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The story revolves around Ben Mercado, a talented high school senior who has rejected his Filipino heritage. The long-simmering feud between Ben and his immigrant father Roland threatens to boil over and ruin the 18th birthday party of Ben's sister Rose. But to Ben's surprise, his sister's celebration challenges his sense of misplaced identity, and the way he regards his father and grandfather. In one night, Ben faces the true nature of his relationships with his family, his friends, and himself. Written by
This film was never picked up by a major distribution company. Instead, the producers organized a grass roots effort to self-distribute the film. Three years passed between initial principal photography to opening, and another three to have the film travel and screened across the United States. A total of six years before the film made it to DVD and home video. See more »
an extraordinary 'ordinary' Filipino-American film
'The Debut' is an independent film which does a great job in portraying dilemmas faces by young people in general and Filipino-Americans in particular. Some of the issues in the movie include finding one's identity (Ruben Mercado [Dante Basco] is a young Filipino-American who is torn between 'being brown' and being labeled 'a white boy'), rifts between generations (Ruben has problems relating to his father Roland [Tirso Cruz III] who in turn has an uneasy relationship with his father Carlos [Eddie Garcia]), meeting parent's expectations, and dilemmas most young people face such as finding a group to belong to, finding independence, and dealing with relationships.
First, let's get one thing straight. As mentioned before, 'The Debut' is an independent film, so audiences should not expect elements we come to expect when we see modern big-budget films. There are no fancy special effects,
over-the-top plots, or big name stars, though some Filipinos may recognize Eddie Garcia and Tirso Cruz III as established stars in the Philippines. What audiences will get is an movie that deals with the ordinary. The film was shot in the Long Beach - Montebello area with the main scene, the debutante ball, filmed at a local Catholic high school, Sacred Heart. The actors and actresses give personality to their characters because they are portraying ordinary people. Besides the aforementioned characters, audiences are introduced to Rosemary [Bernadette Balagtas], Ruben's big sister who is genuinely concerned for her younger brother and acts as a mediator between Ruben and their father, and Rosemary's best friend Annabelle [Joy Bisco], who is coming off a rocky relationship with her possessive ex-boyfriend.
However, what makes 'The Debut' such a great movie is that it takes these ordinary elements and does extraordinary things with them. While the some of the topics may seem cliche, the film overcomes this by focusing the audiences attention on the characters. The actors and actresses portray people with problems most people in the audience can relate to, and therefore we cheer them on as their personal victories become ours. When the film begins to get to serious at times, comedy is interjected through the antics of Ruben's cousins and other characters. Even ordinary events are given some symbolic meaning. In one scene, Ruben makes his way through a mosh pit as he attempts to escape an unfortunate incident at a party. This can be taken further to symbolize his realization of who he is and his escape from some of his inner demons.
While some of the scenes do seem forced and there is profanity seems to be in every other scene, this is a minor complaint. After all, this movie portrays everyday life. Overall, 'The Debut' does an extraordinary job of portraying the "ordinary" everyday problems facing Filipino-Americans and Americans as a whole. With an amazing job done by the entire cast to make believable characters we can relate to as well as a terrific job done by the directors and producers to create a movie that educates as well as entertains, it is easy to see why this film earned honors at several independent film festivals. Definitely a must-see, whether you are Filipino or not.
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