How filmmakers like Joyce Bernal contribute to SONA

July 9, 2018 - 11:58 AM
Veteran filmmaker Joyce Bernal is chosen to direct the third SONA of President Duterte. (The STAR/file photo)

Director Joyce Bernal is set to take on this year’s State of the Nation Address, taking over the reigns from indie filmmaker Brillante Mendoza who directed the joint session of Congress for the last two years.

Bernal is a veteran filmmaker known for blockbuster films “Everything about Her,” “10,000 Hours,” “Last Night” and “Gandarrapiddo! The Revenger Squad.”

When Mendoza, a Cannes awardee, was tasked to handle the filming of President Rodrigo Duterte, his camera shots and angles were never before seen in broadcasting SONAs, thereby receiving mixed reviews.

Sending a message

Some Filipinos voiced on social media what they think government has in mind in hiring high-profile directors to call the shots during the SONA.

Twitter user Stresse Mae Medina, who introduced herself to be a film student, had a “hunch” based on how filmmaking has been used in regimes in history.

“Film has a language where for example you can make it seem like the audience is greatly inspired by the president’s speech much like how in Hitler propagandas were made,” she wrote as response to a previous query.


Although the purpose of Duterte’s team was not yet clear, the two previous SONAs Mendoza directed got more people talking about the unusual shots rather than the messages conveyed.

Mendoza explained the messaging he intended in directing extreme closeup of Duterte while he delivered a largely spontaneous speech.

“In aesthetics of cinematography, you get close to the person because you want to see his soul, part of [his] soul. You want to show his sincerity, his genuine sincerity,” Mendoza was quoted as saying.

“After that extreme closeup, I showed the people and the full shot. So it’s like everyone is like listening to him and he’s like saying ‘I’m watching over you’,” he added.

Film professor Rolando Tolentino had some brief musings on the employing of SONA directors. He suggested what matters in such film material is the subject or character at the center of it, and not the director.

British communications expert Matt Bond, writing of the Guardian, argued that “video is one of the most emotive, impacting and engaging mediums through which to tell a story” even for governments.