Focus on the Philippines: Director Brillante Mendoza defends Duterte drug war

Plus: The Woman Who Left to screen at Dubai International Film Festival; Filipino comic Alex Calleja leading ‘Funniest Person in the World’ vote; Emma Watson wears Filipino designer shoes in New York.

Brillante Mendoza has reiterated his support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. AFP
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Brillante Mendoza, the acclaimed Filipino filmmaker whose independent films have been celebrated around the world for chronicling social injustice in his home country, reiterated his support for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been condemned by local and international critics for his anti-crime crackdown that has claimed the lives of thousands of people.

“If there’s one person who understand the situation, it’s the president,” Mendoza, 56, told Agence France-Presse. “I know there are a lot of people who are not supportive in totality of what he wants and what he’s doing right now, but if you actually have witnessed the real situation, this is the way to go about it.”

Mendoza directed the broadcast of Duterte’s first presidential address to the nation back in July. In recent months he has also filmed state-funded advertisements promoting Duterte’s war on drugs.

Since Duterte took office at the end of June, police have killed more than 1,800 drug suspects and about 2,600 others have died in unexplained circumstances linked to the crackdown, according to official figures. Duterte has repeatedly insisted police are only killing in self-defence and that most of the unexplained deaths are due to criminals attacking each other.

Mendoza, whose films have earned him a French knighthood and a Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, said that foreign critics have misunderstood Duterte and his leadership due to a culture clash: “I would tell them you don’t know our president,” Mendoza said. “You are only seeing it from your perspective as somebody who lives far away from the Philippines. Because you are living in a first-world country.”

Mendoza's latest film, Ma' Rosa, tells the story of a mother selling drugs to make ends meet. It won the Best Actress prize for lead star Jacyln Jose at Cannes and has been submitted as the country's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Mendoza said he "didn't know there was a huge problem of drugs in this country" until he researched the film.

The Woman Who Left to screen at Dubai International Film Festival

After winning the Golden Lion at this year's Venice International Film Festival, director Lav Diaz's film Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) will screen in the Cinema of the World section of the forthcoming Dubai International Film Festival.

The movie, about a schoolteacher released from prison 30 years after being framed and wrongly convicted, is the lone Filipino film to featured in the festival’s programme, which was announced earlier this week.

The black-and-white film runs for four hours and features the cinematic comeback of 61-year-old veteran actress Charo Santos-Concio.

"It proves that we can make decent films," Diaz told the Philippine Daily Inquirer after winning the top prize in Venice last September. Diaz, who has directed 27 features, is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he is a fellow at Harvard University until next summer. As part of his fellowship, Diaz plans to write his next film and research for a book on Philippine cinema.

The Dubai International Film Festival runs from December 7 to 14. For more information, visit

Filipino comic Alex Calleja leads ‘Funniest Person in the World’ vote

Filipino stand-up comedian Alex Calleja is leading the online voting for the title of "Funniest Person in the World", a competition organised by the Laugh Factory, the American chain of comedy clubs which has helped launched the careers of several comics on film and television. Among 20 finalists vying for the top prize, Calleja is currently in first place in the online voting (, followed by comics from Malaysia, India, Brazil, Ireland and Saudi Arabia.

The finalists will be flown to Helsinki, Finland, on December 5 to perform live in front of a panel of celebrity comics. The online votes count for 50 per cent of a contestant’s final score, with the other 50 per cent based on marks given by the panel.

Calleja, who has done stand-up comedy in Manila since 2007, is a radio DJ and a writer for several sitcoms on Philippine television.

Emma Watson wears Filipino designer shoes in New York

During a recent benefit organised by the French fashion house Chanel at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, actress Emma Watson wore a pair of heels from the Filipino shoe designer Bianca Moran and her brand Susi Studio.

Moran posted on Instagram a photo of Watson from the event with the caption: “Tuesday night was pretty monumental for me, for @susistudio. The inspiring @emmawatson wore our shoes to Chanel’s film benefit at MoMA. Someone pinch me.”

Moran’s Susi Studio (susi is the Filipino word for “key”) specialises in footwear produced using sustainable materials such as canvas, hemp and faux leather made from recycled plastic bottles. Last year, Moran opened a gluten-free and vegan restaurant, also named Susi, in Manila.

The shoes that Watson wore, called Hey Simone, are available on the brand's website ( for US$185 (Dh680).