Who is Brilliante Mendoza? 'Gensan Punch' director is the only Filipino to win award at Cannes
Only the most gifted humans get the opportunity to put their respective countries on the map. Brilliante Mendoza is one of them as the Filipino filmmaker is the only person from his country to win the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival to date. Mendoza won the award for his 2009 psychological drama 'Kinatay' and was also nominated for the Palme d'Or for the same. Though Mendoza's work after 'Kinatay' has been nominated at other prestigious film festivals such as the Venice and Berlin International Film Festivals, it took 'Gensan Punch' for him to win another prestigious award, this time at the 26th Busan International Film Festival.
Inspired by the life of Naozumi Tsuchiyama, a Japanese boxer with a prosthetic leg, 'Gensan Punch' is an HBO Max sports drama that is loosely based on his quest to become a professional boxer in the Philippines after he was barred from boxing in his motherland. Before we get to Brilliante Mendoza and how he became a part of 'Gensan Punch', here's the official synopsis of the movie, "Boxing helps Nao Tsuyama cope with his troubled past. He dreams of becoming a professional boxer despite having a prosthetic leg. However, the Japanese Boxing Committee deems Nao unfit to fight due to his condition, making it illegal for him to fight in Japan. This pushes Nao to prove himself as there isn't much left for him in life apart from boxing. He leaves his hometown Okinawa and his mother and sister behind, traveling to General Santos City in the Philippines -home of well-known Filipino boxing champions- to become a professional boxer." Mendoza was awarded the Kim Jiseok Award for films reflecting the contemporary standing of Asian cinema at the 26th Busan International Film Festival for 'Gensan Punch'.
Who is Brilliante Mendoza?
Brilliante Mendoza is a Filipino independent filmmaker who was born and raised in San Fernando, Pampanga. He studied advertising at the College of Architecture and fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He has made 16 films since his debut in 2005 and has also often handled other departments apart from direction such as production design, screenwriting, and cinematography. Mendoza's notable films, apart from 'Kinatay', are 'Service', 'Grandmother', 'Captive', 'Thy Womb', and 'Ma'Rosa'.
Mendoza was approached by Okinawa-based actor Itokazu Shogen to make a film on Naozumi Tsuchiyama. He had no prior knowledge of Tsuchiyama and went to Tokyo to meet the latter. He also met other Japanese boxers and traveled to Okinawa to understand the culture better. Mendoza ended up visiting the gymnasium in General Santos where Tsuchiyama trained and interacted with the local boxers during the pre-production stages after which, he believed that Filipino boxers had different motivations in comparison to their Japanese counterparts, who fought for honor and prestige.
'Gensan Punch' was shot in Japan and the Philippines and all action sequences were shot using a "non-scripted method", according to Mendoza, which meant that they weren't choreographed. Mendoza didn't want it to be another film that focused on the technicalities of boxing, choosing to focus on Tsuchiyama's journey as a differently-abled boxer instead.
'Gensan Punch' is currently available for streaming on HBO Max and HBO Go.