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Ma’ Rosa (Philippines)

There’s an emotionally powerful scene toward the end of Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa in which Jaclyn Jose – who won the 2016 Cannes Film Festival best actress award for this role – quietly, wordlessly, weeps. Movingly conveying emotions only through her eyes, Jose sums up what her titular character has gone through in Mendoza’s Palme d’Or-nominated film. Through Rosa, we see a mother and wife who, with her husband Nestor (Julio Diaz), run a tiny convenience store in a shantytown and sell drugs on the side to feed their family and send the kids to school.Rosa is not your typical sinister drug dealer. She’s a motherly type in nondescript t-shirt and shorts who goes about with the family’s welfare foremost in her mind. When she and her husband are arrested, Mendoza, one of Cannes’ favorite auteurs and a leading force in Philippine indie cinema, compellingly shows the casual, brazen corruption of the police in the precinct where they are detained.The cops (Mon Confiado, Mark Anthony Fernandez, Neil Ryan Sese and Baron Geisler), their genial ways masking their nefarious nature, tell the couple to give them “bail money” in exchange for their release. When their distraught three children (Felix Roco, Jomari Angeles and Andi Eigenmann, who is Jose’s daughter in real life) show up, Rosa instructs them to ask relatives for the bribe money.On their own, the youngsters also think of ways to raise the money for their parents’ freedom. Here, Mendoza, who shot the film cinema verité-style, shows the underside of Manila with gritty realism. He’s aided by Troy Espiritu (screenplay), Odyssey Flores (cinematography) and Teresa Barrozo (music). In the scenes inside the police station and finally, out in the streets when Rosa is freed and goes to an Indian money lender to plead for “loan” (the amount that the kids raised was several thousand pesos short) so her husband will also be released, Jose, sometimes with just a glance at her husband or a desperate look, convincingly embodies a woman who has to be tough, quick-quitted and street-smart to take care of her family.That is, until that haunting final scene, when Rosa lets her emotions break free and bawls. It’s one of the most unforgettable moments in cinema.Ma’ Rosa marks the continued progression of Mendoza as a master of social realism. His movies have also triumphed in various film festivals, including Venice, Berlin, Locarno and Torino. Other fests, including Tokyo and Colombia, have held a retrospective of his work, which include Thy Womb (starring Nora Aunor, Philippine cinema’s esteemed actress), Captive (Isabelle Huppert), Serbis (which marked his Cannes in-competition debut in 2008), Foster Child, Slingshot and The Masseur. In Cannes, in  2009, he stunned the cinematic world when he won the best director award for Kinatay, beating the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Jane Campion, Lars von Trier, Alain Resnais and Ken Loach.The morning after the awards night in Cannes, Tarantino wrote a gushing note to Mendoza on a paper napkin. The director keeps that napkin in a special place on his shelves containing all his trophies and plaques in his house in the Philippines.