How Filipino film "Serbis" got to the 61st Cannes Film Festival


Posted at May 15 2008 01:38 PM | Updated as of May 15 2008 09:38 PM


The Cannes Film Festival has kicked off in France, and it’s no mean feat for Philippine director Brillante Mendoza to have been invited to compete at this prestigious competition.

The late Lino Brocka first brought his gritty films on squalor "Insiang" starring Hilda Koronel and "Bona" topbilled by Nora Aunor to the international film exhibition.

However, it was in 1984 and 1985 that Brocka made it to the competition category, via his creations "Jaguar" starring Phillip Salvador and Amy Austria and "Bayan Ko Kapit Sa Patalim" headlined by Salvador, Carmi Martin and Claudia Zobel.

After these, Filipino movies like "Orapronobis" by Brocka, "Babae Sa Breakwater" by Mario O’Hara and "Foster Child" by Brillante Mendoza were just featured in the Directors Fortnight.

But in 2008, the fate of the Philippine movie industry was reshaped as Mendoza’s opus "Serbis" was invited to compete for the Palme D’Or Award, the highest plum of the festival.

How did "Serbis" make it through the tough selection process?

On April 9, 2008, Centerstage Productions sent a screener of "Serbis," a story of a male prostitute who sells sexual services to gay patrons inside a moviehouse, to the Cannes selection committee. But because of a technical omission, the tape was sent back to the producers.

"The first screener we sent to the festival had no subtitles. The copy was rough edited. We were reprimanded by the committee," recounted Ferdinand Lapuz, one of the producers of the film.

The producers had to translate the dialogue to English, and so they commissioned scriptwriters Boots Agbayani-Pastor and Armando Lao to subtitle the film.

"Pinagpuyatan namin ni Bing (Lao). (Bing and I stayed late just to finish off the subtitling)," said Agbayani-Pastor.

After a week, Centerstage sent a complete subtitled screener but still roughly edited.

After four days, the company received the official word that "Serbis" made it to the competition round.

"A day before the announcement, we were meeting with Fortissimo, a distribution company, and it also wanted to handle the marketing of the film around the globe," said Lapuz.

Aside from Mendoza and Lapuz, Gina Parreño, Jaclyn Jose, Coco Martin, Kristofer King, Julio Diaz and screenwriter Bing Lao are representing the Philippines in the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

"We will wear our national costumes when we parade on the red carpet," said Lapuz.