared in over 90 films and TV productions since 1971. She has had 14 films in official competition at the Cannes film fest, and won Best Actress twice?for ?Violette Noziere? (1978) and ?The Piano Teacher? (2001). She was last seen on the big screen in Patrice Chereau?s ?Gabrielle? in 2006.

Support cast

Coco Martin will play a rebel leader in the movie, with Ronnie Lazaro, Jhong Hilario and Alessandra de Rossi in the support cast.

Mendoza was inspired to do the movie after reading ?In the Presence of My Enemies,? a book written by American Protestant missionary Gracia Burnham, who was among those kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in May 2001. She was rescued in July 2002.

The movie, which Mendoza co-wrote with Butch Pastor, is told from the point of view of a kidnap victim.

?But it also portrays the life of an Abu Sayyaf member in the jungle, the involvement of the military and the government in the negotiation process, and other controversial issues related to it,? Mendoza explained.

To prepare for the film, Mendoza said, he visited Basilan province, one of the bandits? lairs, several times this year. He interviewed kidnap victims, imprisoned Abu Sayyaf members and high-ranking military officials.

He also talked with civic groups, psychiatrists and psychologists involved in rehabilitating survivors.

?I got to know many of the rebels during those trips to Basilan,? Mendoza said. ?I want to tell their side of the story, too. They admitted having abusive members. I?m doing this film to make people understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, that there are other countries where kidnapping is more rampant.?

Typhoon aftermath

Meanwhile, Mendoza?s 30-minute documentary on climate change titled ?Buhos? premiered last week at the SM Mall of Asia Cinema 3. Its producer Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Standing and Oversight committees on Climate Change, was present at the screening.

?Buhos? focuses on the flash floods and heavy rains that ravaged the country in 2009. Mendoza said he visited areas in Metro Manila, Laguna, Pampanga and Pangasinan that were gravely affected by Typhoons ?Ondoy? and ?Pepeng.?

He promised to make more documentaries about the environment. ?We want to let people know about what?s really happening,? he said.

Legarda said copies of ?Buhos? would be distributed to colleges and universities and would have additional monthly screenings in SM theaters around the country.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a kidnap victim.



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