Using worm’s eye view so President Rody Duterte looks powerful to people watching TV may be inappropriate amid a principle that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
Brillante Mendoza’s frequent use of the power shot taken at an extremely low angle—forcing TV viewers to look up to a strong and mighty President Duterte—conveys a somewhat misplaced idea if indeed all government power comes from the sovereign Filipino people, as the Constitution says.
“I really wanted that shot because I wanted to show power… or authority, that’s what I wanted to do,” Mendoza told Rappler in response to the flurry of criticisms in social media.
“When you articulate something and you shoot that person in that angle, psychologically it gives you that meaning that he has power and authority,” Mendoza said in an interview with ABS-CBN News. “It might not look good when you watch it but, psychologically, it gives you that impression.”
So why still do it if it might not look good? Was it really necessary to give the impression of a very powerful Duterte when in fact he owes his landslide victory to the real power—the sovereign people from whom all government authority emanates?
Netizens reactions were swift as Mendoza drew flak and became a trending topic on Twitter. Taylor @bangsieMio tweeted: “I trust Brillante Mendoza’s brilliance in film making, until this shot happened. Why oh why?!” Blue @ArmastusFoi said: “Brillante Mendoza must know that this is #SONA2016 and not an Indie film. I still respect him, though.”
Would it be better to have used bird’s eye view or other high-angle shots more often than worm’s eye view, if only to make people rightfully feel a sense of power over government leaders while watching the State of the Nation Address on TV? Perhaps.
Or, perhaps not. Especially so if the award-winning director saw the worm’s eye view as the best way to project Duterte as standing tall, every inch a revered and trusted leader, a source of great pride at that moment for everyone, not only for the more than 16 million Filipinos who catapulted him to the highest post in the land.
Mendoza said he understands if many did not comprehend the reasons for his unconventional shots and camera angles. “Hindi naman lahat ng nanood admittedly ay film literate,” he said, adding his intention was to make it different from past SONAs and to make people watch it.
Explaining his choice for what some say were “motion sickness-inducing camera angles,” Mendoza said: “Iyong mga anggulo na ganoon kasi, ‘yung mga papalit-palit, paiba-iba ‘yung size, it makes us, as an audience, interested with the person, hindi tayo mabo-bore.”
But many disagree. With Duterte’s superb ability to connect with the audience especially with his adlibs, many won’t find the President boring, no matter what camera angles he is viewed with. Besides, some felt the weird shots even distracted them from what was being said.
“Naiintindihan ko gusto niya magexperiment ng techniques pero parang mali ang venue and audience para doon,” says a Facebook message to Rappler of animation producer Edwin Guillermo, who probably fits the description of a “film literate” mentioned by Mendoza.
I don’t profess to be film literate, but I think Mendoza could have done better with eye-level “close-ups” if his intention for the directorial job on Duterte’s SONA was to “capture what kind of President he is” and to be “able to communicate and connect” with the people who “would be able to understand him.”
A variety of close-up shots can be used: from medium close-up to extreme close-up or the choker shot—showing Duterte’s face from just above the eyebrows to below the mouth—that should be timed perfectly to when the President gets real serious and wants to stress a point. And such is more effective if the President is advised beforehand to look at a specific area so he can directly face a camera for the close-up.
Communications Sec. Martin Andanar said those who don’t like the work of the acclaimed director should “have to be Brillante Mendoza first.” Good point. After all, Mendoza would not have won at Cannes were it not for his sheer brilliance.
But perhaps other ace directors like the legendary Al Quinn and Johnny Manahan—who both had tremendous successes with the greatest projects on Philippine TV—could have done better for the SONA?