MANILA -- “Sex sells.”
That was what award-winning director Brilliante Mendoza told ABS-CBN News. Known for his critically-acclaimed and award-winning films, but at the same time panned for some of his daring projects, Mendoza never ceases to surprise audiences.
“No matter how we see it, sex sells,” Mendoza said. “We cannot deny the fact that people want to watch sexy films, especially Filipinos, for that matter. ‘Yun talaga ang panonoorin nila. At kung ano ang pinapanood nila, ‘yun ang nakikita nila.”
The director is at the helm of the newest sexy drama, “Sisid,” his first tie-up with Viva Films, which stars Mendoza first-timers Kylie Verzosa and Paolo Gumabao, along with Vince Rillon and Christine Bermas. The film does not only bare flesh, but also drama and emotions.
“One thing na nagustuhan ko sa tie-up ko with Viva, ipinagkakatiwala sa akin ‘yung kwento at ang konsepto,” Mendoza said. “Isa itong ‘Sisid’ na i-pitch sa kanila at una itong na-unang ma-shoot before ‘Palitan’ except that mas nauna ipalabas ang ‘Palitan.’
“Masayang makipag-collaborate sa Viva. Once nagka-agree na kayo sa konsepto, responsibilidad mo na ‘yun kung paano mo pagagandahin ang pelikula. I always take that as a challenge if you were given that freedom. I don’t take it sitting down.
“That freedom, I’ll make sure, it’s all worth it. That’s what artists are after. Ayaw ng mga artists ng nasasakal. Binibigay ‘to ng isang malaking company like Viva. Dapat pangalagaan mo ito. You should be responsible with that.”
"Sisid" will have its world premiere on Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a digital event on Vivamax. Advance video-on-demand screenings starts on Wednesday.
Mendoza lamented how there will always be people who will say bad comments about a film even without watching it. “But I think Vivamax is focusing on the reality more. The love scenes here in ‘Sisid’ are with two people falling in love,"he said.
“Magkasama naman ang love and lust. It’s always going to be there. We focus on reality, so that’s what we are showing. Films are supposed to mirror reality.
He insisted the daring scenes are essential to the story. “People who are not even watching films from Vivamax are saying, ‘Walang ginawa ‘yan kung hindi sexy films.’
“Ang responsibility doon if that is what’s being focused, kung ‘yun ang pinag-uusapan ng mga tao, nanonood o hindi nanonood, is to take it from there.
“As a filmmaker and as an artist na gumagawa sa Vivamax, kung ‘yan ay parte ng buhay o parte ng kwento, dapat hindi ka lang mag focus doon. So when they watch the film, even if they see sexy scenes, alam nila na hindi mo ginawa ‘yun dahil kailagan lang.”
It’s Mendoza’s first time to work with Verzosa and Gumabao. “Whenever I work with professional actors or newcomers, I treat them the same. Hindi ko tinatrato na kapag malaki ang artista ko, iba ang trato ko. Nakita naman nila ‘yun.
“It’s always exciting to work with actors like Kylie and Paolo. Sobrang gustung-gusto nilang matuto. Gustung-gusto nilang mapaganda ang ginagawa nila. I really appreciate that. ‘Yung commitment nila sa ginagawa nila.”
The lead stars of “Sisid” commended Vivamax, the streaming platform, for exhibiting sexy films that will not normally get approved in regular cinema. “Dahil sa online platform, mas matapang kaming gumawa ng content, mas liberating, mas free,” Verzosa pointed out.
“Vivamax is a platform that has more than its sexy films. Beyond the sexiness, maganda ang kwento na idinudulot ng ‘Sisid’ at ibang films na dinudulot ng Vivamax. ‘Sisid’ is not just a sexy film. Maganda ang kwento. Sobrang galing ng director at magaling din ang cast.”
Verzosa insisted working with Mendoza is such a different experience. “May script kami, but hindi binibigay sa akin.,” she said. “The script is well researched.
“Mas gusto kasi ni direk Brlliante, mas nararamdaman ng actor ang eksena kaysa sa pinapa-memorize niya ang mga linya. It’s such one of things that’s different from other directors and other sets. Very hands-on siya sa lahat ng bagay.”
They have a well-researched and well-written script. “Binibigay na lang sa amin kung ano ‘yung blocking or ano ‘yung essence ng scene,” Verzosa disclosed. “Tapos gagalaw na ang character mo within those boundaries.
“We still have our boundaries and we just have to act within those parameters. ‘Yun ang kakaiba kay direk Dante (as Mendoza is fondly called).
“The least of your problems are the lines. Dahil ang kailangan mong intindihin kung ano nararamdaman ng character mo, kung saan ka pupunta, kung saan ka galing. The least of your problems are your lines.
“When you do something different or when you do something na akala mo hindi mo kayang gawin. When you see someone so free and very liberated, you can’t help but feel liberated yourself.”
Verzosa was not intimidated by her multi-awarded director. “But I pressured myself more to do well,” she admitted. “I know that when I pressure myself, mas mag-aaral ako, mas mag-focus ako, mas kailangan kong aralin ang role.
“I was nervous, but I was excited at the same time. The first day was the hardest because that was where direk Dante told us kung paano siya mag-direct and mag-shoot.
“May moments talaga na mangangapa ka. But after that, medyo ma-realize mo agad, ‘Ito pala ang kailangan ni direk Dante.’
Gumabao feels very “fortunate” to work with big-name directors. In his first daring film, “Lockdion,” shown last year, he was directed by Joel Lamangan.
“It’s really liberating being in this field of work,” asserted Gumabao. “You get to work with big-name directors and you learn different things. It’s really a liberating experience working with different cast and directors.”
Gumabao went all out and did full frontal “Lockdown.” In “Sisid,” he is never less daring. He even engaged in lip-locking scenes with a fellow male actor (Vince Rillon).
Gumabao even had to learn how to dive for “Sisid,” something he truly enjoyed while playing Jason, a marine biologist.
“When we got to the set, there were already professional divers para turuan kami. When they felt we were ready enough to go deeper, pumunta kami sa mas malalim. Then palalim ng palalim. Iba ang pakiramdam underwater, tapos aarte ka.”
“When I learned through our Zoom meeting what the story is all about, sobrang na-excite ako because matagal ko na rin gustong maka-trabaho si direk Dante. I watched a few videos about a marine biologist to prepare myself for the role.”
Meanwhile, Verzosa plays Abby, the loving wife of Jason. She will do everything to make her husband happy.
“In terms of preparation, nakinig lang ako ng pumasok ako sa character ko. Mahal na mahal niya talaga ang asawa niya and she’ll do anything for her husband. Maganda ang role ni Abby. Sobrang na-enjoy ko ang role.”
“Sisid” was entirely filmed in Mindoro. “We were in Mindoro the whole time and we shot all over Mindoro,” Verzosa shared. “We were lucky enough and very grateful enough that we were able to showcase one of our beautiful islands, both land and sea.”