Nainita Desai x Brillante Mendoza
From mathematician to film music composer, that's how to sum up Nainita Desai's remarkable career in one sentence. Born in London to Indian parents, she played classical Indian instruments as a child as well as the more familiar violin and piano. During her teenage years, film and music were her passions, but since she could not study either at her school, she chose mathematics. What she learned about technology and computers, she applied to music: at university, she wrote a thesis on sound waves that caught the attention of Peter Gabriel. She was always allowed to call him.
She dared to do so only after she had been a sound designer on films by Bernardo Bertolucci and Werner Herzog. She became Peter Gabriel's assistant and worked with Ezrin, Sinead O'Connor and Tori Amos, among others. That only fanned the desire to compose herself. She took her first steps with TV documentaries, but after two decades, she feels at home in all genres. Time and again, Nainita Desai manages to create a unique experimental sound by broadening a classical instrumentarium with specially designed instruments from all continents. Her mathematical background helps her bring structure and balance to musical chaos. Highlights from her filmography, such as For Sama, The Reason I Jump, Untamed Romania, Enemy Within, Telling Lies and 14 Peaks, earned her numerous awards and nominations. Nainita Desai was the Discovery of the Year at the 2021 World Soundtrack Awards for The Reason I Jump.
As a film director, Brillante Mendoza, born on 30 July 1960 in San Fernando, Pampanga in the Philippines, is a late bloomer as he was already in his mid-forties when he embarked on a prolific directing career with The Masseur. He had been familiar with the medium for many years by then, though, as he was active as a production designer in the 1980s after completing his fine arts and advertising studies at the Universidad de Santo Tomás in Manila.
With what he earned in TV advertising, he set up his own production company, which produced his debut film in 2005. Three years later, he presented his grubby controversial Serbis (Service) at Cannes, about a family trying to survive in a rundown cinema. In 2009, he was awarded the Best Direction prize at Cannes for Kinatay. In that film, a young man tries to get money to pay for his wedding, a film in which Mendoza denounces the poverty-stricken conditions in which some of his compatriots live. Many of his films have a social dimension and are shot in the style of Italian neorealism. But things are more raw. Dark films also produce dark images. With films like Slingshot, Grandmother, Captive (with Isabelle Huppert), Thy Womb, Ma' Rosa, Mindanao and Gensan Punch, Brillante Mendoza put the Philippines on the international film map and follows in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor Lino Brocka.