* "Captive" is hostage drama set in southern Philippines
* Film by 2009 Cannes winner Mendoza stars Isabelle Huppert
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN, Feb 12 Boundaries between
kidnappers and hostages are blurred in Philippine drama
"Captive", which stars French actress Isabelle Huppert and
premiered at the Berlin film festival on Sunday.
Directed by Filipino Brillante Mendoza and shot with a
hand-held camera, the film is loosely based on real life events
and tells the story of a group of holiday makers and
missionaries kidnapped in the Philippines by an al Qaeda-linked
Over the course of around a year in captivity in the jungle
with short food supplies, including frequent shootouts with the
Philippine army and encounters with unfriendly animals, the
victims come to bond with their captors.
"After all these months and in the middle of the jungle,
they don't have any other choice than to bond," said 51-year old
Mendoza, winner of best director at Cannes in 2009. "This is how
it actually happened."
Outside Pakistan and Afghanistan, the greatest danger of
kidnap in Asia is in the Philippines.
Kidnapping for ransom is common in the southernmost islands,
where a number of Muslim rebel groups operate including Abu
Sayyaf featured in the film.
"At one point, a hostage would not even know whether to
trust his kidnappers or the people who are chasing them," said
Mendoza. "It is no longer about a cause but how to survive."
"Captive" is the second film about kidnapping to screen at
the Berlin film festival, which has a reputation for showcasing
hard-hitting movies tackling difficult themes.
"Coming Home" is about a girl who is locked up for eight
years and was inspired by the case of kidnapped Austrian
schoolgirl Natascha Kampusch.
In the two-hour long "Captive", Huppert's character ends up
caring for one of the kidnappers who is a boy. She tends to his
wounds and lets him rest his head on her lap as he sleeps, while
he teaches the social worker to fire a gun.
A scene showing the Christian burial of a hostage echoes a
later scene showing the Muslim burial of a kidnapper, stressing
fundamental similarities between the two groups.
"It is all about humanity ... the purpose of life ...
everyone in the film is a captive," said Mendoza, who
interviewed members of the group, the government, the military
and former hostages while researching the film.
"As a film maker, one should not take sides, one should show
what is really happening ... There is a problem that needs to be
addressed, a problem not only the Philippine government should
address but whole world as well."
In the film, the rebels are not depicted as straightforward
villains. They may be able to perpetrate brutal acts, but they
also display kindness to their hostages.
Huppert said shooting the film was one of the most
challenging experiences of her career.
The director sought to immerse the actors in an experience
as similar as possible to that of the hostages, taking them out
for five days on a boat and then into the jungle.
Mendoza frequently did not give them a script and segregated
the actors playing the kidnappers and those playing the victims,
allowing them to meet only on the day of the "kidnapping" when
both were in costume.
"We basically didn't have the feeling it was fiction,"
Huppert said. "All the time we had to react to what was
happening, be it to the heat, to the exhaustion or even fear."
(Reporting By Sarah Marsh)