Manila: A Philippine-made film based on the captivity of American missionary Gracia Burnham by members of militant Muslims in the southern Philippines from 2001 to 2002, which focused more on socio-psychological dimensions affecting kidnap-victims, kidnappers, and authorities, will compete in the Berlin film festival from February 9 to 19.
"My film Captive is based on my research and interviews with members of the Abu Sayyaf, the military, and others who were around during the captivity of (missionaries) Gracia Burnham and (her husband) Martin Burnham in Basilan," multi-awarded film director Brillante "Dante" Mendoza told Gulf News.
"[Instead of portraying Gracia Burnham per se as a character], French actress Isabelle Huppert portrayed a fictional character (a foreign-kidnap victim) whose role was to feel all the things that happened (including the interactions of the kidnappers and authorities) during her captivity in the south," explained Mendoza.
"My film is all about the unseen power that is making all these [dismal] things happen I have tried to show that no one could really move and make the incidents in the film happen if no one gives order," said Mendoza.
When asked if his film suggested Burnham's assessment in her book, "In the Presence of My Enemy," which was written in 2003, after her survival of the ordeal in 2002, about the alleged collusion of the Abu Sayyaf leaders and the military, Mendoza said, "We tried to handle that, but we don't favour any group [in the film]."
"The collusion between the Abu Sayyaf Group and the military is an open book, but no one is talking about it [openly]," said Mendoza, who refused to say if this was graphically presented in his film.
"All my characters, from the kidnap victims, to the kidnappers and the authorities are three-dimensional characters. I have shown how they react to events that surrounded them; that no one is purely good and bad," said Mendoza, hinting that every one could be a victim of many unseen hands and circumstances in life.
Just like what happened during the botched rescue operation in Zamboanga del Norte in 2002 that resulted in the killing of Martin Burnham, Mendoza's film also presented the killing of a kidnap-victim. "If the victim was killed by a friendly-bullet (of the Filipino soldiers), we don't know," said Mendoza.
The kidnappers also raped a kidnap victim.
"A film maker should be like a journalist who should tell the truth regardless of his/her beliefs and philosophy," Mendoza explained why he took a long time to research on the characters in his film.
Mendoza, his producers, and world-distributors have not arranged for Captive's press preview in Manila, prior to its world premier in Berlin on February 12.
After the Berlin film festival, Mendoza's film will be shown in Paris (his producers are Paris-based) and, later, in other parts of Europe.
"Getting awards for this film is not my objective in making it. But if I get an award for it, I must be doing something right," he said.
When asked if the film will be shown in the Philippines, Mendoza said, "We lack the audience for this kind of film. We don't patronize issue-oriented films. What we like are star-studded and ala Hollywood films."
"But if my film makes money (abroad and in the Philippines, hopefully in March or April), well and good," said Mendoza. He co-wrote the film with Butch Pastor.
While celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, southwestern Philippines on May 27, 2001, the Burnhams were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group. The Burnhams worked as missionaries working with tribal groups in the Philippines for 17 years.
One American with Peruvian descent, a rich Filipino businessman and his girl friend and several Filipino-Chinese nationals were also kidnapped. They were brought by the Abu Sayyaf members to Basilan, the group's stronghold where several other victims were taken as hostages as they freed hostages taken from Dos Palmas Resort.
The Abu Sayyaf Group, which has links with the Al Qaida terror network, has been blamed for high-profile kidnap-for-ransom, beheadings, bombings, and other terror activities in the south.