MANILA - Award-winning filmmaker Brillante Mendoza has been inducted into the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, which boasts as members the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, and Bob Dylan, for "introducing Philippine cinema" to the French people.
The Filipino director, whose films have been shown in France's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, is now recognized as Chevalier (knight) in the country's Order of Arts and Letters.
He was conferred the title on Thursday in a reception by French Ambassador Gilles Garachon at his residence in Makati City.
Established in 1957 by the French Ministry of Culture, the order gives recognition to individuals who have had "significant contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance." Other grades in the order are Commandeur (commander) and Officier (officer).
Speaking with ABS-CBN News and other reporters after the ceremony, Mendoza said he considers the recognition as a responsibility.
"Sa akin, hindi 'yung title, 'no. At the end of the day, ano ba talaga ang recognition? Ano ba talaga ang award na binibigay sa'yo? Isa itong responsibilidad. Isa itong responsibilidad na ipagpatuloy mo ang ginagawa mo, kung anuman ang ginagawa mo kasi iyon ang ni-recognize sa'yo."
"Ito, bonus lang itong mga ito. At nagpapasalamat ako sa mga bonus na dumarating na ganito," he said.
'Best ambassador of PH'
Over the years, Mendoza has become popular in France for his acclaimed films, including "Foster Child," "Serbis," "Lola," and "Captive." He also holds the distinction of being the only Filipino to win Best Director in Cannes for "Kinatay" in 2009.
"The relationship between Brillante and France is a long-time relationship," Garachon said in his speech on Thursday, shortly before conferring the honor on Mendoza. "And now, for the French people, the cinema of the Philippines is the cinema from Brillante."
The French ambassador also lauded Mendoza for his "vision of showing Filipino character" in his films.
"What is really showing in [Mendoza's films]is human nature. Human nature is universal, but the Filipino psyche is special. And for French people, it's a discovery," he said.
Turning to Mendoza, Garachon continued, "Through you -- that's why I think you're the best ambassador ever of the Philippines -- we discover a very rich and diverse culture."
Before Mendoza, other Filipinos recognized by the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres with the Chevalier title include Jaime Zobel de Ayala in 1979, Tikoy Aguiluz in 2003, and F. Sionil Jose in 2011.